Conversation with … Bob Schaffer, U.S. Senate candidate |

Conversation with … Bob Schaffer, U.S. Senate candidate

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer, vying for the office formerly held by Sen. Wayne Allard against District 2 Congressman Mark Udall, is expected to visit Grand County today.

Schaffer is scheduled to appear at a 3:30 p.m. ice-cream social at the Grand County Fairgrounds in Kremmling, and between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., the candidate plans to attend a meet and greet open to the public at the lower level of the Grand Elk clubhouse in Granby.

From 1997 until early 2003, Schaffer represented Colorado’s 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He served on the House Resources, Agriculture, Workforce and Education Committees.

Schaffer currently volunteers as an elected member and vice-chairman of the Colorado State Board of Education where he continues his work as an education reformer. He also volunteers as chairman of the Leadership Program of the Rockies, a nonprofit providing economic and political leadership training.

Schaffer earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Dayton in political science. He received an honorary doctorate in management from Colorado Technical University. He holds a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and he and his wife Maureen have five children.

The Sky-Hi Daily News took the opportunity to correspond with the candidate on key voter issues prior to his arrival.

Q: Colorado’s delegation has made efforts in the past to squeeze more funds out of the U.S. Forest Service’s budget for forest work needed in the Rocky Mountain Region. But the problem of the mountain pine beetle far exceeds dollars available. What do you propose if elected to see to it that federal forest and park agencies, as well as the state and county, find the mitigation funds they need to make Grand County safer from expected wildfire in the wake of the beetles?

A: The pine beetle epidemic is unfortunately the result of Washington tying the hands of local stakeholders and refusing to focus resources where they are needed. The forestry profession should be allowed to get back to its core mission of actively managing public lands rather than allowing them to decay into fire hazards and water-quality hazards. My opponent voted five times against transferring funding from the National Endowment for the Arts to the Forest Service for forest management and fighting wildfire. As Colorado’s next senator, I would make forest management a priority. Additionally, federal policy should aggressively encourage private removal and use beetle-killed tree waste to produce energy and useful forest products.

Q: West Slope leaders have been upping their game in protecting Upper Colorado River basin water for fear trans-mountain diversions will threaten the health of rivers and natural Grand Lake. What have you accomplished thus far to help West Slope water efforts and what do you plan to do on behalf of those efforts as U.S. senator?

A: Water is an essential element to economic growth throughout Colorado.

Throughout my three terms in Congress I worked to ensure Colorado used its fair share of water and fought to protect Colorado water rights from those who wanted to cede more power to the feds. In recent years, there has been much debate over transferring water from one part of the state to another. Many trans-mountain diversions involve high quality water at high altitude along the Continental Divide and have potential for disproportionate environmental impacts on stream flows, water quality, fisheries, and ecology. Adequate stream flows with seasonal variation are important for both environmental considerations and the significant boating industry prevalent throughout Western Colorado. I believe any discussion regarding possible future transfers of this nature must take into consideration the environmental impact as well as the needs of all stakeholders.

Q: Finding affordable health care is a major concern for under- and uninsured Grand County residents as well as all Americans. What solution do you propose to ensure that Colorado’s citizens have access to health coverage and health care that is more affordable than it is now?

A: In a nation like ours, no American should be without access to health care coverage, but socialized medicine isn’t the answer. I support health care solutions that focus on freedom, consumer choice and restoring the patient-doctor relationship. By shifting ownership of health coverage from government and employers to individuals, we can enhance choice, promote proactive, preventative health care and save money. To reduce costs, we must also unleash a revolution in new health care technologies and stop frivolous lawsuits.

Q: Tell us about your views on energy. How can the U.S., which reportedly uses 25 percent of the world’s oil for 4 percent of the world’s population, wean itself off of foreign-oil dependency?

A: We must act now to relieve the pain at the pump and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. My opponent and I have distinctly different records on energy. Boulder Congressman Mark Udall voted 15 times against offshore drilling. He voted six times against more oil refineries here at home, even though he is now saying we need more refinery capacity. I believe we need an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy that includes producing more American energy, encouraging conservation and efficiency and promoting alternative fuels. Colorado is blessed with abundant clean natural gas, oil and coal resources as well as being a robust producer of wind-generated electricity, solar power, and other alternative energy sources. Combined with world-leading research capabilities and an energy-savvy citizenry, Colorado can and should be a national leader in achieving energy independence.

Q: What sort of education reform do you propose as a U.S. senator?

A: Colorado communities must be built around strong, healthy public schools. As the son of a public school teacher and administrator, the father of five public school-educated children, a co-founder of a Colorado public charter school and the vice-chairman of the Colorado State Board of Education, I believe education is the most important long-term issue confronting our country today. Too much federal money goes into the education bureaucracy rather than children and too many education decisions are being made in Washington rather than by parents, teachers and local leaders. I have consistently fought to get more taxpayer dollars into the classroom and return decision-making to those who know the names of your children ” that’s what I will continue to do as our U.S. senator.

Q: Finally, what plan do you support in ending U.S. occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan to bring troops back?

A: Despite the story many in the media want us to believe, we are seeing progress in Iraq. The “surge” strategy has helped to reduce casualties, reduce violence and provide a window of opportunity for Iraqis to create a stable, prosperous and democratic state. Returning U.S. veterans regularly testify they are proud of their progress and that of the brave Iraqi military and police forces who fight by their side to bring freedom to the Iraqi people. I believe it is now up to the Iraqi people to safeguard their own country so American troops can return home as soon as possible.

The status quo in Afghanistan is unacceptable. We cannot allow the Taliban and other radical extremists to use Afghanistan as a breeding ground for terrorism. We must pursue a plan in Afghanistan that applies the counter-insurgency strategies used in the Iraq surge.

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