Oct 232008
Authors: Trevor Simonton

Editor’s Note: A mistake was printed that Sen. Johnson supports damming of the Poudre River, this is not true, he does not support damming the main stem of the river, only projects off of the river. This has been corrected in the online article, and a correction will run Monday in the paper.

State Sen. Steven Johnson, R-Fort Collins, visited a CSU political science class Thursday to define the responsibilities of a Larimer County Commissioner, which he said is a muddy distinction from your run-of-the-mill political office.

Johnson is running against Democratic incumbent Randy Eubanks for commissioner in the county’s second district.

“Most people don’t have any idea what that is,” he said. “The number one question I get when I walk door-to-door for my campaign is, ‘What is a county commissioner?'”

To professor John Straayer’s class of about 30 political science students, POLS 304: Legislative Politics, Johnson explained that a county commissioner’s job is more important than a senator’s in terms of daily impact.

“What is a County


There are three districts in Larimer County. Fort Collins falls in the second district.

Though commissioner candidates must live in the district that they wish to represent, Larimer County voters can vote for the commissioner of each district, regardless of where they reside.

District One is not open to an election this year, but will be in two years, when districts two and three are not.

The district elections alternate every two years to prevent an excess of inexperience in office.

The county commissioner stays in office for a four-year term.

“Counties are the creatures of state government,” Johnson said, explaining that the commissioners oversee the local application of issues that stem from the State Legislature.

He said the commissioners decide on a wide range of local issues including land use rezoning, sub-division approvals, public health clinics, welfare, jails, environmental protection, and local transportation.

He said that for years, county commissioners have been trying to get northern Colorado connected to a regional transportation system that can take residents to and from downtown areas and Denver.

Voters will have to consider these issues when deciding the next commissioner, Johnson said.

The Campaign for


This year, each of the two districts up for election will have one Democrat and one Republican running for office.

Republican Tom Donnelly and Democrat Roger Hoffman will be on the ballot for Larimer County’s southern-most District 3, which includes Loveland and Berthoud.

Republican incumbent Glen Gibson did not get the support of enough delegates at the county assembly to run for re-election.

Johnson said this was largely due to publicized disagreements between the county sheriff and Gibson.

Eubanks will be looking for re-election to the District Two office, after a one-year term.

Eubanks’ predecessor, Karen Wagner, D-Fort Collins, stepped down from office last summer because, as Johnson said, she hated her job.

Shortly thereafter, a Democratic committee appointed Eubanks to office. He is now looking for his first voter election.

“All four are really good quality candidates, and we all run really positive campaigns,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s campaign

Johnson is an alumnus and a teacher at CSU and has 12 years experience in the State Legislature.

He said he is now running for a local office because his term limit in the legislature is up, and he wants to work closer to home.

In Straayer’s class Thursday, he talked about his support for Amendment 23 of 2000 and Referendum C of 2005, both of which regulate revenue in Colorado.

Johnson has a long history of supporting higher education.

In 2005, Referendum C saved higher education funding in the state without raising taxes; he said our budget today would be $800 million lower without that referendum.

He also opposed a last-minute effort from CSU officials to increase tuition in 2006 and co-sponsored a bill last year that fought the rising cost of textbooks.

Thursday he talked about CSU funding, and said greater transparency is needed in the university’s use of state funding in light of the controversial spending by the administration reported in the Collegian.

“We need an open dialogue to involve students and the legislature,” he said. “We just don’t know, (certain spending) could be a good idea or it could be a bad idea.”

Eubanks’ campaign

The environmentalist group Campaign for America’s Wilderness has hailed Eubanks as a “wilderness hero.”

“The number one reason students come to CSU is for the outdoor experience,” Eubanks said.

“I have worked extensively on behalf of the Poudre River,” he added. “I have come out boldly to protect it.”

Unlike his opponent, Johnson, Eubanks is opposed to any further damming of offshoots from the Poudre River, something local environmentalists argue will be destructive to local ecosystems.

Johnson supports the damming, not of the main stem, but of the rivers and streams that run off from the main stem of the river.

He argues that as the population of Larimer County continues to increase, there is a greater need for a water surplus so farmland does not starve.

Some argue that such projects will affect the flow of the main river, Johnson said that these projects can be completed without effecting the minimum flow requirements of the main stem.

Eubanks introduced the domestic partnership benefit coverage policy earlier this year that passed, granting the same benefits to same-sex couples that heterosexual partners possess.

CSU followed suit and implemented similar policy shortly after.

Eubanks said that if he and Hoffman are both elected, with Hoffman’s 25 years of experience working on northern Colorado transit, they will be better suited to connect Larimer County to a regional transportation system.

Senior Reporter Trevor Simonton can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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