GOP candidates attend forum

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— From the Patriot Act to Routt County's skyline regulations, candidates at Wednesday's Republican forum touched on numerous issues important to area voters.

There just weren't many of those voters present to hear the discussion.

About a dozen people attended the two-hour forum at the Fairfield Inn in Steamboat Springs, where all four Republican candidates for county commissioner seats and two of the five GOP candidates for the 3rd Congressional District seat gathered to discuss their campaigns and solicit questions from voters.

Among the candidates in attendance were state Rep. Gregg Rippy of Glenwood Springs and Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino, opponents in the Aug. 10 primary for the U.S. House of Representatives seat being vacated by Rep. Scott McInnis. United Airlines pilot and naval reservist Matt Aljanich of Steamboat, state Rep. Matt Smith of Grand Junction and Palisade peach grower Greg Walcher also are on the Aug. 10 primary ballot for the seat.

Rippy, a four-year state representative and owner of an asphalt paving business, said the issues important to voters in the vast 3rd Congressional District are incredibly varied, but all involve quality of life, such as Social Security and education.

Voters want an honest candidate who's accessible and has experience, said Rippy, who thinks some provisions of the Patriot Act should be repealed because they infringe too much on basic personal freedoms.

Corsentino said he's the only Republican candidate who can attract Democratic and independent voters in November's general election. Congress needs more people with his law enforcement experience and knowledge of homeland security issues, he said.

"We need not another water lawyer in Congress," he said. "We need a law enforcement officer. I can make a difference to protect your children and this nation and its infrastructure."

In the race for the District 2 county commissioner seat, Hayden resident Jeff Fry said he's concerned about user fees in winter recreation areas, the need for affordable housing and transportation issues stemming from crowded county roads. Fry also said he supports keeping the Steamboat Springs Airport open for safety reasons, and he opposes the proposed Emerald Mountain Partnership.

Former county building official Mark Marchus, Fry's opponent on the GOP primary ballot, wants to see local government better represent its people.

"I'd like to see Routt County government turned back to the people," Marchus said. "Bring back common sense to government."

District 1 incumbent Nancy Stahoviak discussed what she described as county accomplishments since she took office in 1992, including the formation of an open lands plan for the county, wildland fire management plans, a cooperative plan to manage both county airports and the formation of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority. If re-elected, she'll continue to work toward affordable housing and the development and construction of a county justice center, Stahoviak said.

Stahoviak's opponent in the primary, Stagecoach resident Bea Westwater, said she sees a county that is divided. There's too much emphasis on the city of Steamboat instead of the county as a whole, Westwater said.

"(Routt County) needs to have an identity," she said. "People don't know Routt County exists."

Bringing head-of-household jobs into the county is one of Westwater's priorities. Children who grow up here need good jobs that will keep them in the county, she said.

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