Candidates get down to business at chamber forum

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Candidates vying in local, state and national races in the upcoming election answered a range of questions at an event hosted by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

Labor shortages, energy policies and water scarcity were among the issues they discussed.

The event featured a total of eight candidates vying for five seats. Republican Bobbie Daniel faces Charles Pink for election to the Mesa County Commission in District 2. Democrat AliceMarie Salve-Emond faces Republican Matt Soper for election to the Colorado House of Representatives in District 54. Democrat Damon Davis faces Republican Rick Taggart for election to the Colorado House of Representatives in District 55. Republican Janice Rich faces Democrat David Stahlke for election to the Colorado Senate in District 7. Democrat Adam Frisch faces Republican Lauren Boebert for election to the U.S. House of Representatives in Colorado’s Third District. 

Salve-Emond declined to participate in the chamber forum. Boebert, the incumbent, didn’t attend because Congress was in session.

The candidates mentioned their backgrounds and experiences as well as some of their goals during brief opening statements.

Rich cited her experience as a Mesa County clerk and treasurer and state representative. She said all but one of the legislative measures of which she was a sponsor were enacted.

Stahlke said he his work in information technology has taught him the importance of collaboration and consensus as well as the pursuit of real world solutions.

Taggart mentioned his experience as a corporate executive as well as his service on the Grand Junction City Council and local boards.

Davis, a lawyer, said he grew up in Mesa County and remains committed to building a better community. He also cited his support for affordable housing, environmental protections, the middle class and unions.

Soper cited his record as a state legislator defending farms, protecting water and bringing funding to Western Colorado.

Pink said he’s not a politician, but would promote more balanced energy policies, outdoor recreation, responsible development and water conservation.

Daniel said she’ll listen and collaborate to address issues. “We’re problem solving from Day One.”

Frisch described himself as a business owner and former member of the Aspen City Council who’s more interested in solving problems than political affiliations. “If there was a get stuff done party, I’d be in that party.”

Asked to identify what they consider the most pressing issues, Davis and Soper cited labor shortages and the difficulties employers face in finding workers.

Soper said the lack of accessibility and cost of child care has exacerbated the problem, as has the retirement of older workers.

Rich and Taggart cited increasing business regulation and taxation.

Stahlke said an alternative route is needed to address closures of Interstate Highway 70 through Glenwood Canyon.

Frisch said the first thing he’d do if elected is join the Problem Solvers Caucus in Congress and find ways to work across political aisles to address issues.

Asked to discuss energy policies, most of the candidates said they support an
all-of-the-above approach.

Taggart said fossil fuels remain critical, but he also favors renewable and nuclear energy. “At a state level we need to support all of this.”

Davis said all energy sources are needed now, but he supported a transition to clean energy sources. There’s a lot of potential, he said, for solar energy in Colorado.

The candidates also agreed the scarcity of water presents a pressing problem to address.

“Water is the most important thing we have in Western Colorado,” Soper said. He called for funding and implementing the Colorado Water Plan providing a framework for short-term and long-term water planning throughout the state.

“Water is a huge deal,” Stahlke said, calling for the more efficient use of water and conservation measures.

Davis called for more efficient irrigation as well as landscaping restrictions to conserve water. Rich called for more storage.

Taggart said the Colorado River Compact delineating water use among Colorado and lower basin states should be renegotiated. 

Daniel said she’d oppose any efforts to transfer more water to the Front Range of Colorado or lower basin states. “We need to make sure the water we have here stays here.” 

Pink said educational efforts are needed to help conserve water, but lower basin states should be held more accountable for water use.

In their short closing statements, several candidates called for a more unified effort to address issues as well as more engagement in the process.

Pink said the answers provided at forum demonstrated there was common ground. “We’re not that divided.” 

Daniel invited the public to participate. “It’s your government. We work for you. I want to partner with you.”