3rd District congressional candidates differ on Iraqi war and economy | PostIndependent.com

3rd District congressional candidates differ on Iraqi war and economy

Lynn Burton

In the 3rd District congressional race, incumbent Scott McInnis and Democratic challenger Denis Berckefeldt differ on what pollsters say are the two biggest issues for Americans: war with Iraq and the economy.

McInnis, R-Grand Junction, calls Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein a “malignant cancer,” and said if the United States doesn’t get rid of him now, “we’ll pay a steeper price in the future.”

Berckefeldt said he’s not privy to the information McInnis has, but from what he’s seen, President Bush hasn’t made a strong enough argument for war with Iraq.

“There’s a much greater downside than upside to invading Iraq,” Berckefeldt said.

When asked about the economy, McInnis focused on the Western Slope, and the negative impacts it has felt from drought, chronic wasting disease and wildfires. McInnis said one of the actions he has taken is to introduce a compromise, bipartisan bill to fight wildfires. “I think it’s something everyone can live with,” McInnis said.

Berckefeldt, who describes himself as a New Deal Democrat, zeroed in on increased federal spending to stimulate the economy. At the same time, Berckefeldt opposes tax cuts to stimulate the economy. “I don’t think tax cuts will generate more economic activity,” Berckefeldt said.

McInnis said he hopes a plea bargain of sorts can be worked out so that Hussein steps down and goes into exile. “There are plenty of countries that would take him in,” McInnis said.

Without a plea bargain, McInnis said, the real threat from Iraq is that it will give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups like al-Qaida. McInnis, an ex-cop, compared an invasion of Iraq to a local police officer who is authorized pull his gun on a suspected criminal who points a gun at him. “We allow the officer to shoot first,” McInnis said.

Opponents to war with Iraq claim the invasion would incite the Muslim world against the United States. McInnis said, “Saddam Hussein is not popular with the Arab world.” Still, a lingering problem is the Arab world thought the United States was going to get rid of Hussein in the 1990 Gulf War, but that didn’t happen. “So they are a little gun-shy,” McInnis said.

Berckefeldt questions whether Hussein is any more likely to provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups than are countries such as North Korea, China, Russia and others. “Are we going to go after everybody?” Berckefeldt said.

Berckefeldt was reluctant to speculate what the Muslim world will do if the United States invades Iraq. “But for them to side with the Great Satan would be dangerous.” Berckefeldt said he’s also been told that war with Iraq would destabilize the Middle East.

Another argument against war with Iraq, Berckefeldt said, is the United States would have to occupy a country that is half a world away. “There are huge risks that must be confronted,” he said.

Expanding on his economic views, McInnis said chronic wasting disease, which affects deer and elk, threatens to seriously hurt the Western Slope, parts of which are reliant on deer and elk hunting. To help combat the disease, McInnis helped authorize funds for research at Colorado State University.

McInnis said he is trying to get relief for businesses who were adversely affected by last summer’s drought, but it’s not clear which businesses would qualify. For example, McInnis said, the Durango-to-Silverton narrow gauge railroad has asked for money, even though the company was unstable going into the summer. “Everybody pulls their hand out,” McInnis said.

Berckefeldt said he agrees with the “prime the pump” economic axiom for federal spending, which creates jobs on public projects such as highways. “I can’t discount public works spending,” Berckefeldt said. He pointed to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, such as the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration, and said, “It puts money into workers’ hands so they can buy groceries and pay their mortgages.”

He said drought victims also need a “quick infusion” of federal funds, be they low-interest loans or outright grants. “We need to get cash into people’s hands,” he said.

McInnis, an attorney, is running for his sixth term in Congress.

Berckefeldt, the chief of staff for the Colorado majority leader in the statehouse, is a Denver resident who is running for his first office.

The other candidates in the 3rd Congressional District race are Libertarian J. Brent Shroyer, of Rangely, Natural Law Party candidate Gary Swing, of Denver, and write-in candidate James Krug, of Pueblo.

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