2024 Campaign Centers on Water and Ag
On Aug. 15, Gunnison local Kathleen Curry announced her intent to run for the Colorado House of Representatives District 58 next year. If elected, she would represent Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray, San Miguel, Dolores, and portions of Delta and Montezuma counties.
Curry previously served three terms in the Colorado Legislature after being elected in 2004. She chaired the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee for five of those years, where she carried numerous pieces of legislation addressing the state’s water and natural resources challenges — both areas she hopes to focus on if she is able to represent HD 58. She currently works for Western Slope water providers, agricultural producers, and wildlife advocates at the Capitol as a professional lobbyist.
Curry is the former manager of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District and is a member of the Colorado River Water Conservation District board of directors. She is also an active member of the Gunnison County Stockgrowers Association and Gunnison Cattlewomen.
The Times sat down with Curry to learn more about why she chose to return to the Democratic Party and how she expects the recent redistricting of Gunnison County will affect her campaign.
(Editor’s note: This article has been edited for length and clarity.)
Why are you running again? Do you feel like you have unfinished business?
Our current Rep. Marc Catlin is term-limited in 2024. He has been the go-to person in the House on water issues. When he leaves, there wouldn’t be anyone that has that background.
I’ve been working in the water business for 25 years. So I thought, it is time to try this again, and bring our voice forward from this District.
Why do these water issues matter so much right now?
There are definitely critical issues in addition to water (such as funding for education, mental health and affordable housing). But the lack of experience in the House related to that topic is problematic because we are so affected by the decisions that the General Assembly makes, and by what happens with water management — both on the supply side and the water quality side. How do we move forward to protect the interests of Colorado, given the ongoing shortage on the Colorado River? That’s probably what most people are reading about the most. Other water-related issues, like water quality, are going to be on the table, but I think what’s pending, and could have the most impact on us, would be the situation with the Colorado River Compact.
During your last term, you changed from a Democrat to unaffiliated. How do you think voters will respond?
There were some pretty disappointed people and a lot of confusion about why. Moving on from that, in the last 13 years, I’ve learned a lot and come to the conclusion that it would have been preferable to work inside the structure and push back on the things that I didn’t think were good. And mainly, what I’m thinking about is the influence of money in politics. What I saw happen was that the money was taking precedence over good policy in some cases. That’s what I was most objecting to, so I left the party. In retrospect, it really is a two-party system. It’s a team sport, and working in isolation, I was not able to really help people at home. I’m hoping that as I explain that to folks, they will at least hear me out. And then maybe think about the issues we need to work and focus on and whether they think I would be the best candidate to do that.
Do you feel that the most recent round of redistricting is going to help your candidacy?
I am running in a Republican district. The goal of the Redistricting Commission was to try to keep counties more whole. And to do that, we got put with a more southern and western group of counties, and that made it a Republican district. One thing good about it, though, is that I think the people in the district are open to learning about the candidates and then voting based on who they think will do the best job. I’m just going to have to make sure that I meet and talk to enough people about what I would do and how I’d approach it. But no, the redistricting didn’t make it any easier.
We’ve already talked about water. What other priorities do you have?
Agriculture and wildlife. I’m also worried about rural hospitals and state spending. They’ll be budget issues, I think, are going to emerge. We’ve had a period where the budget wasn’t as tight as it has been in the past, so they’ve had more flexibility to fund optional programs at the state. I think that’s going to start changing. The budget would be an area that I would want to make sure that the Western Slope is treated fairly and all the dollars don’t go to just one part of the state. Also affordable housing, I’m not sure exactly what the state’s role should be. There were a couple of fights about this last year at the General Assembly, and some of them are philosophical. What is the role of the state versus the local governments versus the private sector? I don’t know if those are really resolved. I would be paying close attention, but trying to follow the leadership of people that are more knowledgeable, especially our local officials.