Forum a taste of fall governor race
GRAND JUNCTION – Lacking a primary opponent in his own party, Democrat Bill Ritter squared off Saturday against the two Republicans who are vying for the chance to run against him for governor this fall.Marc Holtzman, of Carbondale, and U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez joined Ritter in Grand Junction at a candidate forum sponsored by Club 20, the Western Slope political lobbying organization.The event served as a preview of the general election to come later this year, as two proponents of conservative principles contrasted with Ritter and his call for a government willing to invest in social programs on behalf of Colorado’s citizens.Ritter said he benefited from food stamps during some hard times as a child when he was being raised in a fatherless home, and from financial aid that helped him attend college and get a law degree.”We as a state have to look at what we can do to protect the vulnerable in this state,” he said.Holtzman focused his comments on his key campaign themes, including his opposition to illegal immigration and to last year’s Referendum C, which voters passed and lifts state spending limits.”The spending caps were in place for a reason, and I want to restore those spending caps. I want to do everything I can to get that money back to the citizens of Colorado,” he said.He said it is now being forecast that Referendum C will cost taxpayers $4.2 billion, up from a $3.1 billion estimate a year ago. He wonders if voters would have passed the measure if they had been given the higher forecast before they voted, and said he would like to pursue tax cuts and property tax relief.Beauprez said he would bring “common-sense conservative discipline” to Colorado as governor.”I stand before you today shaped and formed by the conservative principles and values of my great parents,” he said.Being raised on a farm taught him work ethics as well as the importance of water to Colorado, he said. He also was shaped by being a banker and small businessman who provided jobs and met a payroll, he said.Like Holtzman, Beauprez said immigration reform is needed.”It’s time we end our policies that turn a blind eye to the enforcement of the rule of law,” he said.Holtzman said 400,000 illegal immigrants in Colorado are costing $600 million a year in benefits.All three candidates agreed that protecting the U.S. border from drug imports is an important part of tackling the problem of meth abuse in Colorado.In the area of health care reform and rural health care access, Holtzman said he would support tuition rebates for medical personnel willing to serve in rural areas, and would encourage young people to subscribe to catastrophic health care insurance.Beauprez called for more use of telemedicine to serve rural needs, and for “systemic simplification” to reduce the cost of applying for and receiving health care.”We need to bring value to the tax dollars that we spend,” he said.Ritter said the main health care issue is that 17 percent of Coloradans are uninsured, which means others must pick up the cost when they seek emergency care.He said leadership regarding health care reform must come from state governors because lawmakers in Washington aren’t doing anything to address the problem.Turning to transportation, Beauprez said declining gas tax revenues resulting from a welcome shift toward conservation and improved vehicle fuel efficiency will force government to find new revenue sources to maintain and improve infrastructure.Holtzman said Interstate 70 will need to be expanded from four lanes to eight from Denver to the Eisenhower Tunnel, and in an environmentally friendly way, possible by building a double-deck highway.Ritter said Holtzman and Beauprez can say they have transportation plans, but both opposed Referendum C, which will make money available to invest in a transportation system now in disrepair.Ritter has appeared with Beauprez at another candidate event this spring, but this was the first in which all three candidates for governor have participated. It’s not often that politicians still vying to be their party’s candidate in a general election appear at an event with a candidate from the other party. Ritter said in an interview that he appreciated the opportunity because it’s harder to attract attention when he’s not in a hotly contested primary race.”We’re going to make sure our message doesn’t get lost in that,” he said.Holtzman said after Saturday’s forum that he welcomed Ritter’s participation, but added that it could be a little confusing to the public because the primary and general elections “are two separate elections.”He said his focus for now has to be distinguishing himself from Beauprez. He sought to do that in his closing comments at Saturday’s forum, questioning how sincere Beauprez was in his opposition to Referendum C and immigration reform and saying he was a member of a big-spending Congress.Beauprez said he has kept his word as a principled conservative leader.”I’d be honored to have the support of the Western Slope, and I won’t forget it,” he said.Said Ritter, “What you want to listen for are people who have responsible solutions, not political ones, people who have achievable solutions, not ideological solutions.”Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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