DENVER
10/19/2012 10:31 am ET

Libby Szabo, Hard-Right GOP Incumbent, Faces Spirited Challenge From Dem Challenger Tim Allport In HD 27

From The Colorado Independent's Scot Kersgaard.

With Colorado Republicans enjoying a one-seat advantage in the State House, Democrats are eying a dozen or more districts as winnable this year. One of those is HD 27 in northwest suburban Jefferson County, where hard-right first-term incumbent Libby Szabo is fighting off Democratic insider Tim Allport. Voter registration numbers slightly favor Szabo but Allport is confident heading into the last weeks of the campaign.

“We have a clear shot to win the race,” he told the Colorado Independent. “The numbers still make it hard, but we began knocking on doors back in February and have knocked on thousands of doors.”

Don Ytterberg, Jefferson County Republican Party chair, predicts voters will reward Szabo for her work in Denver. “I don’t think it’s going to be all that close,” he said. “Libby is very popular in the district and she has earned the right to be reelected.” He added that she is taking the race seriously.

Szabo has a clear fundraising advantage. She has pulled in $173,061 compared to Allport’s $31,526. Szabo has just more than $55,000 on hand compared with Allport’s $4,152. All figures are through Oct. 10, as reported to the Secretary of State’s office.

Allport has spent his career working in prisons and more recently as a drug addiction counselor, experience which has led him to oppose the private prison industry and support Colorado’s Amendment 64, which would legalize marijuana.

He says that private prisons do not save taxpayers money and that they create conflicts of interest. Prison companies lobby for tougher laws and mandatory sentences, he says, and they often require states to guarantee levels of prison occupancy. “They are driven by profit, not by protecting the public,” he said. “They help to create a culture of mass incarceration.”

About Amendment 64, he said drug policy should be driven by “science, reason and fiscal policy.”

“Marijuana,” he said, “is less dangerous than alcohol, and should be treated that way.”

When he is knocking on doors, though, he said it is education and school funding that comes up the most often. “I support 3A and 3B, (which raise property taxes in the Jefferson County School District to fund schools). This is an issue that ties into people’s lives and communities. When people move, one of the first things they consider is schools,” Allport said.

It is probably social issues where Allport and Szabo differ most strongly. Szabo is on the record supporting personhood amendments, which would ban abortion in all cases. She’s also opposed to civil unions and gay marriage, according to surveys she has filled out for Christian-right groups. While popular with some politicians, personhood has lost in Colorado elections twice, both times by at least 71-29 margins. Szabo also sponsored a controversial voter ID bill in the last legislative session, a bill described by critics as as an unnecessary measure that would suppress votes. Ytterberg said her sponsorship of that bill would boost suppirt for her at the polls.

Szabo’s campaign did not respond to messages asking for comment.

Allport supports abortion rights and equal rights for gay people. “Most people don’t think the government [should have] a role in deciding who can get married,” he said.

On those issues and others, Allport said, “I am confident that my views best represent the views of the district. Most of the unaffiliated voters I talk to say they will be voting Democratic this year. The Democratic Party best represents voters on social issues. Even a lot of Republicans tell me they don’t think the Republican Party represents them anymore. I talk to a lot of moderate Republicans,” he said.

Like education, he said social issues come up a lot when he talks to voters. “These are core differences between my opponent and me. It comes down to what people believe the role of government is,” Allport said.

Ytterberg said social issues are important to voters, but not as important as jobs, the economy and fiscally responsible government. “These issues are interesting, and we have been talking about them at least since Roe v. Wade, but they are not the primary issues in this election. I don’t think these (social) issues even begin to overshadow the bigger issues of jobs, the economy and what is the appropriate role of government,” he said.

Szabo sponsored HB 12-1007, a bill which would have required state agencies to report analysis of how proposed rule changes would affect jobs and the business climate for legislative committee members to consider. The bill passed the House but failed to pass the Senate.

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