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Gibbs looks at House

DUFFY HAYES
summit daily news

SUMMIT COUNTY ” The race for Gary Lindstrom’s House seat looks as if it’s shaping up as a real contest between youth and experience.

Thirty-year-old Dan Gibbs, a field representative for U.S. Rep. Mark Udall (D-Boulder) and a Silverthorne resident, said Wednesday that he’s “taking a very serious look at running for House District 56.”

“I think I’d make a very strong candidate,” he said.

The experienced political veteran in the equation is Republican Ken Chlouber, who was term-limited from the state Senate in 2004, and previously served 10 years in the House. Chlouber recently announced his intention to run for the District 56 seat in the November election.

Though not officially announcing his candidacy, all the early signs are pointing to Gibbs as the next Democratic candidate for the House seat that encompasses Summit, Lake and Eagle counties.

In announcing that he wouldn’t seek re-election to his current House seat Tuesday, State Rep. Gary Lindstrom (D-Breckenridge) said, “I have been in discussions with a young man who is interested in running for my seat. He should be announcing in the next few days.”

Wednesday, Lindstrom confirmed that Gibbs was the “young man” he referenced in his farewell announcement, and he gave his political blessing for Gibbs to be his preferred successor in the House.

“He’s a good man,” Lindstrom said. “If you have a question regarding federal issues, you can call him and he will track down people to get questions answered.”

Sandy Briggs, chairman of the Summit County Democrats, said Wednesday, “We’ve been tossing names around, and Dan Gibbs’ name came up ” and he was interested in running.”

“I don’t know when he’s going to be ready to announce formally that he’s doing this, but we couldn’t be happier if he is going to run,” Briggs said.

Briggs added: “It’s what we want to see, both in our party here in Summit County and in the state Legislature ” let’s get some new blood in there. Let’s get some young people in there that can craft the future that they’re about to inherit.”

Gibbs is well known locally for being intricately involved in many of the issues and efforts that are hot around Summit County. Lindstrom said Gibbs regularly attends county commissioner and town board meetings, is involved in local land exchange and Forest Service issues, and said, “Dan’s a great resource. He knows a lot of people.”

Briggs particularly noted Gibbs’ involvement with the local Summit County Mountain Pine Beetle Task Force. He says Gibbs was instrumental in getting “diverse stakeholders and interests to come to the table” ” like the Colorado Timber Association, which regularly sends members to attend the frequent task force meetings.

Gibbs’ boss, Rep. Udall, and Rep. John Salazar (D-Manassa) are co-sponsors of pending federal legislation that would garner funding to address the pine beetle problem plaguing local forests. Summit County Republicans also support the measure.

Bipartisanship and cooperation are traits Gibbs plans to emphasize in the campaign if he chooses to run.

“I’m not a political staffer. I work with just as many Republicans as Democrats and independents. I think that appeals to a lot of people for me being a candidate, because I am not a partisan. I work with everyone on all issues,” he said.

Local Republicans weren’t sure what to make of Gibbs just yet.

“I don’t exactly know what to think of Dan, just because I don’t know a lot about him,” said Ron Bristol, chairman of the Summit County Republican Party. “You’ve got kind of a young, relatively unknown ” or to put it differently ” at least a novice in terms of being an elected official.”

“Obviously our agendas are quite a bit different if he’s a strong supporter of Udall’s positions,” Bristol said. “We’ve probably got a lot of differences there.”

Bristol didn’t see the age gap between Gibbs and potential Republican candidate Chlouber as much of a factor.

“The race should be on policy and positions. Experience matters, but I don’t see a real big issue with the age difference,” he said.

In contrasting the two, Lindstrom drew clear distinctions personality-wise.

He called Gibbs “very mature” and “level-headed.” He said Gibbs doesn’t get emotional about issues, is not demonstrative, and is relatively quiet.

That stood in stark contrast to his description of Chlouber.

“Chlouber is not taken too seriously in the district or here in the Legislature,” Lindstrom said. “He has a reputation for being a loose cannon. He’s an entertainer. He’s a real cowboy. He’s flamboyant ” and loud.”

Chlouber did not immediately return a phone call.

Both Gibbs and Chlouber will have to win votes in their respective party caucuses on March 21 in order to formally become candidates for the race. Bristol said that Chlouber is the only Republican candidate he’s heard of so far, and Gibbs would be the first serious candidate to announce on the Democratic side if he chooses to run.

Gibbs, while mulling the candidacy, isn’t officially in the race ” yet.

“I want to be clear ” I’ve not formally announced, but I am taking a serious look. I’ve been making calls and talking with my family. But a lot of people are urging me to take a very serious look,” Gibbs said.

Duffy Hayes can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13611, or at dhayes@summitdaily.com.


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