Republican Schutt seeks to oust Millie Hamner from House District 61 seat
September 15, 2016
Editor's note: This is the first installment in a two-part series on candidates in the House District 61 race. Look for the next part, a profile of Democratic incumbent Millie Hamner, in the Sept. 17 edition of the Summit Daily.
"Schutt happens" — not a bad slogan for someone who mends broken bones for living.
Robert Schutt, a Republican from Crested Butte, has placed the tongue-in-cheek pun on bumper stickers, T-shirts and in his digital advertising. The orthopedic surgeon said it underscores his standing as an outsider, while injecting a little humor into the normally stuffy world of electoral politics.
"It's something people have embraced more than me, I think it's fun, I mean if people like it and they enjoy it, and they remember it … that's all important," Schutt said.
“I want to make sure I have a positive effect on how Colorado tax dollars are spent and listen to the issues that people bring to me.”Bob SchuttCandidate for HD 61
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Schutt has never run for office before, but in his first attempt he's setting his sights high in his attempt to unseat House District 61 incumbent Millie Hamner, a Democrat from Dillon and a former superintendent of the Summit School District.
Hamner was first appointed to the House in 2011 after Christine Scanlan, another Summit County resident, resigned to work for Governor John Hickenlooper. Hamner is seeking a fourth two-year term. Both she and Schutt ran unopposed in the primaries for their parties.
Despite not having a background in politics, Schutt is confident in his ability to get the job done. He said he is running because he has a sense of commitment to the citizens of House District 61 and believes in a vision that life in Colorado can be better.
"Public service is a great way to give back, since Colorado has been good to me and my family," he said.
House District 61 spans accross all of Summit, Pitkin and Lake counties, as well as the northern part of Gunnison County and the eastern part of Delta County.
Military and medicine
Originally from Delaware, Schutt came to Colorado after he was appointed by Senator J. Caleb Boggs to get his bachelor's degree in engineering science from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1965. While there, he met his wife Suzanne, who attended Colorado College and studied elementary education. They have been married for 45 years.
Schutt served in the Air Force until 1974 as a fighter pilot. He did a tour in Vietnam, where he was a commander on the F-4E phantom aircraft, flying combat missions. After getting his medical doctorate from Texas Tech University and completing his residency at the University of Colorado Health Services Center, Schutt rejoined the Army in 1990 as an orthopedic surgeon for a year. He provided support for the 3rd Armored Division in Baghdad.
Schutt said that his experience as a cadet in the U.S. Air Force Academy helped to make him a leader.
"The Academy … is an institution that thrives on its graduates having character and leadership, and I think I developed a lot of traits from the Academy that will carry forth," he said.
Schutt has had a home in Colorado since he came here in 1965, although he spent some time in Texas from 2003-13 as a professor and department chair of orthopedic surgery at Texas Tech. He has been an orthopedic surgeon in the Gunnison/Crested Butte area for the last 24 years. He currently works at Alpine Orthopaedics, which has offices in Gunnison, Crested Butte and Telluride. His specialty is in pediatric orthopedics, and he volunteers with the Shriner's Hospital for Children at their outreach clinic in Panama.
As a physician, Schutt says that health care is an issue he takes to heart.
"I do believe in trying to get access for everybody, and the system we have is not working," he said.
However, when looking at Amendment 69, also known as ColoradoCare, Schutt said that the amendment was good for bringing awareness to issues, but that it is not the way to go for the state. He said it was too costly.
"I do think Amendment 69 was a reaction to people not happy with the Affordable Healthcare Act, and I just don't think it's the right reaction. I think it's too drastic right now," he said.
Many of the people that Schutt has met during his campaign cite frustration with the economy and job prospects. He said that employment is a particularly important issue in Delta County where Schutt said the shut down of some coal mines has been "devastating" to the economy. He said this is a trickle effect of Senate Bill 252, which requires that the state get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources. This is set to increase to 25 percent by 2020.
While Schutt believes that the change to renewable energy is inevitable, he believes it should be done fairly, according to a post about the bill on his Facebook page. "I don't think coal is going to be here indefinitely, at all, I'm not supporting coal, I'm just saying the way it was handled through Senate Bill 252 it was just an overnight devastation," he wrote.
In addition to economic issues, one of Schutt's strongest campaign points is that he believes he is the fiscally responsible candidate. "The key is really only spending money we have," he said.
Schutt was critical of Hamner, who was the chair of the budget committee in the 2015 legislative session.
He accused her of not staying within budget on certain items, saying, "The expanded Medicaid program was totally wiped out and they had to steal funds from education and transportation in order to cover the balanced budget that our state requires."
Compared to his opponent, who's raised more than $30,000 for her campaign, Schutt has amassed a relatively small war chest of about $7,900.
Schutt began campaigning in February and said that he tries to make it out to as many events as he can. However, he hasn't had the opportunity to visit Summit County very often. He said the size of the district makes "door-knocking" difficult.
This story was corrected on Sept. 16.