Slew of GOP candidates speak in Granby
The Grand County Republicans welcomed several GOP candidates for Colorado governor and state treasurer Friday night at the Lincoln Dinner and Meeting at the Granby Community Center.
Candidates gathered to deliver short, impassioned speeches about why they want to hold the state offices, and what they feel they can deliver for the residents of Colorado.
They covered a range of topics, from broad support of reforming PERA, the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association, to bolder suggestions like decentralizing the state government.
Brett Barkey: Uphold promises
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Brett Barkey is a retired Marine Colonel who served for 25 years, including three tours in Iraq. He also served for eight years as the assistant director of the Office of Foreign Asset Control for the U.S. Treasury Department, and is the current district attorney for Colorado’s 14th Judicial District.
Barkey began addressing the crowd by telling them he was working on Sept. 11, 2001 and was responsible for the treasury department’s response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He was tasked with providing economic sanctions against terrorist organizations, and helped complete executive orders later deemed the first shot fired in the war against global terrorism.
He said his time in the military is what made his want to run for office, often asking why he made it back while so many others in his regiment didn’t, and how he could make a difference when he returned.
Barkey said he wants to bring the focus he developed in the military to the treasury office, and use that focus to become a better partner for smaller districts and county treasurers across the state. He also expressed a deep desire to reform PERA, which currently is just 58 percent funded and has an estimated $32.2 billion unfunded liability. He stated that while it is necessary to reform the association, it is also necessary to uphold the promises kept to retirees, a sentiment shared by nearly all of the candidates who spoke.
Polly Lawrence: A true zero-budget process
Polly Lawrence leaned heavily on her business working with Lawrence Construction, a 93-year old Colorado company at which Lawrence spent years working her way up, holding nearly every job in the business. She claimed that her hands on experience would help her address the three major issues she wants to address in Colorado: ending the year end spend, reforming PERA and locking the revolving door.
Lawrence wants to move the state budget toward more of a true zero budget process to stop government agencies and departments from spending surplus funds.
She also wants to reform PERA, saying that the state pension has been overpromising and under delivering for years. She said that while the state needs to uphold promises to those near retirement, for the younger generation retirement ages will have to increase and benefit packages will have to be flattened out.
Finally, Lawrence spoke about wanting to end a process where government employees working on state contracts end up leaving their jobs to work for the company who’s contract they just executed.
“That revolving door needs to be locked,” she said.
Justin Everett: Being combative
Everett served as a state representative in South Jefferson County, where he said he encountered conservatives that were afraid to openly speaking “like republicans,” and focused on his ability to be combative when necessary and talk about his conservative values.
Everett said that it’s necessary to choose the right candidate who can win competitive elections, while also not being afraid to speak out on issues such as PERA. He also spoke of the importance of being decisive when tough decisions need to be made, and using his experience to inform those decisions.
Brita Horn: Stepping into a ‘hornet’s nest’
Chuck McConnell, the chair of the Routt County Republicans, spoke on behalf of Horn who was not in attendance. McConnell said he endorsed Horn because of her terrific experience as the treasurer of the county.
He said that Horn stepped into a “hornets’ nest” after the previous treasurer left, and she was faced with the bankruptcy of Peabody Energy, the county’s biggest industry and source of tax revenue. McConnell said that Horn handled the situation with grace, and collected all of the back taxes, along with interest and legal expenses from Peabody.
McConnell also lauded Horn for her service as the captain of the Rock Creek Fire Department.
Walker Stapleton: Speaking out on PERA
Walker Stapleton was not in attendance at the event, and Grand County Commissioner Rich Cimino delivered a brief statement on his behalf. Cimino spoke about Stapleton’s experience as state treasurer, an office in which he is currently completing his second term.
Cimino also spoke about Stapleton’s opposition to both Amendment 66, a major tax hike for school financing, and Amendment 69, for ColoradoCare, both of which were defeated.
Cimino finished by talking about Stapleton’s long history of speaking out against issues with PERA, and his ability to run campaigns and win tightly contested elections.
