Bipartisan forum in Granby draws 10 candidates for state and national races
With the upcoming November election right around the corner a bipartisan candidate forum was held in Granby at Middle Park High School Thursday night.
The evening featured a panel of seniors from Middle Park High School questioning candidates on a range of issues from addressing the state’s opioid crisis to balancing the need for jobs with protection of the environment. A total of 10 candidates, representing four different races, showed up for the event. While the evening featured candidates running for governor, state treasurer and state attorney general a lengthy session involving four men running for US Representative was the most contentious and spirited portion of the evening.
The US Rep candidate discussion include a Republican, Peter Yu, and a Democrat, Mark Williams, as well as a Libertarian Party candidate, Roger Barris, and one individual running as an Independent, Nick Thomas. The four candidates are all vying for the seat currently occupied by Jared Polis, who is running for governor of the state.
The four men waded through a series of hot topics and contentious issues including K-12 education funding, pay rates in the state, student debt, DACA, and ways to improve Colorado’s infrastructure. None of the candidates were shy about expressing their opinions or disagreements with the other men on the stage.
Libertarian Barris repeatedly expressed his view that government involvement in many issues, from education funding to healthcare costs, was the fundamental source of problems and that removing government’s monopoly on such issues would solve problems. He sparred regularly with Democrat Williams who said he supports creating free public universities and expanding the nation’s social safety net.
All four candidates said they expressed their opposition to deporting those impacted by DACA and supported creating a path to citizenship for those individuals. Yu, the Republican, highlighted his opposition to the Affordable Care Act and the negative impacts he believes the law is having on hiring practices and cost of living for workers in the state. Among other topics Nick Thomas, the Independent in the race, said he supports the establishment of a national service component to allow young adults an opportunity to gain work experience through service and highlighted the need to improve the state’s infrastructure, specifically public transportation.
Leading off the night were two Republican candidates for governor, former state representative Victor Mitchell and Denver based businessman Doug Robinson. The two candidates were asked about current laws regarding accessibility of semi-automatic firearms.
Both men expressed their support for the second amendment and both said they support the passage a “red flag law” in Colorado that would allow judges to order the temporary seizure of firearms by people they consider threats. Mitchell said he supports a ban on bump stocks but added he wants to do away with Colorado’s law limiting magazine sizes. Robinson said he believes in “hardening” schools with armed guards and armed teachers, though added the decision to arm teachers should be left to specific school districts.
In response to questions about school funding both men expressed their view that Colorado’s teachers are underpaid and pointed the finger, in terms of inadequate funding issues, at pension and healthcare costs. Robinson highlighted his concerns about increasing numbers of administrators within the public school system statewide. Both men advocated for the school choice movement including online schools and charter schools.
The attorney general candidate portion of the forum included one candidate, Democrat Phil Weiser, and a representative of Democrat candidate Joe Salazar, who attendees were told was working late at the state capitol on legislation. The AG candidates covered five different topics including background checks, issues of water distribution, rights of citizens regarding marijuana, balancing jobs against the need to protect the environment, and the ongoing opioid crisis.
Both Weiser and Salazar’s representative expressed support for robust background checks for purchasing firearms and protecting Colorado’s recreational marijuana regime.
Weiser commented on the need to hold down river states, like Arizona, accountable for violations of current water laws and said he would like to bring a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies regarding the state’s opioid crisis. Salazar’s representative highlighted the need to renegotiate the state’s water compact and put the opioid crisis into the context of poverty and consumer protections.
Two candidates for state treasurer attended the forum, State Representative Polly Lawrence, a Republican and businessman Bernard Douthit, a Democrat. Lawrence and Douthit discussed fiscal responsibility, the adequacy of current K-12 funding in the state and potential solutions to the state’s PARA funding problems.
The two candidates spoke at length on the topic of solving PARA’s funding issues. Lawrence stressed the need to keep promises already made to workers nearing retirement but added that new workers and those not already vested will need to see a different pension picture if PARA is to be fixed.
Douthit, who also said the state needs to live up to its previous commitments, highlighted that the PARA board currently includes only four members with a background in finance and added he believes the PARA board needs to include more individuals with a finance or economics background.
Among other notable topics Douthit said he believes in establishing a public banking system in Colorado, similar to the system found in other states.
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