If Democrat Brandon Shaffer is discouraged by campaigning in a heavily Republican district, he isn't showing it.
“We're just putting our heads down, taking one day at a time,” said the Longmont resident vying for the 4th Congressional District seat against incumbent Republican Cory Gardner. “It feels like we're getting strong support from all over the district.”
Recent redistricting added 100,000 people to a district Gardner said already was as big as the state of South Carolina. It also added Elbert County, which previously had been in the 6th Congressional District, represented since 2009 by Mike Coffman.
But both Gardner and Shaffer said concerns throughout the 31,000-square-mile area are the same.
“It's the economy,” Gardner said.
“People are very interested in economic development and creating jobs,” Shaffer said. “That's the top issue.”
Both men have been logging many hours and miles traveling the district.
“My focus has been on the economy and business issues and what we can do to provide the best constituent service,” Gardner said. “I've driven 60,000 miles to provide that service and openness to constituents.”
Conversely, Gardner said he thinks there's a limit on that service, and he's aware of a conservative desire to “let government get out of the way and let them do their work.”
Shaffer, currently serving as state Senate president, said people tell him they're frustrated.
“I think people see that some of the political games being played in Washington, D.C., are hurting our economy more than helping,” he said. “They're looking for a different leadership style. I feel my message of Colorado solutions, working together to get things done and move forward, is resonating.
“I've been part of passing a balanced budget in Colorado for each of the last eight years. I think the only way to do that is by being willing to compromise and work across the aisle.”
Gardner said he, too, tries to bridge the political gap, working with a bipartisan committee focused on entitlement issues. There's a need, he said, “to break through this logjam, this bickering. Then all of a sudden, we're having conversations.”
The candidates have sharply divergent campaign funds. Through the end of June, Gardner had raised about $2 million and Shaffer just over $550,000.
Shaffer was first elected to the Colorado General Assembly in 2004 and unanimously elected by his peers in 2009 to serve as Senate president. A graduate of Stanford University and a Navy veteran, Shaffer lives in Longmont with his wife and two children.
Gardner joined the Colorado House of Representatives in 2005, and defeated the U.S. House of Representatives' incumbent Betsy Markey in 2010. A graduate of Colorado State University and a fifth-generation Coloradan, he lives in Yuma with his wife and two children.