A who's who of Colorado's oil & gas, mining, timber, and construction industries is hosting a luncheon fundraiser for Bob Beauprez's gubernatorial race tomorrow at The Palm restaurant.
Some of the extraction industry's heavy hitters include Bill Barrett (of Bill Barrett Corp.), Jim Lightner (of Orion Energy Partners), Joe Jaggers (of Williams), Stuart Sanderson (Colorado Mining Association), Ken Wonstolen (Colorado Oil and Gas Association), Marc Smith (Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States), and others.
The event is being organized by Jim Sims, President of Policy Communications, which operates the Western Business Roundtable and the Partnership for the West (all three organizations are located in his office in Golden). Sims used to be an aide to Dick Cheney.
It appears as though Colorado's extraction industry players are lining up behind Beauprez, rather than Holtzman. This is a significant, early boost for Beauprez considering the money and clout these industries carry in the state.
While this is not good news for Holtzman, does it create an opening for him to mine some support of his own from those communities and interests on the West Slope opposed to the practices of the oil and gas industry? Ranchers and hunters come to mind.
Oil and gas drilling is an explosive issue on the West Slope, especially in places like Garfield County. Many communities (including Republicans and Democrats alike) are not liking the changes expanding drilling brings.
In fact, today's Rocky reports that Canadian energy giant, EnCana, is thinking about bringing in Chinese workers to cut costs. That should play well in Rifle (on top of all the other controversies EnCana has created in the area, like gas seeps in streams).
If Beauprez is elected governor, you can bet Colorado will be wide open for the extractive industries.
The political implications of this could mean a rift on the West Slope putting traditional Republican constituencies like ranchers and hunters in the same camp as the environmentalists. We've already seen some of this occur, and politicians like Kathleen Curry and John Salazar have leveraged these rifts to their advantage.
If Beauprez exacerbates the problem, we might see more Democrats elected on the West Slope, with the help of Republican votes. Stay tuned.