Given the geographic size of 3rd Congressional District, perhaps the best way to reach voters is via the internet.
That’s what the La Plata County League of Women Voters had in mind with a Wednesday evening candidate forum featuring three of the four candidates for the position. The virtual forum drew just less than 450 live viewers, and is now available on Durango Government Television’s YouTube channel.
Appearing via Zoom were Democrats Diane Mitsch Bush and James Iacino, along with Republican Lauren Boebert. Missing was incumbent Republican Scott Tipton, who also didn’t send any statements to the forum.
The three candidates appearing Wednesday all talked about ways they’d be the better choice to represent the district.
Answering viewer questions presented by Paul DeBell, an assistant professor in political science at Fort Lewis College in Durango, the three candidates made their cases to prevail in both the June 30 primary election and the Nov. 3 general election.
Boebert is an owner of Shooter’s Grill in Rifle. She’s challenging Tipton in the primary, casting herself as a true conservative to represent the district. She’s challenging Tipton’s alleged chumminess with Democrats who currently hold the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Iacino and Mitsch Bush are both challenging Tipton’s alleged lock-step adherence to President Donald Trump’s policies.
Mitsch Bush told forum viewers about her government experience as both a Routt County Commissioner and a nearly eight-year veteran of the Colorado House of Representatives.
“Our democracy is in danger,” Mitsch Bush told viewers, adding that she’s a “seasoned, tested, trusted” public servant who has worked across the aisle for her constituents.
“I’ve never been more concerned about the future of our country,” Iacino said. Citing his business experience — the Ridgway resident is a third-generation owner of the Seattle Fish Company — Iacino noted that company has long been a union shop, and said “we need to fight for economic mobility for everybody.”
Boebert also said said “this is one of the most challenging times in our country’s history.”
Boebert said the next 3rd District representative has to be “principled and strong” in defense of free enterprise and against government dependency.
The different views between the Democrats and Tipton’s Republican challenger were on vivid display during the roughly hour-long forum.
Responding to a question about the future of health care, both Iacino and Mitsch Bush said government needs to provide a “public option” to private health insurance. Government should also ensure rural health clinics, with access to mental health and women’s care.
Boebert noted that the current health care system is “broken,” but preferred finding options to open up competition for health care on the Western Slope.
“Nobody is incented to change,” Boebert said.
Some left-right agreement
The candidates did have similar answers to a couple of questions, with some differences, of course.
All favor community-based solutions to affordable housing. Boebert focused more on free markets. Iacino said federal funding should support those efforts. Mitsch Bush said local housing authorities have been effective, but said there needs to be a combination of state and federal efforts, along with public-private partnerships at the local level.
All three candidates also voiced full-throated support for the future of the U.S. Postal Service.
But the Democratic and Republican candidates had more sharp differences than agreement. Answers to a question about police reform illustrated those differences.
“This is our opportunity to effect the change we’ve needed,” Iacino said, noting that military equipment shouldn’t go to local police agencies.
Mitsch Bush said she supports current legislation to outlaw chokeholds and no-knock raids.
Noting that her first husband was a police officer, Mitsch Bush said he knew first-hand the need for training that allows officers to de-escalate confrontations.
“It’s insane that we have to have a discussion about defunding or disbanding (police agencies),” Boebert said, adding that there should be no room for bad officers or racism.
“We need to show compassion and empathy, but never (settle for) looting and violence,” she said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.