The candidates for state representative for House District 13 and for state Senate District 8 squared off Wednesday night, Oct. 24, at the Middle Park High School auditorium.
The forum, organized by the Sky-Hi News and the Middle Park High School civics classes, included: Claire Levy, a Democrat running for House District 13; Adam Ochs, a Republican candidate for the same seat; Randy Baumgardner, a Republican candidate for the state Senate District 8; and Emily Tracy, a Democrat running for Senate District 8.
Middle Park High School seniors Emily Dee, Morgan Milstead, Maddie Lutz, and Nico Larsen acted as moderators for the forum and asked questions concerning numerous topics.
Partisan divides on a number of topics came to forefront as candidates offered their perspectives on topics including: Funding for k-12 education, regulations for driving under the influence of marijuana, subsidies for low income families and their children, traffic congestion on the Interstate 70 corridor, and gun control.
Republican candidates believed that funding for K-12 education was adequate and should be handled more on a local level.
"What is not adequate is how we use those funds," Ochs said. Ochs stated that he believed individual school districts should be able to decide what is the best way to apply funding from the state to their children.
While Democratic candidates proposed the need to rebuild state funding of K-12 education after funding cuts have been made by the state in the wake of the recession.
"K-12 education, I think, is one of the most vital things that your tax dollars do for the future of Colorado," Levy said.
With Colorado already legalizing the use of medical marijuana and Amendment 64 on the ballot for this year, which, if passed, would legalize recreational use of marijuana for persons over the age of 21, the topic of setting a limit as to the amount active THC that should be allowed in a person's system while driving was a hot topic during the forum and is sure to be brought up in the Legislature this session.
All of the candidates agreed that more research needs to be done to establish a limit for the amount of marijuana in a person's blood stream while driving.
"I don't think the science is clear enough yet that we know exactly what that limit needs to be," Tracy said.
Rep. Levy previously sponsored a House bill that sought to establish a limit of five nanograms/liter of active THC in a person's bloodstream while operating a motor vehicle. The bill did not pass and Levy did not support similar bills after the initial one, saying she believed more research needed to be completed before a limit was established.
Ochs commented that he didn't necessarily approve of per se laws.
"If you are driving on the road and a police officer has a reason to pull you over, you probably need to be pulled off the road for some period of time," Ochs said. "At that point an arrest should be made and you should not be driving for the rest of the night."
"In that case legal limits are not all that important because when you get a person off the road and at that point it goes into the judicial system and we let the courts decide," Ochs said.
Child care and education
Republican candidates said providing subsidies to low income families for early childhood education and child care was not the role of government but instead the role of our social institutions.
"I don't think it's the government's role to get totally involved in the child care industry," Baumgardner said. "There are organizations out there that do provide assistance other than the government."
Baumgardner continued to say he believes the amount of money that would be required for the state to become involved in child care was too much a financial burden.
Democrats strongly supported such measures, citing the belief that early childhood education and quality child care is crucial to the future of children.
"Many children who come from lower income families who don't have access to good child care aren't ready to learn when they get to kindergarten and it takes years for them to catch up, if ever," Levy said.
In regards to addressing congestion on the I-70 corridor, Republicans and Democrats agreed that a public project to address this issue would involve large expenditures by the state. They hinted that the issue would be best sorted out through the private sector and solutions that have been discussed so far, including widening the interstate and building a rail system, are not the best alternatives.
Discussion took place concerning how the congestion on I-70 spawns from a peak-demand problem.
"People have been working on this issue for more than 15 years," Levy said. "Looking at how to smooth out the peak travel to make better use of this highway."
Levy commented on possibly having incentives through the private sector, such as ski resorts, offering deals for people to go skiing during the week instead of on the weekend.
Ochs commented on the uncertainty that surrounds building a rail system.
"How long will it take? How much will it cost?" he said. "Will it actually relive any traffic congestion? Will people use it?"
Ochs believes there may be more opportunity through a free market solution by allowing people to advertise themselves to provide rides to other people, something that is not allowed at the state level without burdensome regulation, according to Ochs.
When discussing gun control issues the candidates all seemed to agree there would be no danger posed to Second Amendment rights for Colorado residents. While Democrats believed there were some possibilities for stricter controls, those possibilities would need to be discussed by all interested parties before any regulations were passed.
"I don't have a position, I don't have a solution, but I know we need to talk about it as a community," Tracy said.
Republican candidates believed that the right to own and use weapons should not be infringed upon by the government in any way and that gun controls already in place in the state of Colorado are adequate.
"We can't legislate people that walk into a theater and kill people," Baumgardner said. Baumgardner is endorsed by three different pro-Second Amendment groups and said he has been a champion of Second Amendment rights as the representative for District 57. "The gun itself does nothing," Baumgardner said. "It's the person holding that weapon that actually inflicts the injury."
More information about the candidates can be located at skyhidailynews.com by viewing the questionnaires they responded to or by visiting the individual website for each candidate.