Colorado Legislature Rotunda

As viewed through a fisheye lens, visitors head up the stairs in the rotunda in the state Capitol on May 2 in Denver. State lawmakers wrapped up the 2019 regular session the next day.

Rancher and farmer Cleave Simpson, Jr. of Alamosa has thrown in his baseball cap for the state Senate District 35 seat held by term-limited Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa. 

Simpson, a Republican, is general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and a fourth-generation San Luis Valley farmer and rancher. 

Crowder endorsed Simpson in an email Monday to Colorado Politics. "He'd be perfect for the district," Crowder said.

Simpson is one of three candidates running for the 2020 seat, seen as competitive and a second-tier target by Democrats for a Senate seat pickup.

Senate Democrats hold a 19-16 advantage, and at least three seats — Crowder's and the seats held by Sens. Kevin Priola of Henderson and Jack Tate of Centennial — are seen as possible flips for 2020. Priola is running for a second term; Tate decided not to run for re-election next year. 

Senate District 35 encompasses 16 counties in south-central and southeastern Colorado, from the San Luis Valley to the Kansas state line. As of August, active voter registration in the district favors Republicans, at 29,419; Democrats have 26,881 active voters, and unaffiliateds have 26,447 active voters. Compared to November of 2018, Republicans have picked up 571 active registrations; Democratic registrations have dropped by 174. But unaffiliated voter registrations have surged by 2,190 in the same time period .

In his announcement, Simpson pointed to his experience in water; he's a member of the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable, a member of the state's Interbasin Compact Committee, a statewide water group that coordinates among the basin roundtables; and active in the Colorado Water Congress.

“I think District 35 needs a senator who is grounded and has life experiences in the communities and issues our rural areas face: prosperity and quality of life, challenges for agriculture, water demands, affordable quality healthcare, opioid impacts, rural education challenges, economic development, and the growing divide between rural and urban Colorado,” Simpson said in a statement Monday.

“My own experience is there is more that unites us than divides us."

The SD35 race also includes Republican Logan Taggart of La Veta. In 2013, Taggart, then 18, won a seat on the La Veta town board, the youngest in the board's history. 

Democrat Carlos Rey Lopez, 40, of Trinidad sits on the Trinidad City Council and also has filed to run for the seat. He told Colorado Politics Monday that he would "like to bring a four-year school to southern Colorado, something he calls a Trinidad State, that could benefit the agriculture communities in the far southern part of the state. He's also interested in "green" technologies (solar and wind) and seeing hemp refineries for people who have a lot of land but can't do anything with it because of a lack of water or other financial restrictions. "I'd also like to look at regulations on hemp; a lot of our farmers are being heavily regulated for a non-drug non-schedule 1 substance. You wouldn't be regulated like that for alfalfa or barley," he said.  Lopz, a Colorado native, is a manager for family rental and other small businesses in Trinidad. 

Taggart has not yet returned a request for information.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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