Eagle Co. House candidates debate in 3-way primary | VailDaily.com

Eagle Co. House candidates debate in 3-way primary

Steven K. Paulson
Associated Press Writer
Vail, CO Colorado
AP Photo/The Daily Camera, Paul AikenJared Polis, left, Will Shafroth, center, and Joan Fitz-Gerald are running in Aug. 12 primary to be the Democratic candidate for Eagle County's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

BOULDER, Colorado ” Democratic congressional candidates Joan Fitz-Gerald, Jared Polis and Will Shafroth agreed Friday that the nation is on the wrong course, but they disagreed over ways to deal with illegal immigration.

The district the candidates are running to represent includes Eagle County.

Former Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald said Colorado provided a good life for her and her family, but the nation is now off-course.

“We did very well here, but somehow our country lost its way,” she told a packed room at Boulder City Hall.

She said the war in Iraq is draining the nation’s resources of money that could be put to better uses, such as providing more affordable housing, and lawmakers have failed to deal with a health care crisis and slumping economy.

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Polis said the election this year is critical because the most pressing issues, energy, the economy and the Iraq war, can be settled only at the national level.

He sharply criticized current members of Congress, including leaders of his own party, and said he won’t be afraid to continue to press for reform if he is elected.

“One of the reasons, in my opinion, the Democrats in Congress have such a low approval rating, almost as bad as the president’s, is that people put them there for a purpose. They put them there to end the war, they put them there to make progress on health care, and they haven’t done those things,” Polis said.

Shafroth, a noted environmentalist, said he’s worried that the next generation will inherit a world in crisis, facing issues of climate change and breakdowns in the education and health care systems that his generation failed to solve.

The 2nd Congressional District is heavily Democratic and the primary winner will likely win the general election in November. The winner will face Republican Scott Starin and Unity Party candidate Bill Hammons.

Polis criticized Fitz-Gerald for sponsoring a measure cracking down on illegal immigration in 2006, saying lawmakers caved in to Republicans who wanted to force illegal immigrants to leave Colorado. Polis strongly opposed the measure and said he has worked to help immigrants get an education and assimilate into society.

“I was disappointed in our Senate and House leadership. Effectively, they gave the anti-immigrant people everything they wanted,” Polis said.

Polis said the nation needs comprehensive immigration reform from Congress that provides a pathway to citizenship for people who have been here and behaved themselves.

“Let’s find a way for them to emerge from the shadows and participate fully in all of the opportunities that this country has to offer,” he said.

Shafroth said he also opposed the measure.

Fitz-Gerald said lawmakers crafted a bill that barred state services to illegal immigrants because those services are already prohibited. She said Democrats rejected demands from Republicans that would have allowed people to sue state and local governments for providing services because of the confusion it would have created.

She said the only mistake lawmakers made was giving in to Republican demands that limited the number of official documents needed to qualify for services, and they fixed that a year later.

“It should have been a more comprehensive list,” she said.

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