State House candidates square off in 2nd debate |

State House candidates square off in 2nd debate

Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush, left, and Republican Chuck McConnell squared off Thursday in their second debate.
Randy Wyrick | |

The next debate

What: Local candidates debate.

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Where: Eagle County Building, 500 Broadway, Eagle.

Cost: Free.

Information: Candidates for county commissioner, sheriff, coroner and other countywide offices will debate the issues.

To view Thursday’s state House and Senate debates, go to

EAGLE — Chuck McConnell and Diane Mitsch Bush appear to prove that you can disagree, but you don’t have to be disagreeable about it.

And, oh my, how they disagree on almost every issue.

McConnell, a Republican, is challenging Mitsch Bush, a Democrat, for the District 26 seat in the Colorado House of Representatives. That’s Eagle and Routt counties.

“I have become very concerned about the negative impact that a one-party government can have on the state,” McConnell said.

Mitsch Bush, the incumbent, said proudly that in her first two sessions she has had all her bills passed.

Support Local Journalism

“It’s very unusual for any legislator to have all their bills passed,” she said.

McConnell said some of those bills should not have become law.

They agree that when it comes to local control of schools, the federal government should butt out. Beyond that, they agreed on almost nothing.

How are you most different from your opponent?

“I was trained as an engineer and the one thing we learned was common sense,” McConnell said. “Solving problems is a common sense operation.”

McConnell vowed to represent his constituents and not his party.

“Of 30 tax and fee increase bills, my opponent voted to raise those 29 times. I would not have done that,” McConnell said. “The state budget increased 7.8 percent. I’ll bet very few of you saw your incomes increase 7.8 percent last year.”

Mitsch Bush said the major difference is experience and transparency.

“I cannot raise your taxes. It is illegal for me to raise taxes,” she said. “I have worked with business to come up bills that help small businesses thrive.”

Mitsch Bush said she is running on her record and on promises kept.

“I’m working across the Continental Divide and the partisan divide,” Mitsch Bush said.

Fracking ban

McConnell spent his career as a chemical engineer, mostly in the energy industry.

“I do not support a ban on fracking,” McConnell said. “Drilling and fracking for hydrocarbons creates a tremendous number of jobs, high-paying jobs, not $7.50 an hour jobs. It also creates energy independence from sheiks and Mr. Putin. If I didn’t think this was a safe endeavor, I would never support it. Even the Democratic governor supports fracking.”

Mitsch Bush said there enough fracking regulations, but enforcement needs to improve.

“Fracking is very well regulated,” she said. “Fracking and directional drilling is what has created our shale energy revolution. What we need is better enforcement.”

She suggested infrared cameras to help locate methane leaks and other safety measures.

Economic development and job creation

“Regulations are absolutely necessary, but the regulations that are necessary are only those that are necessary,” McConnell said. “Entrepreneurship money will follow where regulations are the most sensible. Don’t leave here thinking I’m for blanket cutting regulations. I’m talking about regulations that inhibit business startups.”

Bush said in the past four years Colorado has gone from 40th in the nation to 4th in job creation.

“We still need to take a look at red tape and level the playing field. That’s one of the ways is to enable small business to compete. We also need to be constantly asking businesses, ‘What do you need?’” she said.

Gun ownership restrictions

Mitsch Bush voted for all three of Colorado’s gun laws, and insists expanding background checks kept felons and other criminals from illegally buying guns.

She said it was “secondary enforcement” to restrict the number of rounds gun owners can hold in a clip.

“When you arrest someone you check that, and if they’re over that limit it can be added as another charge against them,” she said.

She said she still supports a law requiring concealed carry applicants to apply and test in person, and not online. Beyond that, she said she would support no more gun restrictions.

McConnell said he did not support any of those bills in any manner.

“Law abiding citizens are not the ones we’re dealing with,” McConnell said.

A few years ago, he was robbed at gun point in his condominium.

“While they were holding us a gunpoint and stealing my pistols and hunting rifles, I doubt very seriously that they were concerned with the fact that they didn’t have a concealed carry permit for them,” McConnell said.

He called the magazine limit is a “ridiculous law.”

“Fifty-four sheriffs in Colorado were against these bills because they were unenforceable and didn’t help law abiding citizens and make us safer,” McConnell said.

Requiring renewable energy

Colorado Democrats passed a bill that required utility companies to obtain 20 percent of the energy they provide through renewable sources, while capping rate increases at 2 percent.

“Renewables are not the enemy of fossil fuels,” Mitsch Bush said. “Holy Cross is already doing it. Yampa is getting close. The coops that have the highest percentage of renewables in their portfolio had the lowest rates.”

She said hydropower is still the cheapest form of energy, and said her bill removes some of the obstacles water rights owners faced in generating electricity.

McConnell said the renewable energy requirement is raising energy costs.

“If this war on coal continues, it’s going to increase the cost of energy and destroy jobs,” he said.

McConnell pointed out the 380 families will lose their jobs when a Routt County coal mine closes, not to mention the ancillary jobs and the Hayden power station where some of that coal is burned.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

Support Local Journalism