Larimer Vacancy Committee Looks For Post-Marostica Representative

LOVELAND — At least five people, up from three last week, are vying for the Colorado House seat that Republican Don Marostica vacated when he was named the state’s top economic-development officer.
Three of the candidates have been in the House District 51 race almost since Marostica’s move was made public. They are longtime party organizer Tom Buchanan, political newcomer Brian DelGrosso and one-time Marostica opponent Kevan McNaught.
The latest entrants are Kari Koppes, a sales executive who’s starting up an unspecified entrepreneurial venture in northern Colorado, and Jeanni Barnthouse, an aide to Republican legislator Jerry Sonnenberg.
The candidates identified so far — there may be more by the time of Thursday’s vacancy election — is a good mix of men and women, youth and experience, said Larry Carillo, chairman of the Larimer County Republican Party. The county has 74 electors, mostly party leaders and elected representatives, who are eligible to vote.
“I think we’ve got a variety of choices for people to choose from,” Carillo said.

Eight vacancy elections
Thursday’s election will be the eighth vacancy election so far in 2009 and the third for the Republicans. Five vacancies have been filled by Democratic committees.
Marostica, a moderate Loveland developer, won praise in liberal legislative circles as a financial realist who was willing to work with the Democratic leadership on moves such as easing measures limiting the size of state government.
But those moves were unpopular in conservative circles because they were seen as growing government, not shrinking it to fit today’s economic realities. The district is predominantly white.
Past elections in the northern Colorado districts have pitted moderate vs. conservative candidates. Most recently, conservative state Rep. Kevin Lundberg was elevated to Senate District 15 over a more moderate candidate. Former Sen. Steve Johnson, also viewed as a moderate, vacated the seat when he was elected as a Larimer County commissioner.
The election is open to the public and begins at 7 p.m. at the Pulliam Community Building, 545 N. Cleveland Ave.

Who are they?
Short candidate bios follow:
* Barnthouse, who is in her mid-20s, worked in 2009 as a legislative aide for Sonnenberg, whose district, farther north and east, includes Weld, Logan, Sedgwick and Phillips conties.
* Buchanan, 57, is a military veteran, father of 10 and Larimer County Republican Party bonus board member. He writes on a political website: “I am an activist in keeping our elected representatives at all levels feet to the fire. I organized the Loveland Tax Day Tea Party because government spending is out of control. If elected I will ensure that you have face to face contact with me to make sure that my feet are toasty warm.”
* DelGrosso, 37, owns three Domino’s Pizza restaurants in Loveland and Windsor. He is married, has three children and has lived in the area for four years. He recently told the local Loveland Reporter-Herald that it makes no sense in this economy for the government to continue raising taxes and placing increased fees on the average resident and small businesses. “I’ve gotten to the point where I’m tired of it, I’m fed up with it. Enough is enough,” he was quoted as saying.
* Koppes, 43, is, like Buchanan, a Republican Party bonus board member. She’s launching an unspecified entrepreneurial venture. What sets her apart from the other candidates, Koppes says, is is her degree in economics and finance and her status as a single parent of two teenage children.
* McNaught, 47, and married with three children, is a financial planner and self-described “Reagan conservative.” In his unsuccessful 2006 race against Marostica, he was endorsed by the Colorado Club for Growth. “Kevan McNaught shares the pro-growth economic principles of Colorado Club for Growth members”, chairman Bill Miller said then. “Voters in House District 51 should make no mistake that Kevan is the only true fiscal conservative on the ballot.” One issue, apparently resolved, is whether McNaught is legally able to run for the seat because he owns a house in Berthoud, which is outside the district. Republican leaders say he has a rental property within the district at which he’s properly registered to vote, and the Secretary of State’s office is prepared to say that it agrees with the assessment, Carillo says.

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