Candidates duke it out in Vail Valley campaign forum in front of packed house
Who’s Who at the forum
The Vail Valley Partnership’s candidate forum Thursday night, Oct. 11, packed Colorado Mountain College’s Vail Valley campus in Edwards. The standing-room-only crowd heard from:
• County Commissioner candidates Jacqueline Cartier (R) and Jeanne McQueeney (D).
• Colorado House District 26 candidates Dylan Roberts (D) and Nicki Mills (R).
• Colorado Senate District 5 candidates Olen Lund (R) and Kerry Donovan (D).
EDWARDS — And there it was, the starkest difference between the two Eagle County commissioner candidates regarding government’s role in … well, just about everything.
Among the many questions, candidates for state and county offices all faced at least two questions each about climate change at a candidate forum held Thursday, Oct. 11, at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards.
Republican county commissioner candidate Jacqueline Cartier said, “Government solves nothing,” adding that it’s up to individuals to do everything possible to fight climate change.
Democrat Jeanne McQueeney touted the county government’s climate action plan and the municipalities and organizations that jumped on board.
“It’s a global threat, and everyone must be involved,” McQueeney said.
Cartier and McQueeney sparred over approaches to affordable housing, business development, extending Eagle County’s open space tax and McQueeney’s involvement with Early Childhood Partners, which she started.
Open space: The county government and open space proponents want to extend the county’s open space tax, scheduled to sunset in 2025. Voters have the option of extending it 15 years, though 2040. It originally passed in 2002 and raises about $4.5 million per year.
McQueeney called extending the open space tax one of her top three priorities, along with mental health resources and the county’s climate action plan.
Cartier said no to extending the open space tax.
“Before we tax people for more open space, let’s look at what we have. Right now, more than 80 percent of Eagle County is already open space,” Cartier said.
Mills vs. Roberts: House District 26
Republican Nicki Mills said she lives with the same struggles we all do — earning a living in an area with such a high cost of living. She said her priorities in the statehouse will be, “What I’ve learned campaigning door to door.”
Democrat Dylan Roberts grew up in Steamboat Springs and works in Eagle as a deputy district attorney.
“It is an honor to serve the communities where I grew up and live in now,” he said.
Campaign donors: Mills took a couple of shots at Roberts’ campaign donors, saying 65 percent of Roberts’ campaign funding is from outside the district, including large Denver law firms.
Health care costs: Health care providers defending themselves against the cases those law firms bring are among the causes for our area’s skyrocketing health insurance costs, Mills said.
Both agreed that more competition would help control health insurance costs.
Mills suggested allowing insurance companies to compete across state lines. She also advocated for multi-employer health plans such as the one sponsored by the Vail Valley Partnership.
Roberts pushed six bills through the legislature as a rookie in last year’s session. Several took aim at the area’s health care costs, including HB 1384, which would bring more competition to the health insurance market by providing a public option, as well as co-op health insurance plans.
He also championed HB 1009, designed to rein in “egregious prescription drug prices.”
Marijuana and drugs: Mills, the single mom of two teenaged sons, launched a website and Facebook page called “Know Marijuana,” to provide information about marijuana’s effects.
“Parents have a role. It’s not just more regulation and law. It’s our job to educate our kids,” Mills said, also suggesting that enforcement teams receive more support.
Roberts works in the DA’s office prosecuting drug and marijuana cases. He said that while marijuana is a concern, the opioid crisis has hit the area, and suggested dealing with those who over-prescribe opioids, because “that’s where it starts.”
TABOR and Gallagher: Roberts said the budgetary collision between TABOR and Gallagher is “handcuffing our state budget.” Three bills being sent to the state legislature would tweak the Gallagher Amendment. Roberts said he plans to support them all.
Mills said she was happy to have TABOR, but Gallagher needs some work.
“Taxpayers have rights, and I will defend TABOR. Gallagher, though, has become a thorn in our side,” she said.
Lund vs. donovan: Senate District 5
Democrat Kerry Donovan and Republican Olen Lund talked health insurance costs, public land and economic development across Colorado’s most diverse senate district, ranging from Aspen and Vail to struggling Delta and Hinsdale counties.
“Senate District 5 is diverse economically and culturally. You have to be the voice of Delta, Lake City and Aspen at the same time,” Donovan said. “Rural areas have not seen the same kind of economic growth as the urban corridor.”
Lund, a two-term Delta County commissioner and western water advocate, said he “will make sure rural voices are heard over the din in the statehouse.”
Health insurance costs: Donovan said she has constituents whose health insurance premiums rival their mortgages. Campaigning in the Roaring Fork Valley, she ran across a couple trying to decide which one was healthier; they could only afford insurance for one of the two.
Lund said, “The real problem is competition,” vowing to vote against a proposed statewide single-payer system and to help bring more medical providers and more competition to the region.
Lund also said that when the Affordable Care Act passed — Obamacare — his health insurance costs doubled. He said he’ll work to lower health insurance premiums through deregulation.
Donovan said, “The (Affordable Care Act) left us at the epicenter of high health care costs,” calling it, “geographic discrimination.”
“Where there’s only one provider, there are higher costs,” she said.
Drought and water: The current drought might not abate any time soon.
Donovan’s family runs a cattle operation in Wolcott that ran out of water in June, something that has never happened before, she said.
“That’s not going to change any time soon,” she said.
Senate District 5 is stuck between the thirsty Front Range and Lake Powell, which provides hydroelectric power to Las Vegas and other desert cities, Donovan said.
If Denver needs more water, they need to address it with the water they have, she said.
“Water should stay in the basin where it’s born,” she said.
Lund said we live in the “arid west,” and said we may be looking at “drought from here on out.” He emphasized the Gunnison Basin’s war cry: “Not one more drop.”
“The Front Range and Lower Basin states are two freight trains coming for us,” Lund said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.