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Publish Date: 10/8/2006

Fitz-Gerald, Neilson vie for Senate District 16 seat

State Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, a Jefferson County Democrat, is seeking re-election to the multiple-county Senate District 16 seat that extends into western Boulder County.

Fitz-Gerald and other Democratic legislative leaders worked with key Republican lawmakers and GOP Gov. Bill Owens last year to shape and campaign for the passage of Referendum C, a state budget-stabilization measure.

But even though that measure is projected to allow the state to keep and spend about $4.7 billion it otherwise would have had to refund to Coloradans, “we’ve only made a dent in some of our problems,” Fitz-Gerald said.

She said her Senate District 16 constituents, and Coloradans in general, want lawmakers to continue to work on such issues as the price and accessibility of health care, the economy and the availability of jobs, and the backlog of state transportation needs.

Seeking to unseat Fitz-Gerald and help restore Republican control of the state Senate is longtime Boulder County GOP activist Marty Neilson, a Realtor who lives in the South St. Vrain Canyon area near Lyons.

“I’m a Republican, I’m running as a Republican and I intend to vote as one,” Neilson said earlier this year, during her successful primary election campaign in which she bested GOP rival Barry Thoma to win the party’s nomination for the Senate seat.

Neilson said she long has fought as a Republican activist for such principles as “lower taxes, smaller government, individual responsibility, protection of Second Amendment rights (and) protection of life.”

But Fitz-Gerald, who became the Senate’s first woman president last year after Democrats took control of both houses of the Legislature in the 2004 elections, said most of the issues and proposed laws that lawmakers consider “are not Democratic, and they’re not Republican.”

Also seeking the Senate District 16 seat is American Constitution Party candidate Tim Leonard of Kittredge in Jefferson County. He was his party’s unsuccessful candidate for governor in 1998.

Neilson has said she supports reforms that will address illegal immigration, including measures to empower law enforcement officers to arrest, fine and deport illegal aliens.

She also has said she wants to reduce the government mandates, taxes and fees she said burdens small businesses.

Neilson, a former president and board member of the Colorado Union of Taxpayers, said she’s long been a budget watchdog, understands state finances and will work hard to ensure that tax dollars are spent wisely.

She said one of her sharpest disagreements with Fitz-Gerald is over “the definition of marriage,” which Neilson said should be limited to a union between one man and one woman.

Neilson has criticized Fitz-Gerald’s sponsorship of Referendum I, the Legislature’s November ballot proposal that would create a category of same-sex domestic partnerships and give certain legal rights and benefits to people entering those partnerships.

But Referendum I’s supporters emphasize that the measure itself states that domestic partnerships are not marriages.

“I see it as a fairness and equality issue,” Fitz-Gerald said of Referendum I.

She said current state laws don’t give people in same-sex relationships the right to visit each other in the hospital, the right to care for a partner’s children after that partner’s death, or even the right to make funeral-arrangement decisions after such deaths.

Senate District 16 represents all of Grand, Clear Creek, Gilpin and Summit counties, as well as parts of Boulder and Jefferson counties.

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