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RANGELY I If elected, Dan Maes, Republican candidate for governor, pledged to speak for the Western Slope.
“You will have a voice in Denver, if you need it,” he said.
But first, Maes has to get elected.
Maes is polling third in a three-way race with Democrat John Hickenlooper and former Republican-turned-American-Constitution-Party candidate Tom Tancredo, but said Saturday he had no intention of dropping out of the race, as some in his party have called on him to do.
“I was taking on big people since the time I was a teenager,” Maes said. “I don’t fear big people. To play in this game, especially on the Front Range in Denver, there are big, nasty, mean, wealthy people who don’t want a regular guy in the governor’s office. I have stood up to that pressure. I have stood up to the power brokers and said it’s not what you want. It’s what the people of Colorado want.”
Voters in remote Rio Blanco County may feel neglected by politicians in Denver, but whether Maes will be in a position to do something about it will be decided Nov. 2 during the general election.
“I want to be your voice,” Maes said Saturday morning during a campaign stop at Colorado Northwestern Community College. “If you want a conservative. If you want a guy who cares about rural Colorado … then tell me what’s important to you and I will carry that back (to Denver).”
During his first-ever visit to Rangely, Maes brought his message of smaller government, a strong energy industry and cutting taxes to a group of about 15 people.
“Every part of this state matters to me,” Maes said. “In fact, I think the Western Slope is the economic engine, in dormancy, waiting to drag this state back to prosperity. I don’t say just that because I’m in Rangely.”
Oil and gas production is by far the biggest industry in Rangely and Rio Blanco County. But Rangely Town Manager Peter Brixius told Maes, “We feel like we’re under attack by our own state government. They’re threatening to take away our federal mineral lease and severance tax monies. This town cannot survive on sales tax.”
Maes blamed the current administration under Gov. Bill Ritter.
“We have lost over $200 million a year in severance tax revenue in this state, and it has hit you and your pocketbook. Why? Because he (Ritter) stiff-armed oil and gas and said we are going to focus on renewable energy,” Maes said. “We have to empower all of Colorado, but especially the Western Slope, to produce as much as possible. Because if you win, Denver wins, too. … The whole state benefits from strong, traditional energy development.
“The money should flow back to the communities where it originates,” Maes said. “You’ve got to be empowered to produce as much energy as possible, protecting our environment, protecting our water supplies, and finding a balance between the two.
“It’s about revenue generation from business and industry. Not by taxing you more and more,” the candidate said. “It’s how we drive the economy in this state. Economy equals energy. … The main vehicle for this state’s recovery is the energy industry.”
Town Manager Brixius commended Maes.
“I think Dan spoke well of his vision for Colorado,” Brixius said. “I believe he was somewhat sensitive to the fact that he was in (Scott) McInnis’ back yard. He was clear that he was the Republican nominee (Maes beat McInnis in the primary) and we would not be falling on his sword this election.
“I think the one clear message that he wanted people to know is that he is going to stay the course in spite of the big-money interests on the Eastern Slope, who would like to silence his candidacy,” Brixius said. “He said he would take on the fight for greater activity in the energy sector, which he believes is the cure for Colorado’s economic woes. I think he was hoping for a greater endorsement from the (Sarah) Palin machine in order to bolster his standing in the polls.”
Jim Palin, Sarah’s father-in-law, posted a message on his Facebook page last week endorsing Maes.
Rangely resident Shelly Hooper was among those who turned out last Saturday to hear from Maes.
“I liked that he realizes the importance of the Western Slope and ‘not cutting off the hand that feeds you,’ so to speak, with the oil and gas industry,” Hooper said. “I like that he isn’t part of the establishment and can bring a fresh perspective; however, I feel he is spending too much time on the ‘hurt feelings’ of what Tancredo has done. Those of us who are interested know what Tancredo has done and regardless of the tactics he is in the race, so I think Maes should just deal with it and focus on what he can bring to the table to beat the other candidates.”
Local resident Lisa LeFevre was impressed that Maes even made a campaign visit to Rangely.
“I think highly of Dan Maes that he recognizes that Rangely is part of the state. No other candidate has concerned themselves with coming here, even though we are a great financial resource for all of Colorado. I believe that he is on the right track with his beliefs on energy in Colorado.”
LeFevre liked what the Republican candidate had to say.
“All of the candidates are far from perfect. But when we compare our options, Dan Maes is the best choice for Colorado,” LeFevre said. “In my opinion, we can’t afford four more years of an environmentalist in the governor’s mansion. And when you look at Mr. Tancredo’s history in office, he has proposed bills in Congress to put a moratorium on legal immigration, he wants to ban books written in Spanish in libraries, and proposed that the solution to terrorism was to bomb Mecca and other holy sites. Don’t take my word for it, look him up.”