Colo’s U.S. Senate candidates stake out differences |

Colo’s U.S. Senate candidates stake out differences

Steven K. Paulson
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado
Darin McGregor/Rocky Mountain NewsSenatorial candidates Bob Schaffer, left, and Mark Udall face off Tuesday in a U.S. Senate race debate, moderated by Fred Brown and sponsored by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, at the Hyatt Convention Center.

DENVER, Colorado ” Senate candidates Mark Udall and Bob Schaffer staked out their differences on labor issues, health care and energy development on Tuesday, conceding they don’t see eye-to-eye on many of the issues facing today’s economy.

Udall defended his decision to support the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow labor organizations to unionize workplaces without secret ballot elections, saying it still provides many worker protections that he supports.

He said the Bush administration and the National Labor Relations Board have been “missing in action” in ensuring that employees are treated fairly. He said the act ensures that employees won’t be intimidated by union leaders or employers.

Schaffer disagreed, saying the bill has one major goal.

“This is about union organizing and intimidation,” Schaffer said during a debate sponsored by the Denver Metro Chamber of Congress and business leaders.

Udall said the development of renewable energy needs to be a top priority and he insisted that any new drilling should be done responsibly.

“This is a Manhattan Project for the United States,” Udall said.

Schaffer countered that the country needs a balanced approach now, including some drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. He said Udall wants to block drilling.

Businesses leaders asked both candidates to explain what they would do about the health care crisis, citing Census Bureau reports that 17 percent of Colorado’s 4.7 million residents went without health insurance last year.

Schaffer said tax advantages for businesses offering health insurance should be expanded to include individuals. He said groups including churches and fraternal organizations should be allowed to band together to buy cheaper insurance.

Udall said he also supports purchasing pools and tax credits, and accused Schaffer of trying to block coverage for more uninsured children.

Schaffer said his primary objection was funding it with tobacco taxes that promote smoking.

The Colorado Senate race is one of the top races in the November election. Both candidates are running to replace Republican Sen. Wayne Allard, who is retiring.

Udall said he knows he’s not popular with some business leaders, citing $2 million spent by businesses to oppose him.

He joked about television ads they sponsored that try to portray him lurking in the shadows, saying voters have approached him and told him, “You’re not as ugly in person.”

Udall said lawmakers sometimes need to buck their constituents and vote their conscience. He cited his votes against the Iraq war, the Patriot Act and the bankruptcy bill in 2005 that made it easier for banks to go after small borrowers, a bill he vowed to try to change.

“That was a particularly mean-spirited bill,” he said.

Schaffer agreed that politicians sometimes have to go against the grain.

“We elect people to make powerful decisions for us. You assume they are armed with insight,” he said.

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