By Brad Jones, FACE THE STATE
State Rep. Kathleen Curry was once a loyal Democratic booster, as evidenced by her involvement in this 2008 Barack Obama campaign stop. Now an independent, she’s fighting an uphill battle against election law designed to protect the two major political parties.
Whatever your take on Gunnison state Rep. Kathleen Curry’s decision late last year to leave the ranks of ruling Democrats and become the legislature’s only unaffiliated member, it’s hard not to admire her pluck in taking on the two-party system.
As punishment, she was unceremoniously, if inevitably, stripped of her leadership post as House speaker pro tem just before the start of the 2010 session. House Speaker Terrance Carroll also took away her chairmanship of the House Agriculture Committee – no small swipe at someone who is among a handful of real-live ranchers currently serving in the General Assembly. That was just salt in the wounds, though, as the biggest challenge facing the maverick lawmaker will be simply to get re-elected. Not because she faces a popularity deficit back home but rather because of arcane statutes on the books hamstringing unaffiliated candidates.
As recounted recently by FTS’s own Peter Blake, Curry faces a serious handicap. Having left the Democratic Party after the statutory deadline to register as an unaffiliated candidate, her name will not appear on the November ballot. Instead, she’ll have to vie as a write-in contender – a long, long shot under the best of circumstances. Because Republicans and Democrats don’t face the same deadline as unaffiliateds, Curry sued (in tandem with similarly unaffiliated La Plata County Commissioner Joelle Riddle). She lost, with dim prospects of overturning the ruling on appeal.
Now, her uphill trek has gotten even steeper. As reported by the Durango Herald, a court ruled against Curry last week in another lawsuit she filed, charging that Colorado’s campaign finance laws are unfair to unaffiliated candidates. Because they face no primary election, unaffiliated candidates are limited by law to exactly half of the campaign contributions allowed Republicans and Democrats. That’s so even though many Republicans and Democrats face no challengers during the primary election cycle.
Curry said she’ll press on with her legal fight, but after U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer turned down her motion last Thursday to block the state campaign-finance law in time for the November election, even an eventual favorable outcome will do her little good in raising contributions toward her re-election bid. It’s also little solace to voters who might want to support her or other candidates outside the GOP-Democrat loop.
The Herald reports that a philosophical Curry told supporters in an e-mail:
“This is part of a pattern that I am seeing. It is becoming more clear why we don’t have any elected officials at the legislative level that are unaffiliated even though 34 percent of the state’s voters are!”
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