Jay Fetcher and John Salazar planned to meet at Mocha Molly's in downtown Steamboat Springs on Friday and then head out onto Lincoln Avenue to greet sidewalk sale shoppers. They never got away from the late breakfast crowd at the coffee shop.
Fetcher, who ranches near Clark, is the Democratic candidate for Colorado Senate District 8. Salazar, who operates a potato farm in the San Luis Valley, is the Democratic candidate running for U.S. Congress in Colorado's 3rd District.
A pilot, Salazar had planned to fly himself to Steamboat, then on to a staff meeting in Grand Junction and another appearance in Montrose. The morning showers foiled that plan, and the candidate was on a tighter schedule than planned.
Patrons at the downtown coffee shop engaged the candidates to talk about issues of water policy, education and health care, Fetcher said. Some wanted to know their positions on the ongoing struggle to balance the demand for snowmobiling and backcountry skiing in the Routt National Forest.
Salazar said he would start by taking steps to ensure Forest Service rangers have enough funding to carry out recreation management plans.
"Snowmobiles are very important to the rural economy," Salazar said. "But the U.S. Forest Service doesn't have the money to implement the plans. We need to do something about that."
He said Cumbres Pass, in Colorado House District 62, which he represents, has skiing and snowmobiling areas on opposite sides of the highway.
Fetcher remains convinced the state Legislature should be able to put a plan before voters this fall that would resolve the impending fiscal crisis created by conflicting portions of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights and Amendment 23 (funding for public schools). If Colorado government were more balanced between the two major parties, a compromise could be reached, he said.
"I truly believe the gridlock is caused by Republicans," Fetcher said. "The three houses (governor's office, state Senate and Assembly) are controlled by the Republicans. If there was more balance, I think there are a lot of moderate Republicans who would come together (to reach a compromise). That was a major part of my decision to run."
Fetcher supports the general principles of Amendment 23. However, during times of budget shortfalls, he would recommend suspending one provision that allows increases to allocations for education at 1 percent more than inflation.
Fetcher favors retaining provisions in TABOR that require voter approval for tax increases. However, he favors reversing "ratcheting down" provisions that adjust state spending downward based on inflationary trends, among other things.
Both candidates are sensitive to the challenges facing family farmers on Colorado's Western Slope. Salazar said he would like to explore excusing true family farmers from estate taxes.