Democrat Patrick Swonger of Silverton announced Tuesday he intends to challenge Republican J. Paul Brown for his seat in the state House of Representatives.
Speaking to a crowd of about 25 supporters outside the Student Union Building at Fort Lewis College, Swonger laid out his platform.
My campaign is about jobs, education and preserving our environment while leveraging both its beauty and bounty, said Swonger, an Air Force veteran who has served as an independent on the Silverton Town Board for the last six years.
Brown currently represents the 59th District, which was redrawn in a contentious decennial reapportionment last year. Brown announced his re-election bid last week.
I decided to run because I am very concerned as a parent and as a citizen about representation. People are getting to a point when apathy is so bad I just feel like its time for people to step up and get involved, Swonger said.
Swonger also outlined his 59 JOBS initiative, in which he aims to labor alongside fellow Coloradans for half a day or more in 58 different district jobs.
Ranching, farming, energy, education, tourism, health care: these are some key industries for our area in the 21st century. Working in these fields is the best way to learn more about what folks need to succeed, Swonger said.
Ellen R. Stein, speaking as Swongers friend and supporter, said prominent local Democrats began mounting an effort to recruit Swonger last November, when he was still a registered independent.
Its just his appeal, Stein said. Hes a no-nonsense guy who can appeal to the grass roots and really cares about people and our district.
It appears likely, however, that he will face a primary challenge.
I dont know if it will be one, two, three or four, but we do expect there to be multiple candidates, said Matt Inzeo, communications director of the Colorado Democratic Party. Given the redistricting, we havent been surprised to see increased levels of interest.
La Plata County Democratic Party Chairwoman Denise Bohemier acknowledged another person was considering a bid for the seat. Though she did not make any endorsements, she said she has known Swonger for more than 10 years.
I think Pat will be a strong grass-roots candidate, from my conversations with him. He has the fire in his belly that it will take to go through the long haul and have a successful campaign, Bohemier said.
Another obstacle that could stand in Swongers way is the Colorado Democratic Partys bylaws, which stipulate that candidates must have registered as Democrats for at least 12 months immediately proceeding the date of a general election.
The general election will be held on Nov. 6; Swonger registered as a Democrat on Nov. 7, 2011.
Bohemier rejected that this disqualified Swonger since Nov. 6 fell on a Sunday, but Inzeo called it a gray area.
Because its a relatively new seat and because we do anticipate the possibility of multiple candidates filing, we have some party neutrality rules that come into play. Were too early in the process to identify how we go about resolving it, he said.
Swonger estimates mounting a successful campaign will cost about $150,000, of which he has a few thousand dollars.
I just filed last Friday. My websites barely up, he said, referring to his site, www.swongerforcolorado.org.
Rich Coolidge, spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State, said the most recent report from Browns campaign reflect $7,300 in its bank account. But Brown on Tuesday said the current amount is $16,000.
The pressure to raise funds has Jamie MacMillan, who filed his candidacy for the seat as an independent months ago, contemplating withdrawing.
The system itself continues to be broken because of the unlimited corporate contributions to campaigns that you cant track because theyre all anonymous. It makes an independent run obviously very hard because youre spending your own money, he said.