Marc Holtzman does not mince words about illegal immigration.
During a lunchtime discussion with the public at Old Town Pub in Steamboat Springs on Wednesday, the Republican candidate for governor said Colorado is in "a state of emergency" because of the 400,000 illegal immigrants who he said cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
Referring to conversations he has had with outspoken illegal immigration opponent Tom Tancredo, a Republican U.S. congressman from Littleton, Holtzman said the inadequately protected southern border of the United States allows people of Middle Eastern descent and possible terrorists to "shave their beards" and enter the country.
"This is a national security threat," he said, adding that prayer mats and copies of the Koran have been found near the border. "I really get worked up about it."
"I am not anti-immigrant," he continued, citing his four grandparents who emigrated from Eastern Europe and Russia and saying that although the United States has a capacity for people to enter the country legally, immigration laws need to be uniformly upheld.
He defended the work of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a group of citizen volunteers who patrol national borders.
"Every day, these courageous Minutemen encounter immigration officials who tell them not to apprehend people," Holtzman said. "I think it's utterly shameful that we have what's called 'selective enforcement' of laws."
Holtzman is running for governor in the Republican primary against U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez of Arvada. Holtzman left his post as president of the University of Denver in the summer and is a former secretary of technology under Gov. Bill Owens.
Former state Speaker of the House Lola Spradley is running for lieutenant governor on the Holtzman ticket.
Holtzman's words rang true for retired Routt County resident Buck Buckland, who worked for the National Security Agency for 36 years. Buckland, the Routt County coordinator for Holtzman's campaign, said Holtzman "won him over" with his staunch opposition to Referendum C, a ballot measure approved by voters in November that allows the state to keep $3.5 billion in surplus taxpayer refunds throughout the next five years.
"He stuck in there like a bulldog," said Buckland, who expressed concerns Wednesday about the amount of money Steamboat schools are spending on English as a Second Language instruction.
"I think it should be advertised as 'English as a Primary Language,' because this is where you live," Holtzman said. "I'm not against people learning a second language. The best thing we can do to help people assimilate into our culture is get them to make English their first language -- it's the humane thing to do."
Holtzman said education reform is a key plank in his campaign platform, along with preserving Colorado's quality of life and bringing more high-tech businesses to the state. He is involved with the state branch of First Class Education, a national nonprofit organization proposing a measure for November's statewide ballot that would require school districts to meet mandated funding levels for teacher salaries and instructional materials.
"We're trying to put money where it really matters," he said.
The two Democratic candidates for governor are former Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter and state Rep. Gary Lindstrom of Breckenridge. Ritter is scheduled to meet with the public at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Steamboat Yacht Club on Yampa Street.
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