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Giving voters an option, Vivian Smotherman enters Senate District 6 race

Candidate says she would bring diverse experience to seat held by Sen. Cleave Simpson
Vivian Smotherman has announced she is running for Colorado Senate District 6, the seat currently held by Sen. Cleave Simpson, an Alamosa Republican, who is seeking reelection. (Courtesy of Vivian Smotherman)

Vivian Smotherman, a farmer and a veteran who spent over 20 years working in oil and gas, has announced her candidacy for the Colorado Senate District 6 seat held by Sen. Cleave Simpson.

Smotherman, a Democrat, moved to Durango in 2021 with her wife, JoAnn Smotherman, a Durango High School math teacher. At 54, Smotherman is working toward a double degree in history and anthropology from Fort Lewis College and will graduate this spring.

“I just thought it was unconscionable, in this political climate, to have a seat that was uncontested,” Smotherman said, explaining her motivation to run. “I think everybody deserves a choice.”

Simpson announced his intention to seek reelection in July. The Alamosa Republican was elected to his first term in 2020 in District 35, but began representing La Plata and other southwestern counties in District 6 following 2022 redistricting.

Throughout his first term, Simpson has earned a reputation as a workhorse with a strong commitment to rural Coloradans. He has collaborated with 59th House District Rep. Barbara McLachlan on several pieces of legislation.

Smotherman acknowledges Simpson’s accomplishments and has little to say about him in the way of criticism – “he’s a very good guy,” she said – save for her dislike of the Republican Party at large.

“He still belongs to this same party that has Lauren Boebert, that has Matt Gaetz, Donald Trump and the rest of them,” she said. “At some point, they need to go and clean up their own house.”

And, Smotherman points out, Simpson has never run for election in District 6, which comprises 14 counties and stretches from Costilla County west to the Utah state line, north up to Saguache and Montrose counties, excluding Hinsdale and Gunnison counties.

A nonpartisan analysis found that neither major political party hold’s an advantage in the district. Smotherman was unaffiliated with a party in 2021, but said she has always voted for Democrats.

As for her own qualifications, Smotherman says she brings diverse, real-world experience.

Raised in the Denver area, Smotherman dropped out of college after three years to join the Navy, where she served a four-year enlistment.

She moved to Albuquerque after leaving the Navy, where she spent 10 years before moving to Texas. There, she began working in offshore drilling (“because I love sailing”), starting a 20-year career in the oil and gas industry. Smotherman and her wife also started a farm outside of Austin. In 2015, the duo founded a nonprofit called Farm-1-1 to provide neighborly support to new farmers in the process of learning the ropes.

On specific policy issues, Smotherman says she is doing a lot of reviewing and learning.

“I'm too early in this game to say I know the issues that intimately,” she said. “I have to talk to people. My greatest strength is talking to people, it's meeting people face-to-face and listening to them and hearing what they're going to tell me as far as what their concerns are.”

She said that affordable housing, school funding and safety, and rural health care are her top three priorities.

The three issues are tightly connected in many ways, she said. As a recent arrival to Southwest Colorado, a teacher’s spouse and a student herself, Smotherman says she knows firsthand how challenging the housing market is, and how it drives educators and medical professionals from the community.

On school safety, Smotherman described herself as a supporter of “reasonable gun control,” but said she would not support legislation that takes anyone’s guns. She is a gun-owner herself.

“It's about the rest of our society as well,” she said. “Making sure that these kids are not housing insecure, making sure they're not food insecure. Making sure that their self respect and their self-esteem is nurtured in school as much as their education.”

Smotherman says her candidacy is about giving voters options, and says her diverse background will allow her to connect with colleagues regardless of political division.

“I know and accept that there are different points of view and different perspectives, ” she said. “There's no right or wrong with any of them, they are all valid. You just have to find a way to work through a solution.”


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