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Barbara Kirkmeyer hopes to bring rural sensibilities to Congress

Via The Denver Post

During the past couple of years, one of the enduring themes in the Colorado legislature has been the “battle” between the interests of the Denver area and those of everywhere else in the state.

Whether real or political contrivance, “The war on rural Colorado” has offered Barbara Kirkmeyer a playbook on how to run for Congress.

A disconnect between government and the common folk? Check. Big-city priorities vs. the agricultural lifestyle? Check.

And that’s before Kirkmeyer plays her biggest trump card: At a time when cities and states — and the U.S. government — seem to be wondering where their next dime will come from, the Weld County commissioner points to a system that literally has paid dividends to its citizens.

According to Kirkmeyer, the county has used a combination of spending cuts, balanced budgets and business-friendly incentive programs to create a kind of municipal utopia — during the past 10 years, she said, Weld County has delivered $278 million back to residents.

“It’s the only county, I think in the nation, certainly in the state of Colorado, that has no debt, not long-term or short-term,” Kirkmeyer said. “Year after year we reduce our mill levy and give the money back to our taxpayers.

“And even after we had the epic floods last year with millions of dollars in damages that we had to fund because we hadn’t gotten relief from FEMA yet, we got our roads opened. And at the end of this year we will still have over $100 million in an unrestricted contingency fund. No one else does that.”

But with less than three weeks remaining before the June 24 Republican primary, there are some challenges that Kirkmeyer, who has served in Weld County for 20 years, has had to overcome. When the GOP held its assemblies in April, state Sen. Scott Renfroe of Greeley took the coveted top spot on the ballot, followed by Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck.

Kirkmeyer, and the fourth candidate in the race, Steve Laffey, had to petition their way onto the ballot. Some political observers say that’s a sign of a relative lack of name recognition that may be difficult to overcome, given the relatively short primary campaign window.

“She’s one of the most respected officials in the state,” said Republican political consultant Dick Wadhams. “But whether that translates into voters knowing who she is is one thing, and then having the time to convince them to vote for her over someone like Ken Buck is another.”

While the boundaries of the 4th District are rather amorphous, stretching from Wyoming to New Mexico and including parts of Douglas County, Kirkmeyer says she’s big in Weld County, citing a recent study that says that 65 percent of its citizens approved of the performance of its commissioners.

And while Buck and Renfroe also have ties to the county (Laffey, who only recently moved to Colorado, lives outside the district), Kirkmeyer says she’s the only candidate who has ties to its heartbeat.

“I grew up on a dairy farm. I’ve owned a dairy farm. I’m the only candidate who has made a living from farming,” she said. “That’s important, because the 4th is a hugely agricultural district — nine out of the top 10 agriculturally producing counties in the state are in the 4th district.

“It’s important to have someone who understands what our farmers and ranchers have to go through on a daily basis. When the EPA starts talking about nutrient levels or things that impact our farmers and our farming economy, I’m the only one with experience in those types of issues.”

Similarly, Kirkmeyer adds, her background in local government provides another advantage. As such, Kirkmeyer says she’s in better position to make cuts and find efficiencies than her opponents.

But to do so would mean living in Washington, D.C. That’s a sacrifice that Kirkmeyer says she’s willing to make to help bring some rural Colorado sensibility to big government.

“People here feel they’ve been abandoned by their elected officials; there is a huge disconnect between us and them,” Kirkmeyer says. “We have a federal government that is $17 trillion in debt — people can’t even fathom that. That’s not how they live, it’s not how they do business. You’re not going to find people in the 4th District who will say that that’s OK.”



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