Members of the Southwestern Colorado Livestock Association on Saturday met new state Sen. Cleave Simpson, a Republican from Alamosa.
Because of redistricting, Simpson will represent District 6 in 2023. The district is composed of 14 counties that stretch west from the San Luis Valley to the Utah border. It is considered among the state’s most politically balanced districts, with just a 0.5 percentage point advantage for Democrats, based on the number of active registered voters.
Simpson replaces Republican Don Coram, who, because of redistricting, is no longer a resident of District 6.
Coram called Simpson a “rock star” replacement who is well versed in agriculture, water and rural issues facing Southwest Colorado.
Simpson is from Alamosa and is a graduate of the Colorado School of Mines. He had a career in the coal industry as an engineer and is a farmer and rancher in the San Luis Valley. He and his family farm 800 irrigated acres of alfalfa and manage a 400 cow-calf ranch operation. He is the general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District.
He was elected to District 35 in 2020, and was motivated to get into politics to “be a voice for rural Colorado and agriculture, and keep us relevant and resilient going forward.”
He discussed at length the potential threat of water speculation and investment that could divert water from agricultural lands to growing cities or elsewhere.
“I am active in agriculture, my livelihood depends on me putting up hay. I own and depend on my water rights,” he said, adding that there are not many other senators that depend on agriculture to make a living.
District 6 is similar to the rural and agricultural lifestyle of his District 35.
“Water is at the top of the list for me and how the state deals with dwindling water supplies and ever increasing demand is really poised to fundamentally change what Colorado looks like,” he said. “I have grave concerns on the direction we are headed.”
Simpson also touted his commitment to addressing behavioral health problems that plague rural areas and contribute to drug abuse, overdoses, suicides, crime, mental illness and homelessness.
“Families impacted by opioids, are disproportionally higher in rural Colorado, and I am really interested in how to spend dollars to fundamentally change that paradigm and have an impact on behavioral health in Colorado,” Simpson said.