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HD61 GOP race quiet ahead of primary Tuesday

Caddie Nath
Summit Daily News
Debra Irvine
ALL |

As other candidates hurl accusations and drop tens of thousands of dollars on marketing and materials, the Republican race for state House District 61 has been marked by its lack of cutthroat campaigning.

Both sides say mudslinging just isn’t part of the strategy.

Breckenridge contender Debra Irvine, who unsuccessfully challenged Democrat Christine Scanlan for the state House in 2010, says the background of her opponent, Gunnison Constitutionalist David Justice, speaks for itself.



He agrees.

“I’m offering myself as a candidate,” Justice said. “If I had a campaign strategy, it’s not to as much run a race or attempt to win as it is to offer me on my merits and what I stand for.”



Together, Justice and Irvine have spent less than $5,000 on the race thus far, a paltry sum compared to the more than $70,000 their counterparts have dropped in the GOP primary for Senate District 8, which includes Summit County.

In contrast to the thousands of mailers and attack advertisements that have dominated other races, Justice’s campaigning in Summit County has been limited to an open house and several opinion pieces to the Summit Daily News. Irvine’s most visible campaign moves have been a few signs, radio ads and an announcement speech on the steps of the Old Summit County Courthouse.

“We are running a positive campaign,” Irvine stated in an email. “Our radio ads throughout the district are my voice speaking on our issues.”

Still, Justice said winning Republican votes could be a challenge in a county where many already know Irvine’s name.

“I don’t know if I have enough (support) to pull an upset,” Justice said. “I tend to think Summit will be more supportive of Debra.”

In a newly formed district, it’s hard to anticipate the pull local Republicans’ decision could have on the primary. Summit County is the most populous in the newly formed district, but the GOP camp here is outnumbered by more than 1,600 votes in Delta County. Justice’s home county of Gunnison, on the other hand, registers only 997 active Republicans, compared to Summit’s 3,613.

But Justice said he believes the race could come down not to the numbers but to the industries and interests involved.

“It may come down to agricultural interests versus tourism interests,” Justice said.

Justice has come out against state tourism spending, currently in the millions of dollars and largely targeted at drawing visitors into Colorado.

But Irvine, a Club 20 member who said she does support tourism spending at the state level because of the proven return on investment, said she didn’t think the votes will be divided by industry, noting that her agenda to reduce regulations and taxes on businesses applies to all industries.

“I believe I have support across the board,” she said.

Irvine and Justice will face off for the Republican ticket for HD 61 Tuesday. The winner will challenge incumbent Democrat Millie Hamner of Dillon and at least two minor-party candidates for the seat in the general election in November.

The new HD61 encompasses Summit, Lake, Pitkin and parts of Delta and Gunnison counties.


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