Schaffer, Udall spar over Iraq, energy |

Schaffer, Udall spar over Iraq, energy

Ed Sealover and Lynn Bartels
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado
Darin McGregor/Rocky Mountain News

PARKER, Colorado ” Painted into a corner by weeks of attack ads, Bob Schaffer came out swinging this morning in the first U.S. Senate debate of the season, accusing Mark Udall of flip-flopping and of being responsible for high gas prices.

Udall, a Democratic congressman from Eldorado Springs, rarely took the bait from his Republican opponent, responding most often that Congress must work together rather than continue its partisan bickering.

The topics of the debate, which drew a crowd of about 800 to the Wildlife Experience, ranged from energy to the Iraq war to the proposed expansion of Pinon Canyon military training area. But one theme seemed to emerge throughout the morning: Schaffer accusing Udall of being unwilling to make a decision and Udall responding that he prefers finding consensus rather than rushing into a bad decision.

Emblematic of this was a question over whether Colorado needs to extract oil shale from the ground. Udall said that while research is under way to determine the potential of oil shale, Colorado should not be turned into a “national sacrifice zone.”

Schaffer responded: “This is part of the reason I’m running for Congress…. I do not believe constant delay is a strategy for America’s energy independence.”


Republican Bob Schaffer and Democrat Mark Udall square off today in what is expected to be a free-flowing debate between the two U.S. Senate candidates.

The event in Parker will mark the first time the candidates debate, and the earliest one-on- one match observers can remember.

“I think this debate is going to be great,” said Schaffer’s campaign manager, Dick Wadhams. “They’re both very good. They’re both very smart. They’re both very articulate.”

Wadhams and Mike Stratton, Udall’s campaign adviser, said they are excited the debate will be less structured than in previous years.

“The term has sort of been prostituted. The true debate format hardly gets used anymore,” Stratton said, noting most events are a forum with people asking questions.

Today’s debate moderator, 9News’ Adam Schrager, said both candidates are “going to have the opportunity to engage each other.” There will be no time limits, but he has said he will move on if the candidates get off track or try to “commandeer” the conversation.

Energy likely will be the hot- button topic. Democrats have labeled Schaffer “Big Oil Bob,” saying he voted to go to war and then went to work for an energy company that got a controversial oil deal in Iraq.

Republicans charge that higher energy costs are a byproduct of “Boulder liberal” Udall’s reluctance to back new drilling. In addition, Udall is expected to be greeted by protesters upset with his support for a proposal that makes it easier to unionize.

Schaffer, of Fort Collins, served in Congress for three terms before honoring his term-limits pledge and stepping down in 2002. He then went to work for Denver-based Aspect Energy, but has resigned to campaign full time.

Udall, of El Dorado Springs, is serving his fifth term in Congress. He worked 20 years for Outward Bound before running for office.

Also in the race is Green Party candidate Bob Kinsey, of Denver, who is upset he was not invited to participate.

“I’m used to getting kicked around,” Kinsey said, “but certainly we should have been included in any democratic offering.”

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