House candidates hope to represent Eagle County
Voters in Eagle, Lake and Summit counties will decide Tuesday if they want Eagle-Vail Republican Heather Lemon or Leadville Democrat Carl Miller in the District 56 seat in the Colorado House of Representatives. The district was realigned as part of statewide reapportionment earlier this year.
“We have an opportunity to proactively represent the issues important to these counties,” says Lemon. “These counties make a significant contribution to the economy of Colorado. We deserve positive, pro-active risk taking leadership in the Legislature.
“I can provide that leadership and will make tourism promotion, affordable health care and water my top priorities,” she add.
Miller says making things like Western Slope water high-profile would open them up to attacks from Front Range legislators. He says it’s sometimes better to quietly kill someone else’s bad bill than to let some other legislator butcher yours.
He has asserted throughout his campaign that experience is what’s most important.
“Experience is of paramount importance in this year’s legislative election. I bring that experience to this race,” said Miller. “I served 12 years as a Lake County commissioner and six years in the Colorado Legislature. I have been actively involved in local, regional and national boards and committees for more than a quarter of a century.”
Lemon counters that experience is fine, but leadership is better. She says Miller has not shown much leadership during his six years in the House. Miller, who is term-limited, could only serve one more two-year term. Under current state law, Lemon is entitled to eight years. She says her background as an attorney – she specializes in immigration – will enable her to understand the complexity of the issues. Her background as a real estate agent, she adds, gives her the sales skills she needs to build coalitions and convince her legislative colleagues to move forward bills friendly to her district.
While Lemon and Miller agree on several issues, nowhere do they differ more than on water.
“The hottest topic the legislature will face this year is water,” says Lemon, adding that she hopes to lead the way on water issues, building coalitions with Front Range legislators that will keep their districts supplied with the water to which they are legally entitled while preserving Western Slope water.
“If we’re not out front on this issue, we’ll be run over,” Lemon said.
Miller points to his assignments on the House Agriculture Committee as a benefit to the district. He says water bills must be passed out of that committee, where there are still enough rural legislators to kill bills hostile to Western Slope interests.
“I have championed the fight to protect and preserve Western Slope water,” Miller said. “I have a proven record of putting my district above partisan politics.”
Miller said he plans to introduce a bill to tap into an aquifer underneath Denver as a way for the Front Range to meet some of its growing water needs.
“I believe the biggest threat to House District 56 is the increased attempts from the Front Range to export more water from the district,” Miller said. “Access to the Denver aquifer during times of drought and dry years would increase the demands for more water coming from the Western Slope and other water producing counties. The current drought makes that an achievable goal.”
Lemon says managed growth and open-space preservation are critical to maintaining tourism. She says tourism is the economic lifeblood of District 56.
Miller says he would introduce legislation to preserve and expand state funding for tourism and the promotion of Colorado.
“Tourism is an income generator, an investment and revenue generator,” Miller says. “In 1998, I carried a bill to restore state funding for tourism. The bill failed, but it did bring attention to the problem and set the stage for the subsequent tourism funding we now have in the state budget.”