Originally published by Bob Wooley in the Golden Transcript.
The West Metro Chamber of Commerce and Jefferson County Business Lobby held a “Meet the Candidates” virtual event on Oct. 6, to give citizens a chance to hear more about policy positions of candidates running for seats in House Districts 22, 23, 24, 25 and 28 — five House districts that represent Jefferson County.
During the event, candidates were each given two minutes to introduce themselves followed by a round of two questions per candidate and a “Fire Round” where they were each asked three non-political questions to give a bit more insight into their personality and background.
The questions were different for the candidates of each district.
House District 22
Three candidates are for the seat in House District 22 — incumbent, Colin Larson (R), Mary Parker (D), and Margot Herzl (L). One of the questions asked of the District 22 candidates was where they stood on Amendment B, the Gallagher Amendment Repeal and Property Tax Assessment Rates Measure. Herzl, the Libertarian candidate, led things off with a pro-Gallagher stance, stating she’s against repeal, calling Amendment B “straight-up greed,” and focusing on the benefits she believes Gallagher has brought to homeowners over the past four decades.
“Gallagher is a gift to taxpayers that has kept home ownership affordable for the last 40 years and will keep home ownership affordable going into the future if we protect it,” Herzl said.
Parker supports Amendment B for many reasons, including the overall length of the Colorado State Constitution, which she says is way too long, especially when compared to the U.S. Constitution. She also said that something that was good in 1982 doesn’t necessarily work in 2020, and that considerations should be given to the differences between urban and rural Colorado.
“Having a one size fits all approach to property taxes doesn’t work in a state that has an urban Denver area and so many rural areas. They are not the same.”
Rep. Larson, was the final candidate to weigh-in on Gallagher, and said he was opposed to a straight-up repeal, but thought there was room to amend it.
“We need to do something to allow for flexibility in the commercial assessment rate so that small businesses don’t have to continue to pay rates that are five to six times higher than residential rates,” Larson said.
House District 23
The first question given to the House District 23 candidates was about their stance on Prop. 118 (Paid Medical and Family Leave Initiative). Democratic incumbent Chris Kennedy is in support of the proposition, and said that too many Colorado workers are forced to choose between paying their bills and taking care of a sick family member or taking the appropriate time off after they’ve given birth to a child.
“It’s very difficult for small businesses to afford to provide family leave and that’s one of the things that I really appreciate about proposition 118, is that it broadens the risk pool when everyone’s paying in,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy’s Republican opponent in the race, Fred Clifford, said he opposes Prop. 118.
“I think a government mandated family leave is not the right solution,” Clifford said. “Individually we all know what our own needs are and what we can afford. If the government says ‘you can afford this,’” and you can’t, it’s not realistic.”
House District 24
Questions for Monica Duran (D) and Laurel Imer (R) of House District 24 came next. Their first question was about the state’s $3 billion budget shortfall and how they would manage this financial challenge in the years ahead.
Duran favors a wait-and-see approach because of the effect ballot initiatives like Amendment B (Gallagher), and Prop. 116 (state income tax reduction) might have on revenue.
“I think that after the election we (will) see what transpires. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work to figure out how we’re going to move forward to make sure that we’re taking care of our community and the state of Colorado,” she said.
Imer framed her answer within a fiery rebuke of COVID-19-related regulations and shutdowns that small businesses have recently faced.
“The first thing I would do is open the economy. We can not continue to operate in a pandemic, COVID-19, China virus shutdown,” Imer said.
In her opinion, if the state does not allow businesses to open fully and completely, it would continue to have tax shortfalls, less funding for schools, roads and bridges.
House District 25
Questions for candidates from House District 25 included “What do you believe is the biggest challenge that Colorado is facing, and how will you address this challenge?”
Republican challenger Donald Rosier thinks the answer is all about our civil discourse (or lack thereof). Rosier called for politicians and citizens alike to show more respect and civility when making laws, or simply getting through our days.
“With clear, concise, professional discussion between all sides of an issue we can overcome adversity,” he said.
Rosier said he is extremely bothered by the way that political disagreements can so easily escalate into personal attacks in today’s climate.
Representative Lisa Cutter (D) thinks helping the people of Colorado recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and lack of education funding are the biggest problems to tackle. But picking up on Rosier’s cue, she stressed the importance of electing moderates from either party to continue making progress for the state.
“We don’t want legislators that will represent extreme views either right or left that will stop the progress we’ve made, and the progress that we need to make toward resolving the key issues of public health, the state budget, and public schools during a pandemic,” she said.
House District 28
One of the questions given to House District 28’s two candidates dealt with the growing homelessness problem in the state and what they would do to improve it. Representative Kerry Tipper (D) did not attend the event, having just given birth to her son the week before. Her answers were read to the moderators by Lakewood Mayor, Adam Paul. He said that one part of Representative Tipper’s plan would be to look at vacant buildings or land sites for opportunities, and more affordable housing, and the second part of her plan would involve “looking at the root causes (of homelessness) and how the state can better look for ways with mental health and those sorts of areas to provide programs that really give people a way for self-sufficiency and help them where they’re at.”
Libertarian Amara Hildebrand said the issue of homelessness was something near and dear to her heart, and that success in helping people transition out of living on the streets can be found in different areas.
“I think private charities have the best success rate,” Hildebrand said. “And yes, mental health, absolutely. We need to help people so they can help themselves.” Voters will decide who they want to represent them in the state legislature on Nov. 3.
Republican candidate for House District 28 Pete "Pedro" Roybal was not present at the forum