Victor Mitchell: A 64-county economic plan
Victor Mitchell approached the crowd as an outsider and a “serial entrepreneur,” speaking about his long history of starting successful businesses and creating jobs in Colorado. Mitchell is currently the CEO of Lead Funding, a specialty real estate lender.
Mitchell spoke primarily regarding small business opportunities in the state and healthcare issues.
He said that he wants to roll back regulations on Colorado companies and occupations that discourage small or independent businesses. He briefed the audience on a 64-county economic plan wherein he would meet with business and community leaders to find out which industries are sustainable in which areas. He intends to use the power of the governorship to entice people to relocate into communities like Granby which he said have fallen behind the rest of the state.
He also spoke about a rural health clinic he and his wife help fund in Virginia, and purposed bringing a similar system to Colorado. The project would focus on a more efficient system, eliminating government insurance for primary care, and advocating for block grants to clinics that offer affordable care through nurse practitioners and telemedicine.
Mitchell also noted that he has the broadest support of any candidate to date, pointing to his large social media following and surplus of funds compared to other candidates.
Greg Lopez: A call to action
Greg Lopez began his remarks with a call to action, telling his fellow republicans that this was their time and emphasizing a need to unite.
Lopez focused primarily on small business, giving examples of his experience in the business community as well as government work. Lopez is the former mayor and city councilor of Parker, and claims extensive knowledge of a myriad of issues including transportation.
Lopez is the former president of the Denver Hispanic Chamber, the former CEO of Rocky Mountain Minority Supplier Development Council, and the former director of the U.S. Small Business Administration. He is also a former Air force Veteran. He feels this experience gives him a massive network throughout Denver, Boulder, Arapahoe and several other areas around the state, which will help him win an election.
Lopez also said that he would remove Denver’s status as a sanctuary city, and that he is a strong advocate for education. He said that while not everyone can attend college, opportunities need to be created so that non-college graduates can still be job ready as soon as they finish school, allowing them to support their families.
Stephen Barlock: Protecting natural resources
Stephen Barlock outlines two major priorities that he will run on: reforming PERA, and protecting Colorado’s natural resources.
Barlock said that he wants to appoint two extra members to the PERA board to assist the governor and the treasurer. Under his plan one of the new appointees would work on projects to invest in Colorado, while the other would be responsible for transparency and acting as a watchdog over the program.
He also said that he wants to use the state lottery system to help dig PERA out of massive unfunded liability issues until the program is solvent again.
Barlock called the Colorado water pacts corrupt, noting that a percentage of Colorado’s allotted water gets sent down stream to other states in the southwest. He said he intends to be more competitive in water negotiations, and also wants to invest more heavily in hydroelectric power. He also brought up issues in California, and said he wants to remove beetle kill pine to reduce chances of major wildfires.
George Brauchler: ‘Sick of’ Colorado governors
George Brauchler served as the keynote speaker for the event, and started off by saying that Colorado today is remarkably different from when he was growing up, denouncing legalized marijuana, sanctuary cities and the Denver Broncos for kneeling during the league wide national anthem protests.
Brauchler spoke about his experience in the armed forces, as well as his time as district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, the state’s largest district. He said that he’s proud of his time spent as the DA, and that under his supervision the district has been able to keep a lower budget, and maintain a slower growth rate than smaller districts.
Brauchler’s most notable suggestion was the decentralization of the state government. He gave the Department of Wildlife as an example, saying that the department should be moved out of Denver to somewhere with a culture of sportsmanship and hunting. Brauchler said this would allow government agencies to run more efficiently with employees who believe in the mission.
Brauchler also said that the roads in Colorado are a major concern, and steps need to be taken to alleviate traffic concerns and fix the infrastructure.
Finally, he told the audience that he is sick of Colorado’s governors only being the face of Denver, emphasizing that he doesn’t want everything outside of the metropolitan area to be considered a “fly-over” piece of land.
Brauchler said he is the only candidate with contributions from all of Colorado’s 64 counties, a largely symbolic gesture that shows he’s committed to make a difference for rural areas as well as Denver.
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