The waves of our District

Oct 152002
Authors: Ashley Wheeland

What happens every 10 years except getting older or a change in a decade of fashion trends? A census is done that among other things determines who and how many from each state will go east to the House of Representatives.

In Fort Collins we vote for the fourth congressional seat. We share our district with Weld County, a largely agrarian county. This district is so interesting because of the many different groups and interests within it. Fort Collins is decent sized city with a constant growth rate that is centered economically on a college campus. When looking at urban areas such as Fort Collins, political analysts tend to say that they tend to be Democratic in voting. Registered Democrats in the district make up 33 percent.

However, as you drive south and east the communities within the district are much smaller, with very different interests. In Weld County the economy is dependent on the agriculture industry and like that group, the population tends to favor Republicans. The latter group makes up more of the registered voters, with 41 percent.

While acknowledging the variety of interests one must also look at national trends that can impact this district’s voting. Over 25 percent of the districts 414,000 registered voters are unaffiliated. This large number is consistent with national trends toward more people registering as unaffiliated, which can be attributed to many factors, from apathy to individualism. Obviously, there is large margin in determining who actually has the ability to win in this district.

After a bitter fight in the primaries the candidates in the district are Marilyn Musgrave for the Republican ticket and Stan Matsunaka for the Democratic ticket. These two legislators come from the state assembly, both spending their last term in the Colorado Senate. While they came from the same legislative body, their stances and ideologies are much different.

Musgrave, who has lived in Ft. Lupton for 26 years, has been deemed one of the most conservative Colorado lawmakers. In the Denver Post, CSU’s own professor of political science, Dr. John Straayer, described Musgrave’s track record in the Colorado Assembly as “guns, gays and abortion – those are the far right’s issues, and that would describe her. She’s got this focus on the social agenda of the Republican party.”

Musgrave’s interests have also been seen in bills she sponsored in the Colorado Senate. She sponsored legislation that would have required school children to recite the pledge of allegiance, and another bill that would have required a twenty-four hour mandatory waiting period for abortions, including requirements such as watching videotapes of fetuses and information on other options to abortion, such as adoption.

Stan Matsunaka, a Loveland resident of 23 years, is the president of the Colorado Assembly. Matsunaka’s position last year required him to spend much time working on compromises between the parties and the divided chambers. He worked with Gov. Owens to get a $15 billion transportation compromise. Matsunaka sponsored a bill that provided funding for a voter amendment to boost moneys for education in charter, poor school districts, and help to low-performing schools.

While both of these candidates have strong backgrounds, they have very different agendas and voters must keep that in mind. As students, who do you think represents you? As a university we have the forums (debates and our media) to look at who represents us and hold them accountable. One problem as students we have is that these candidates do not especially fight hard for our vote. They place us in the non-voting or apathetic groups. Do you want them to think of you like this?

This is a hot race in Colorado. And we are right in the middle of it. In a poll released Oct. 7, by a firm hired by Matsunaka, the race is very close, with Musgrave holding 45 percent of voters and Matsunaka holding 40 percent. While one party may hold the incumbency, another is challenging the predecessor on her ideology and merits. In politics there has been this tendency to become pessimists. We say that incumbents win. We say that there are safe seats. With the polls coming closer and closer I think the boat is rocked and this seat may not be so safe in water with so many waves of interest.

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