Candidates for La Plata County Commissioner District 1 and Colorado Senate District 6 answered voters questions at a League of Women Voters forum Thursday in the Durango City Council Chambers. A full house of more than 50 people kept volunteers shuffling chairs and questions.
Senate candidates talked about topics ranging from working with people of opposing views to immigration. All three candidates, Republicans Ellen Roberts and Dean Boehler, and Democrat incumbent Bruce Whitehead, agreed the federal government needs to address the immigration situation.
As a matter of states rights, we should stand with Arizona, Roberts, who is in a primary race with Boehler, said. I disagree with the federal government suing them. If the Supreme Court overturns their law, Colorados laws are vulnerable too.
Boehler, a tea party candidate, is in favor of something in the vein of a red-card program for immigrant workers, and Whitehead wants the existing Colorado laws to be enforced before Colorado thinks about adding new ones.
The big questions for all candidates Thursday were about the economy, from state budget cuts to job creation. Roberts and Whitehead agreed that federally mandated programs like Medicaid and prisons have forced them to make deeper cuts in nonmandated programs.
State legislators should just say no to the federal government, Boehler said. They give us so many mandates that are unfunded.
The aborted attempt in this legislative session to stop funding free tuition for Native Americans at Fort Lewis College brought on one of the lighter moments of the evening after Roberts, who is leaving her seat in the House to run for the Senate, mentioned how hard she had worked, even before the session started, to get the bill quashed. Whitehead said he, too, had worked to stop the bill.
Once it was killed in the House, you didnt need to work on it in the Senate, Roberts quipped.
In the county commission race, the winner of the Democratic primary between Bruce Baizel and Scott Graham will run against Republican Bobby Lieb and unaffiliated candidate Kenneth Root in November. Oil and gas, the need for primary health care providers, land-use codes and economic development were all issues brought up in the forum.
All agreed on one thing the Land Use Code must be finished.
Its the single most important thing, to push for the Land Use Code, Baizel said. Without it, theres no certainty, we dont know whats going to happen.
Bobby Lieb pointed to the fact that while every one of the candidates is talking about attracting new jobs to La Plata County, he is the only one who has done so through his work with the Durango Chamber of Commerce and as executive director of the La Plata Economic Development Action Partnership.
Im impressed with what the county commissioners are doing now, Graham said. Bringing a federal courthouse to Southwest Colorado would be a tremendous economic bonus.
Root wants to make it easier for businesses and developers to get through the county processes and joined the other candidates in favor of business parks.
On the Planning Commission, I voted yes on the one at the airport, he said. I dont know if that was approved by the commissioners, but it would be beneficial. But smaller ones as well, and not just in Durango.
Mail-in ballots are being sent out this week and are due back by 7 p.m. Aug. 10.