Craig Ray Beck, a Craig resident and Craig City Council member, might have said it best when asked Thursday night if there was an obvious standout among candidates vying for Colorado Senate District 8.
“I don’t know if there is a clear winner yet,” Beck said. “Seriously, there was a lot of agreement on the big issues” facing the state.
Ray’s assessment of Thursday night’s debate between Senate District 8 incumbent Jean White, R-Hayden, current House District 57 Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, and Libertarian candidate Sacha Weis was a logical reaction among the more than 50 local voters who attended the event hosted by the Bears Ears Tea Party Patriots at The Center of Craig, 601 Yampa Ave.
Although the candidates seemed to agree on state issues such as taxes, energy, education and protecting Colorado’s water rights, their level of preparedness left an impression on some local voters.
“Sacha, I thought, was unprepared. I think she presented herself all right, but I didn’t think she was aware of the issues,” said Robert Whitehead, of Craig. “I thought Randy did a great job and so did Jean, to be honest. I don’t have to say who my preference is, but I think Randy and Jean knew the issues and prepared themselves well.”
Although linked in their arguments favoring a flat tax and in defending Northwest Colorado’s coal industry, there was a divide on a particular social issue that long has been a topic of debate in Colorado and across the country.
In May, following Gov. John Hickenlooper’s calling of a special session of the General Assembly, the House Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs voted down Senate Bill 12-002 by a 5-4 vote.
SB12-002, Concerning the Authorization of Civil Unions, would have granted same-sex couples the right to marry.
“I voted ‘no,’ not only once, but twice and twice in two weeks,” Baumgardner said. “The Colorado Constitution says marriage is between one man and one woman. If you support civil unions, then you voted against your own Constitution.”
White said she voted in favor of civil unions and cited one of the country’s founding documents.
“I voted in support of civil unions and I will continue to support civil unions because as a Republican I believe in the freedoms of individuals, personal responsibility and getting government out of our lives,” White said. “If you look at the Declaration of Independence, it says, ‘We are all created equal.’ For me it’s an equality issue and a civil rights issue.”
Weis said she would vote in favor of civil unions if given the opportunity as a legislator.
Beginning June 4, Moffat County Elections Supervisor Stephanie Beckett began sending mail-in ballots for the June 26 Colorado Primary Election to local registered voters.
Many residents in the audience said they already had received their ballot but had not yet cast their vote in what is expected to be a close race between White and Baumgardner.
“I think we have good candidates in S.D. 8, it’s too bad they have to run against each other,” Beck said. “There are still some people that are undecided, but I think there’s still plenty of time before the primary.”