Republican Randy Baumgardner running for second term in State Senate District 8
by Kailyn Lamb Summit Daily
The Republican incumbent for State Senate District 8, Randy Baumgardner, said he’s confident the voters will make the right decision.
Baumgardner, who lives in Hot Sulphur Springs, is seeking a second term in the senate. He faces off against Democratic candidate Emily Tracy, a Breckenridge resident who also ran against him in 2012. The district covers seven counties across northwestern Colorado: Summit, Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt, Jackson and Grand.
“I know she’s working hard, and I’m out here working hard, and the voters will decide if they want to keep me or if they are ready for a change,” Baumgardner said.
Baumgardner is currently the chair of the transportation committee, the transportation legislation review committee and the capitol development committee. He has held the majority whip position for the state Senate since 2014.
Baumgardner, who grew up on a dairy farm, moved to Colorado from Indiana in the ’80s. He moved to Grand County in 1994 and began working at a cattle ranch after moving there. From 1998 to 2009 he also worked with the Colorado Department of Transportation.
An electrical safety issue in Baumgardner’s community, where an overhead power line needed to be put underground, brought him to the capitol to speak to his representatives. After several trips, he said their lack of communication on the issue inspired him to run for the State House of Representatives.
“My representatives did what they could do, but I guess they thought I was a nuisance because I continued to come back to the capitol and they got to where they wouldn’t come out of the chambers to talk to me, and I said ‘Well, you know what, that’s not representative government,’” he said.
Baumgardner was first elected to State House District 57 in 2008. He was elected for a second term in 2010. However, after his second term was completed, the rezoning of the districts drew Baumgardner out of District 57. Baumgardner said that when Grand County was added to the district with Boulder and the Front Range it went against the state constitution. He claims that the state constitution says you cannot cross geographical boundaries to combine house districts.
“I am a firm believer that when you give your word, when you take that oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the state of Colorado, that’s a sacred oath that you take to do that,” he said.
Grand County was moved, along with Jackson County, into House District 13. All of the new district maps were narrowly approved in a 6-5 vote from the Reapportionment Commission in 2011. The move made Baumgardner decide to run for Senate.
In the 2012 primary, Baumgardner beat out Jean White, the Republican incumbent for Senate District 8. During the primary, it came up that a registered sex offender was living in Baumgardner’s house, and working on the ranch. Similar ads have also come up during this campaign. The ads are sponsored by a third party and not by Baumgardner’s opponent Tracy.
But Baumgardner seems unfazed by the scathing campaign, calling it “old news.” He added that he found out about Michael K. Frierson being a convicted sex offender at the same time everyone else did, because the ranch does not do background checks on employees. Frierson had been working on the ranch for more than a year, Baumgardner said. After seeing that Frierson had not caused trouble since his 2004 conviction, Baumgardner felt he was right in giving him a second chance.
“It didn’t make a difference last time, I don’t think it will make a difference this time,” he said, referring to his last bid for election. “If people want to fault me for giving somebody a helping hand, or a hand up, they can.”
After beating White in the Republican primary in 2012, Baumgardner went on to beat Tracy in the general election.
Baumgardner said that part of his success in office is because the voters continue to give him a chance every election.
“It’s not that I’m a great person or nothing, but when your voting record reflects that you vote 100 percent of the time with Denver Democrats, you’re not representing your district very well,” he said.
Baumgardner also said that the voter base is smart enough to see through political ads. He said that one ad from Tracy’s campaign in particular claims he voted for a 30 percent increase to his salary. But Baumgardner said legislature has the responsibility through statute to raise the salaries of all elected and county officials. He said congress has been trying to pass the bill, S.B. 288, for several years. It stated that anyone who voted for it would not receive a raise themselves, as the bill does not go into effect until 2019. The bill was also supported by Rep. Millie Hamner.
“As far as all the ads out there about me voting myself a 30 percent raise, they’re wrong, and they know they’re wrong,” he said.
In 2014, Baumgardner unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate. He was beaten out by Cory Gardner in the GOP Assembly in April of that year.
Baumgardner said that if he is re-elected, he would like to continue the work he’s been doing with transportation funding. He said that the state falls $1 billion behind every year in transportation infrastructure. One of the problems he’s come across when creating bills for funding transportation projects through bonds that are already in place is that they die in the House after leaving the Senate.
“It gets to the point of, ‘What’s in it for me, what do I get out of it, what does my district get?’” he said. “We do the best we can for our district, understanding that the entire state’s encompassed in this, so there’s areas that will get no money, no projects out of this.”
He was also involved in passing a bill last year that gave state Congress some oversight on CDOT projects. Originally, the department did not have to bring that to Congress. Baumgardner said the bill passed with bipartisan support.