Thea Chase, an independent from Palisade, is a former executive director of the Business Incubator Center and is the current director of the Southwest Innovation Corridor. She works with leaders from universities, governments, businesses, chambers of commerce and nonprofits to diversify economies in an eight-county region in the rural southwestern part of the state.
In that capacity, she's developed countless relationships across the Western Slope that have shaped her political orientation and legislative priorities.
"The things that are important to the Western Slope — priorities for investment, protecting water, education funding, transportation, public lands — these are rural issues more so than Republican or Democratic issues," she said.
As an independent Chase said she would caucus with other rural lawmakers rather than aligning herself with either party. That's the kind of pragmatic approach that puts solutions above politics.
One of those solutions has to be to improve education.
"It's very clear to me in all the discussions I've had is that you can't do anything with job creation if people can't qualify for the jobs of tomorrow. The whole thing is tied together."
Fixing education means fixing the state's gordian knot that ties up the budget. Chase would support a referred measure from the Legislature that would attempt to solve fiscal issues. If it can divert more resources to education, she would focus on "applied learning" — more certification opportunities and technical training in public schools — to improve median wages.
Her opponent, Matt Soper, runs a professional legal research service based in Delta County. He consider himself an "Eisenhower Republican" who would focus on infrastructure, jobs and the economy.
We give the nod to Chase for her job-creation experience and her party-free latitude to focus on what's best for rural communities and the Western Slope.
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