by Lisa Cyriacks

In the sprawling Senate District 35, centered on the San Luis Valley, Democrat Crestina Martinez and Republican Larry Crowder—both ranchers—will offer voters a clear choice in a district where Democrats have an edge in registration but tend to under-perform.

Forty percent of active voters in the district are registered Democrats, compared to the Republicans’ 38%. Unaffiliated voters account for 21%, and 1% of voters belong to minor parties, according to the latest numbers from the secretary of state’s office.

State Senate District 35 is a newly formed district encompassing 16 rural counties in south and southeastern Colorado.

Upon winning the Democratic nomination in June, Martinez said, “This is a brand new opportunity for southern Colorado to have their own voice and to be loud and proud at the state capitol.”  Crestina Martinez is a San Luis Valley native whose family has lived in the region for multiple generations. Her family raises grass-finished natural cattle and hay at the South Ute Mountain Ranch in San Acacio Viejo with her family. Upon graduating from Colorado College where she studied sociology and Spanish, Martinez chose to return to her community to be a positive change agent and to work improve the quality of life for residents.

As the daughter of a rancher, Martinez learned the importance of water, land and natural resources. She has used this perspective in several community leadership positions, including serving on the boards of the Colorado Acequia Association and the Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance, and working on efforts to promote green energy in the San Luis Valley.

Currently a Costilla County Commissioner, Martinez has demonstrated her commitment to improving opportunities for youth by acquiring funding to establish community-based youth coalitions in Costilla County’s two school districts to emphasize healthy choices and lifestyles and providing more summer employment opportunities to youth.

Martinez has served on various state boards and commissions, including Governor Ritter Climate Advisory Panel and the Centralized Call Center for Child Abuse and Neglect Referrals. Most recently, Martinez was appointed by Governor Hickenlooper and confirmed by the State Senate as a member of the Colorado State Board of Health. She was most recently recognized as 2011 San Luis Valley Person of the Year and delivered Adams State College’s fall commencement speech.

Larry Crowder is running for Colorado Senate District 35 as the Republican Party nominee. Crowder was born in Manzanola, CO and is a fifth generation Coloradan and currently calls Alamosa his home.

Crowder says the two issues that drove his decision to run for office were education and health care. He emphasized the need for a well-educated work force for purposes of providing an economic base of support for the elderly. “How we take care of the youth and the elderly are related,” said Crowder.

Crowder explained there are two issues on which he is not willing to compromise. First is TABOR, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. TABOR is an amendment to the Colorado Constitution. It is a tax provision that requires increases in tax revenues to be tied directly to inflation and population increases unless otherwise dictated by the voters of the state through referendum.

The second issue is the possible expansion of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site. Crowder explained, “I’m no constitutional scholar but a 7-million-acre expansion is not eminent domain. I have no problem with eminent domain.” Crowder believes a permanent ban on the expansion of the site needs to be passed. He argues that the recent five-year ban is not a long enough time period and that it creates too much uncertainty for ranchers, farmers, and the economic stability of the area as a whole.

Crowder is an Army veteran, 1968-71, and saw service in Vietnam. He is also a veteran service officer of Rio Grande County.

House District 62

Representative Ed Vigil, Democrat, was elected as the Colorado State Representative for District 62 in 2008 and is serving his second term. He is a member of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, the Capitol Development Committee, and the Water Review Committee.

Rep. Vigil owns Sangre de Cristo Laboratory with his wife, Evelyn. He served two terms as Costilla County Commissioner. He has worked in various service roles including factory worker, social worker, substance abuse counselor, peace officer and special investigator for the district attorney.

Rep. Vigil is a sixth-generation native, born and raised in San Pablo near San Luis, CO. He graduated from Adams State College and currently lives in the Fort Garland area.

The Republican challenger in the race is Tim Walters, a Pueblo native and a real-estate appraiser who also currently sits on the Adams Sate College Board of Trustees.

One of Walters main motivations for seeking office is dwindling state budgets for education.

“If we don’t take care of the education of our children in K-12 and higher ed, we’re lost as a society and that’s not acceptable anymore,” Walter says.

Other high priorities for Walters include water and veterans issues. Walters’ experience as an elected official includes one term on the Alamosa City Council in the mid-1980s.

Walters, 61, has two grown children, including a son who serves in the Air Force and has seen four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

House District 62 has historically leaned heavily Democratic. Democratic candidates have won all five elections in the district since the 2001 redistricting.