Taylor considers House bid

— State Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, will wait before deciding on a possible run for U.S. Congress next fall. Taylor has been mentioned among possible Republican candidates for the Third Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Scott McInnis, a Grand Junction Republican.

"I won't say 'no' until I know who the players are and what the circumstances are," Taylor said Monday. Taylor is eligible to run in 2004 for one more four-year term in the state Senate before he would face term limits.

McInnis made an announcement over the weekend, formalizing what most political observers already knew, that he will not seek a seventh term next year. McInnis is widely believed to be positioning himself to run for governor in 2006, although he has not announced his candidacy.

As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, McInnis holds one of the most powerful committee assignments a congressman can aspire to. House Ways and Means oversees tax policy as well as Medicare and Social Security. He is only the third Colorado congressman to sit on the committee in 40 years.

McInnis also serves on the House Resources Committee and has devoted significant attention to healthy forest initiatives. His decision to step aside will intensify interest in next fall's election.

"I hate to see him vacate those positions," Taylor said. "Of course, he will be there for another 18 months. And I think there's some sensitivity (in Washington, D.C.) to keeping Colorado in the mainstream. Whoever gets the job will have to start over, seniority-wise."

In the state Legislature, Taylor chairs the Senate Finance Committee and is vice-chairman of the committee that oversees agriculture, natural resources and energy. Taylor is a member of the Legislative Audit Committee, the Water Resources Review Committee and the Tourism Board.

Already, one of Taylor's Republican colleagues in the state Senate, Ken Chlouber of Leadville, has informally announced his intent to seek McInnis' seat.

Taylor said he wants to know the intentions of, among others, Colorado Division of Wildlife director and former House minority leader Russell George of Rifle before weighing a run for Congress.

"Russell George and I were political classmates in 1992 (when Taylor was elected to the Colorado House)," he said.

All of the potential candidates for McInnis' seat will be watching closely for a Colorado Supreme Court ruling that could change the political landscape of the vast Third Congressional District. In geographic terms, the district is larger than Florida.

When the Legislature failed to agree on mandated legislative redistricting after the 2000 Census, the court stepped in to approve a new district map. Following the November 2002 elections, the Legislature approved a different map over the top of the court-approved plan.

Now, Attorney General Ken Salazar has sued the Legislature (or, technically, Secretary of State Donetta Davidson), charging its action was unconstitutional.

The issue is back in the hands of the judicial branch. Depending upon the decision, the political makeup of the Third Congressional District could be altered.

Historically, the district has encompassed most of the state's Republican-dominated Western Slope, including Routt County. It has also included a portion of the city of Pueblo, where politics are still influenced heavily by longstanding Democratic affiliations with organized labor. Democrats claim the legislative version of redistricting splits the city in a way that strengthens two districts for Republicans.

The Supreme Court ruling could potentially make the race more or less attractive to both Democrats and Republicans.

A Republican primary, should there be one, would be held in August 2004.

"There's plenty of time this winter," for candidates to decide whether or not to run, Taylor said.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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