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Away from the big money …

Learn more about the candidates

More information on Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District candidates ” including their policy platforms ” can be found on their campaign websites:

Joan Fitz-Gerald (D), http://www.joanfitz-gerald.com

Bill Hammons (UP), http://www.bill-for-congress.us

Larry Johnson (D), larryjohnsonforcongress.com

Jared Polis (D), polisforcongress.com

Will Shafroth (D), http://www.shafrothforcongress.com

Scott Starin (R), http://www.starinforcongress.com

SUMMIT COUNTY ” In today’s world of high-priced politics, perhaps it makes sense that most of the attention in this year’s 2nd district congressional race is focused on the three candidates who have raised the most money.

There are, however, three other contenders for the seat being vacated by Democrat U.S. Rep. Mark Udall: Republican Scott Starin, Unity Party candidate Bill Hammons, and Democrat Larry Johnson.

Unlike liberal Democrats Joan Fitz-Gerald, Jared Polis, and Will Shafroth ” whose war chests have made the district’s Democratic primary one of the most expensive in the nation ” Starin, Hammons, and Johnson have so far reported less than $10,000 between them in campaign contributions.

But despite their shoestring budgets, the three lesser-known candidates each believe they offer voters an alternative to their highly funded opponents.

A Republican enters the race

Aerospace engineer and political newcomer Scott Starin, 47, made the decision to seek his party’s nomination for the district ” represented by Democrats since 1975 ” after he attended the Boulder County Republican assembly in March.

Because no one else had yet stepped up to the plate for the Republicans, the Lafayette resident consulted with local party leaders, including former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, and accepted the challenge.

“I decided that the time is right,” Starin said.

Undiscouraged by his party’s poor results in recent district elections, Starin is optimistic about his chances.

“I believe the 2nd congressional district can be won by a Republican,” he added.

For that to happen, though, Starin believes he’ll need to run unopposed in the Aug.

12 party primary. Because he’s entered the race at such a late date, he’ll have to get a minimum number of delegate votes at the May 30 district assembly to get his name on the primary ballot.

“If we can go unopposed through the primary, we’ll have a good chance,” he said.

Right now, his campaign is focusing on the 2nd CD assembly delegates, who were elected at their respective county assemblies, but Starin looks forward to carrying his message of fiscal responsibility and clean politics to voters in November.

“I’m saddened about how big a part money plays in politics,” he said.

“But if you’re looking for somebody who’s willing to stand up and articulate a conservative message that is positive and appeals to moderates, I’m you’re candidate.”

A new third party

For 33-year-old Webmaster Bill Hammons of Boulder, establishing the legitimacy of his relatively new third party ” the Unity Party of Colorado ” is a primary focus of his candidacy in the congressional election.

“It’s not only to get myself elected,” he said. “It’s to get the party recognized by the state of Colorado.”

A lifelong Democrat, Hammons organized fundraising for 2004 Democratic presidential primary candidate Wesley Clark before coming deciding a third party is necessary.

“We need change in Washington,” he said, when asked about the platforms of the Unity Party.

“Neither the candidates nor the major parties are addressing the major issues.”

Hammon’s top issues include balancing the budget, global warming, and the stability of Iraq.

His party fielded its first Colorado candidate last summer ” in an unsuccessful bid for Boulder city council. If Hammons garners enough support in the congressional race, the Unity Party will have the opportunity to obtain “permanent minor party status” in the state of Colorado.

Nominated unanimously at his party’s convention in March, Hammons now has to collect 800 signatures of unaffiliated district voters before June 17.

If successful, his name will appear on the November general election ballot, and Coloradoans will then be able to register as Unity Party members.

So far, Hammons has reported a little more than $6,000 in campaign contributions ” mostly from family and friends, he admits.

He’s relying on the popularity of his website and word-of-mouth the grow the campaign.

“There’s no way I can come close to Will Shafroth’s $1 million, or Jared Polis’ personal money, or Joan Fitz-Gerald’s PAC money,” he said.

“I’m looking more at Jesse Ventura’s gubernatorial run in Minnesota.”

Reform Party candidate Ventura won the governor’s seat in 1999, despite vastly underspending his major party opponents.

The Unity Party is also fielding a candidate in Pennsylvania to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. John Murtha.

Single-issue motivates underdog Democrat

In his quest for the Democratic nomination, Boulder County teacher Larry Johnson, 47, is going head to head against the multi-million dollar triumvirate of Fitz-Gerald, Polis, and Shafroth.

Despite the long odds, however, the Lafayette resident says he was driven to enter the race by his belief in the vital importance of passing a constitutional amendment to limit the president’s power to declare war without the support of the legislature.

“The Iraq war puts this directly before the people,” he said. “Do we believe in pre-emptive war?”

According to Johnson, the time is right for Congress to address this issue.

An amendment should be designed and passed by the legislative branch giving them the “sole authority to declare war.”

And Johnson, who ran unsuccessfully in the district’s 2000 Republican primary before switching parties, has drafted such an amendment.

“The people have to take (this power) back,” he emphasized.

With minimal fundraising and no background in elected office, Johnson has a long row to hoe.

In order to get his name on the Aug. 12 primary ballot, he must collect at least 1,000 signatures from registered Democrats before the May 29 deadline.

Harriet Hamilton can be reached at (970) 668-4651, or at hhamilton@summitdaily.com.