Republican candidates attend chamber forum | VailDaily.com

Republican candidates attend chamber forum

Randy Wyrick rwyrick@vaildaily.com

EAGLE — A late agreement prevented a Thursday candidate forum from being a one-party show.

Local Republicans and Vail Valley Partnership officials had for months been engaged in a back-and-forth about Thursday's candidate forum in Eagle. Local Republicans had asked for a pair of moderators, while chamber leadership stuck to a format that would feature Vail Valley Partnership CEO Chris Romer as the sole moderator.

In the days before the forum, the two sides agreed on a format that would have Romer joined by Vail Valley Partnership board president Mike Brumbaugh. That agreement brought together almost all the candidates running for county, district and state legislative seats.

Incumbent Fifth Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown, a Democrat, was absent, citing a scheduling conflict. The other absent candidate was Colorado House of Representatives candidate Michael Cacioppo, a Republican, who has declined invitations to other forums.

The candidates who did attend gave the sparse crowd brief presentations about themselves.

Candidates for Eagle County treasurer and district attorney were limited to those presentations.

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Candidates for county commissioner and state representative answered questions from both the moderators and written audience questions.

Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, a Democrat from Steamboat Springs, answered questions about state issues including transportation, rural broadband Internet service and health care.

Mitsch Bush said she and State Sen. Kerry Donovan, an Eagle County Democrat, have been working at the state level to create a board that would work with investors to bring more internet service to rural communities.

"We need reliable, redundant broadband," Mitsch Bush said.

Mitsch Bush added that she's also working in the Legislature to create a better way for mountain residents to buy health insurance. The idea Mitsch Bush is focused on is creating one health insurance zone for all of Colorado, since Western Slope residents pay the highest private health insurance rates in the nation.

The commissioners' forums were divided by the candidates running for the seats in commissioner districts 1 and 2. While the county as a whole votes for all candidates, those candidates must live in the districts they represent.

'Think outside the box'

In District 1, roughly the eastern portion of the county, incumbent Jill Ryan, a Democrat, and challenger Michael Dunahay, a Republican, fielded questions ranging from housing to boosting air service.

Dunahay said he's focused on "affordable living" for county residents, from housing to health care to parking.

"It's time to think outside the box," Dunahay said, adding that as commissioner he'd focus more on public-private partnerships to create housing and other services.

Ryan said she's a strong supporter of Ballot Issue 1A, a .3 percent sales tax increase that would generate roughly $5 million per year for housing that would be used for land purchases, construction and beefing up the county's down payment assistance program. That program is a loan fund that helps residents come up with down payments for home purchases.

In District 2, incumbent Democrat Kathy Chandler-Henry and her opponent, Republican Rick Beveridge, answered most of the same questions.

Beveridge cited his experience as a board member on the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District and as local business owner. As a businessman, Beveridge said he's the only commissioner candidate this year who has actually built workforce housing.

Chandler-Henry, a valley native, cited her own experience in working with everything from local regulations to state water policy.

Answering a question from the audience about county governance, Beveridge said he favors a system in which the commissioners leave day-to-day affairs in the hands of the county managers and department head. Beveridge also said that as commissioner, "I'll take care of spending other people's money.

Chandler-Henry said running the county is a "continuous quality improvement process." And, she added, unlike running a business, "it's weird to run a business with two other people (the other commissioners)."

Where to watch

You can view the Oct. 6 Vail Valley Partnership candidate forum at http://www.highfivemedia.org.