Minor parties spin dynamics of House District 61 race
Ryan Summerlin September 9, 2012
Editor’s note: Attempts by the SDN to acquire a mug shot of Ellen Temby were unsuccessful.
If nothing else, voters in the newly formed state House District 61 have options.
Three third-party candidates, Ellen Temby, a Libertarian, American Constitution Party Candidate Robert Petrowsky and Independent Kathleen Curry are pounding the pavement alongside Republican Debra Irvine and Democrat Millie Hamner, attempting to win the hearts of voters in the disparate West Slope district.
But it’s still not clear if or how the plethora of choices will swing the election in November.
Many Americans have responded to years of partisanship with growing impatience for both major political parties. The results of a Pew poll released in June indicate the number of self-described independent voters in the U.S. has climbed to 38 percent from 32 percent in 2008. Likewise, Summit County’s number of registered unaffiliated voters has swelled since 2008, as has affiliation with the American Constitution and Libertarian parties.
House District 61 third-party contenders are counting on public frustration with the current “partisan gridlock” to turn the tide of the election.
“We don’t know what people want,” Curry said. “We know they don’t like what’s out there. They’re frustrated. … I’m a centrist and that appeals to a lot of the independent thinkers in this district.”
Curry speculated the presence of an ACM candidate, Libertarian and her own history as a right-of-center independent might pull votes from Republican Irvine.
But the drift of the new district, which now encompasses Summit, Pitkin, Lake, Gunnison and Delta counties, is untested in a general election, and Irvine heads into November as the only candidate with a solid primary victory – over challenger David Justice – under her belt.
“One of the positive aspects of having had a primary is my name recognition across the district,” Irvine stated in an email to the Summit Daily. “The demographics of this new House district are very positive for our campaign and voters are telling us that our platform resonates across party lines.”
The Republican, Democrat and Independent candidates seem to be eyeing one another as the chief competition among the five hopefuls, noting Temby and Petrowsky’s lack of visibility with voters.
“The people who speak to me seem to think the race will come down to Debra Irvine, Kathleen Curry and me,” Hamner said. “Certainly there are more choices for people and the votes will be spread among the candidates.”
Petrowsky, however, said he expects the election to fall geographically.
“Pitkin County is really split and Summit is really split,” he said. “I think this is one where Gunnison County and Delta County really tell Summit and Pitkin how it’s going to be.”
Contenders said, thus far, the race has been clean and issues-focused.
Both Hamner and Petrowsky are making their first bids for the state Legislature this year. Hamner, of Dillon, was appointed to her current seat representing the now-redrawn House District 56 in 2010 after Democrat Christine Scanlan was tapped for a position in Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration shortly after winning the seat. Hamner had been the Summit School District superintendent prior to her appointment. Petrowsky is an emergency dispatcher in Vail.
Irvine and Curry have both campaigned for the Legislature before. Irvine, a Breckenridge artist, ran unsuccessfully for HD56 in 2010. Curry made a bid for the former HD61 seat in 2004 and won, serving a total of three terms through 2010.
Temby could not be immediately contacted for comment.