Briefline

Candidates running to replace Lauren Boebert face off in bipartisan virtual forum

By: - June 9, 2022 4:53 pm

Clockwise from top left, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, state Sen. Don Coram, Alex Walker, Sol Sandoval and Adam Frisch participate in a virtual candidate forum on June 8, 2022. (Screenshots from Zoom presentation)

Five candidates for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District squared off Wednesday night in a rare virtual forum that included both Democrats and Republicans in the lead-up to party primaries.

The forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Colorado and moderated by Action 22 CEO Sara Blackhurst, let candidates lay out their policy priorities and qualifications to represent the district, which encompasses the Western Slope and swings east into the San Luis Valley and Pueblo County.

It also gave four of the congressional hopefuls a chance to spell out why they are a better fit than controversial incumbent Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Republican from Silt running for a second term.

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“There’s no doubt that our current candidate representing our district is the leader of the anger entertainment industry, spending her time firing people up on Twitter, firing people up on the cable news channels, and not focusing on the district’s needs on water, the process of immigration, gun protection, inflation,” said Adam Frisch, a former Aspen city council member. “We need people that are going to get there and take this job seriously, not embarrass us and our neighbors.”

Boebert faces a primary challenger in state Sen. Don Coram of Montrose. Whoever wins the Republican nomination will face either Frisch, Pueblo community organizer Sol Sandoval or political newcomer Alex Walker in the general election.

Sandoval appealed to voters of the district by sharing her experience of living paycheck to paycheck, not being able to afford health care and dealing with student loans — common circumstances of middle-class Americans struggling with inflation and a rising cost of living.

“We must elect someone who is going to fight like hell for all people,” she said. “I’m running because nobody is coming to save us. We have to save ourselves.” Sandoval said she would have voted for both the recent federal budget bill and bipartisan infrastructure bill in Congress — both of which Boebert voted against — to bring money and jobs into the district.

Walker, who referred to himself as “politically homeless” and also describes himself as a moderate, said he subscribes to a set of values versus partisan issues. Those values, he said, include free markets, health care freedom and health care access.  That strategy of refusing to toe the Democratic party line is how he hopes to connect with the district’s unaffiliated voters, who make up the largest voting bloc.

“I see two broken parties and an opportunity to bring common sense back to Washington,” he said. “I will push back on what’s broken in both parties.”

Coram similarly appealed to the “middle 80%” of voters who do not sit on the extreme right or left and who he said are being ignored by their elected officials. He highlighted instances of bipartisanship and his track record of being a “negotiator” and “facilitator” in the Colorado General Assembly.

“Loud rhetoric and promoting hate and division are not going to solve the problems we face in the United States today, and especially in the 3rd District,” he said.

Water a top concern

Boebert, on the other hand, affirmed her status as an unapologetic conservative and argued that any vote against her in the primary or general election is a “vote for (President) Joe Biden.” She reiterated her common talking points that Americans are “paying the price” for Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “failed policies.”

When asked about federal policies to reduce gun violence, the Democratic candidates spoke about responsible gun ownership, something Walker said “is not a pipe dream.”

Sandoval, who said she owns guns and supports the Second Amendment, supports expanded background checks and red flag laws.

“With any right comes responsibility. And let’s face it: enough is enough,” she said of gun violence like the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas.

Meanwhile, Boebert argued that leftover COVID-19 relief money sent to schools should be used to harden school security. Coram said leaders should focus on mental health and enforcing existing firearm regulations.

Responding to a question about their two biggest policy priorities if elected, Coram, Walker and Frisch specifically mentioned water policy, but all five candidates expressed concern over water issues in general.

“For years, Colorado and the West have suffered from drought,” Boebert said. “I support increased water storage, like the Wolf Creek Reservoir up in Moffat County and worthwhile delivery projects that will supply clean water in dry times. I’m a strong advocate for protecting local communities’ water rights and keeping their water in the 3rd District.”

Walker wants to see more legislation to encourage “greywater” recycling systems and the use of federal funds to capture that water and reuse it. He also spoke about the connection between water and climate disasters like increased wildfires.

“We’re about to be consumed by wildfires,” so water conservation and deployment will save lives, he said. “Any candidate who does not get water like the back of their hand should be disqualified from this race.” Walker’s background is in mechanical engineering.

The candidates also answered questions about abortion access, immigration, prescription drug prices and the use of federal lands for oil and gas drilling. A recording of the forum is available on the League of Women Voters of Colorado’s YouTube page.

Boebert leads the five candidates in fundraising overall, with Sandoval leading the Democrats.

The primary election is June 28, but voters should expect their mail-in ballots to arrive soon. Unaffiliated voters, if they did not already pre-select a race, can vote in either primary.

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.

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