Democratic Breckenridge resident hopes second time is charm in District 8 Senate race
Emily Tracy, the Democratic candidate for Colorado Senate District 8, hopes to cross the divide of partisan politics if elected.
Tracy, a Breckenridge resident, ran for this same position against incumbent Republican Randy Baumgardner in 2012. Baumgardner, who lives in Hot Sulphur Springs, is seeking his second term. District 8 covers a large portion of Northwestern Colorado. It is comprised of seven counties: Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt, Jackson, Grand and Summit.
Tracy said that originally she had not intended to run for senate again. Because of the relationship she built with the district during her campaign in 2012, Tracy said she still had a strong interest in what happened this coming election. She decided to work with the state’s Democratic Party to try and recruit a candidate for this election. But by early January, she said she became the “last person standing.”
“I enjoy running in this area. It’s just a great part of the state, and running for office is just a really positive experience. It’s a very educational experience, and I love having that contact with the various communities in the district, and the people and the issues,” Tracy said.
She added that because of the size and diversity of the district, it can be a challenge to make sure everyone’s needs are met. As part of her campaign, Tracy said she has visited 14 towns to knock on doors, and she has made phone calls to the locations that she did not visit.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
There are some similarities between her campaign this time around and in 2012. Both times Tracy ran unopposed in the Democratic primaries, and she is facing the same opponent in Baumgardner. But Tracy said she thinks one key thing has been different so far this race: a drop in registered Republican voters.
“I noticed right away that the voter registration, the demographics of the district had changed quite a bit in the last four years,” she said.
She said that registered Republican voters across the district have dropped from 40 percent to 35 percent. She said the difference has been made up by unaffiliated voters. Tracy attributed some of the change to population growth, but said that loss of jobs in the coal industry may have made an impact as well. As of 2014, the Colorado Secretary of State voter registration numbers showed approximately 36 percent of voters were registered as Republican in District 8.
For a short time, Baumgardner and Tracy had a third opponent in Al White, who ran as an independent for six weeks. White previously held the seat in District 8 as a Republican from 2009 to 2011, before becoming the director of the Colorado Tourism Office. His wife, Jean White, took over the seat for him in early 2011. She ran against Baumgardner in the 2012 primaries but lost.
In mid-April 2016, White pulled out of the race and instead endorsed Tracy. Jean White has also endorsed Tracy.
Tracy said that having endorsements from two former Republican senators has helped in the race.
“Because the largest number of people, registered voters in the district, are unaffiliated, I think that they very much appreciate that bipartisan approach to things because they don’t see their life, or they don’t want their lives, to be dependent on any one political party,” Tracy said.
Tracy was born in the Bronx in New York City. She spent some time there before moving to Missouri for middle and high school. She visited Colorado for vacation and knew she wanted to go to college here. She moved to Colorado in 1965 to attend the University of Colorado in Boulder to study German and English literature. She went back to school in the early ’80s to get her master’s in public administration concentrating on environmental management from CU at Colorado Springs.
Tracy’s background covers a wide array of government positions and nonprofit work. While living in Canon City, Tracy was elected for two terms of city council. She also has worked with the state on child protection, foster care and adoption. She is certified in conflict resolution and worked in the court system doing mediation for four years. Currently, she is an adjunct faculty member at Colorado Mountain College teaching in the school’s sustainability program.
“I recognized long ago that I like variety and new challenges, so that’s what kind of kept me moving through my work life,” Tracy said.
Tracy moved to Breckenridge in 2004. Within the county, she has been part of the planning commission for the past 10 years, and she co-leads the Conflict Resolution Coalition for Summit County. She is also an alternate board member representing Summit County in Club 20.
Tracy said that she has always had an interest in local and state governments, which is what drew her toward running in 2012 for state senate.
HOPES FOR ELECTION
For Tracy, some of the most important issues she wants to tackle require support from both parties.
“There are some pretty important issues in this part of the state that I think Sen. Baumgardner has not necessarily voted to represent those interests, that there have been times when it seems as if his votes are more partisan-driven rather than driven by the interests and need of people who live in this part of the state.”
She said that if she is elected she would want to re-examine HB 16-1039, the I-70 Traction Bill again. She also said she wanted to tackle broadband for the rural areas of Colorado. She said that increasing health care costs is something that would need to be addressed.
Tracy said that bipartisan communication is essential, and jokingly added that being married to a Republican helps her learn to work across the partisan divide every day.
“I’ve also seen that because we’re never gonna have that powerful political voice based on population that the Front Range has, that if we’re an elected official in rural Colorado we have to be able to work across that partisan divide,” she said.
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