Coloradans get Washington’s ear

Swing-state status lends prominence to state’s issues

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Washington welcomed nearly 100 Coloradans this week for the 2012 Colorado Capital Conference, hosted by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.

The three-day conference, which ended Thursday, brought business owners, community leaders and college students from across the state together with D.C. policy makers to discuss issues ranging from education to the federal budget.

Udall said the event, started by former Sen. Tim Wirth, allows citizens and their elected officials to learn from each other and gain firsthand knowledge of life on both sides of the country.

Udall said he continues the conferences because Coloradans find the experience worthwhile.

“I think it’s a part of my responsibility to connect with the people who hired me to represent them, and this is a way to do that,” he said.

Mark Shively, former president of the Douglas County Water Resource Authority, said he believes Colorado’s position as a swing state in the 2012 election is drawing attention to its issues.

“(Policy makers) don’t understand a lot of the things that are Colorado issues, so right now, they’re listening, and we need to be sure we’re talking,” Shively said.

Students from the University of Colorado and Colorado Mesa University learned that “senators are people too,” according to Colorado Mesa senior Adrienne Barlow. For her, the conference was history come alive.

“Just getting to see the Capitol up close and getting to go inside was just such an overwhelming feeling because so much history lies in that building and so much work that affects how country happens here,” she said.

Rachel Karas is an intern for The Durango Herald and a student at American University in Washington, D.C. Reach her at

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