State Senate candidates spar, create clear distinctions |

State Senate candidates spar, create clear distinctions

Republican Don Suppes, left, and Democrat Kerry Donovan took on the issues and each other in their second debate Thursday night.
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 – Vast differences exist between two state Senate candidate, and they made them clear in a televised debate.

Republican Don Suppes and Democrat Kerry Donovan squared off Thursday for their second debate of the political season. Not invited to the debate was Lee Mulcahy, a Libertarian from Aspen.

Suppes and Donovan differed in several areas, including most of the hot button issues.

Suppes is mayor of Orchard City and owns and runs his own heating and cooling business. He said he understands small businesses and the relief they need from government interference.

“I’m a small businessman and a small government man, and I have the track record to prove it,” Suppes said. “Colorado should be better to its businesses. Businesses are the regulation enforcers and the revenue drivers. What qualifies me to serve in the state Senate is my success as a businessman and mayor.”

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Donovan serves on the Vail Town Council and pointed to her experience working in the public schools — she works for Ski and Snowboard Club Vail and tutors at Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy.

“I was raised with a value of service in my family,” Donovan said. “I wear ski boots and cowboy boots, and that means I can go down there and walk a lot of different lines.”

Gun restrictions

Suppes said the new gun laws are another case of overreach by the Democratic-controlled Legislature. He then called for more mental health funding.

“I disagree with these gun laws 100 percent. The Constitution is very clear; I don’t think any gun problems can be fixed by going after law abiding citizens,” Suppes said. “Mental health is woefully underfunded … I would be all for repealing these gun laws.”

Donovan said she does not support further restrictions on gun ownership, citing her work on her family’s ranch.

“As a rancher, a gun is a tool,” she said. “Growing up in a hunting family, the transition from summer to fall is black powder season.”

She said she supports expanded background checks and a law that requires people applying for a concealed carry permit to apply and test in person, not online.

“It’s a common sense gun safety law that I stand behind,” she said.

She said she would not have supported the limit on the number of rounds a gun’s magazine can hold.

“It’s not an enforceable law, and we’ve heard that from law enforcement across the state,” Donovan said.


Colorado’s Democrat-controlled Legislature rolled out a program to provide drivers licenses and in-state tuition for people in this state illegally.

Suppes, who is fluent in Spanish, opened his answer with an address in Spanish, explaining his support for families. He added, however, that it’s a federal matter and the best state lawmakers can do is urge sensible congressional action.

“On a state level, anything we do is pandering. It’s not fixing the problem,” Suppes said. “The more we promote these kinds of program, the more we compound the problem. To say it won’t increase that is just nutty.”

Donovan said the roll-out for the drivers license program has been rough, but supports in-state tuition.

“Any time we can get young people into our college system, it creates a better person,” she said. “The driver’s license bill is a good attempt by Colorado to be proactive where the federal government has been inactive.”

Requiring renewable energy

Democrats in the state Legislature passed Senate Bill 252, which mandates energy utilities to provide 20 percent of their energy through renewable sources. It also limits utilities to 2 percent annual rate increases.

Suppes opposes it, saying the bill has artificially increased energy costs for homes and businesses.

“It’s putting the burden on working people. Grandpa and Grandma are trying to decide between meals and medicine,” Suppes said.

He said in his business he helps people improve their energy efficiency every day.

“We have to be smarter about using electricity,” he said.

Donovan said the conversation should revolve around opportunity, and making Senate District 5 a model for businesses utilizing clean energy. She said the 20 percent renewable requirement can be reached with that 2 percent cap.

“We have small business that crop up all the time and it’s surprising what good ideas they bring,” Donovan said. “We need to make it known that Senate District 5 is the place to start new business.”

Suppes countered by saying that Colorado now pays the second highest electric rates west of the Mississippi, that only California’s are higher.

Working for bipartisan solutions

Donovan said she’d create a Western Slope caucus for state lawmakers of both major parties.

“Perception doesn’t always match reality; 90 percent of bills were passed on a bi-partisan basis,” Donovan said. “To end the partisanship, I’d move to build a Western Slope caucus. We need a unified voice.”

Suppes said many of the problems don’t start with political party affiliation.

“A lot of the issues we face won’t be Republican versus Democrat, it’ll be urban vs. rural,” Suppes said. “I have no problem standing up to my caucus. We need to have that rural voice in the state Senate. Too often representatives vote with urban lawmakers just because they’re with the same party.”

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