Election forum draws 160 people | SteamboatToday.com

Election forum draws 160 people

Local and state candidates faced off Tuesday night in an election forum hosted by the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors, Routt County Democratic and Republican parties and the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

About 160 people attended the annual candidate forum, held at The Steamboat Grand.

County commissioner incumbent Steve Ivancie and challenger Cari Hermacinski shared opposing views on the county’s urban growth boundary and a moratorium the county has on marijuana operations during a series of questions from the forum moderator, Pilot & Today Editor Lisa Schlichtman.

"I would not have probably renewed a blanket moratorium on marijuana," said Hermacinski, adding that she would have at least held public hearings on the topic before deciding on a moratorium.

Ivancie said he voted for the moratorium on new dispensaries on county land and said he thinks that commercial marijuana operations should stay within incorporated cities because of a variety of factors, including law enforcement and city regulations.

"The moratorium is the right thing to do," Ivancie said.

In regard to the urban growth boundary, Hermacinski said she thinks that the boundary system is broken, while Ivancie said it was a system that has served its purpose.

"Steamboat Springs looks the way it does because of this hard line," Ivancie said.

Incumbent state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Chuck McConnell fielded questions about electric cooperatives, how they would represent Routt County and the major differences between themselves and their competitor.

Mitsch Bush said her track record as a state representative, including having bipartisan support on 13 bills she sponsored, was evidence of her abilities.

"I am running for this election on my record and promises kept," Mitsch Bush said.

McConnell said it was his experience, as well, that should impress voters in this election. A former engineer, he will bring his knowledge of energy sources to the state.

Colorado will thrive best without tax increases or excess regulations, McConnell said.

"We need to keep our tax base low to keep our government efficient," McConnell said. "Colorado needs a state government that has the political will to get out of the way of business."

Congress candidate Abel Tapia, who is running for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, spoke Tuesday about his background as a business owner and his 20-year political career.

Tapia said the most important issues for him were economic development, education and protecting seniors and veterans.

"Our veterans deserve to be given the best care possible — not only when they serve but when they come back here," Tapia said. "We have let them down."

Tapia, a Democrat, said Congress has a low favorability rating and has passed the fewest number of bills and worked the fewest days in history during the past two years. He said he would try to stop partisan gridlock by working better alongside Republicans.

"The key is to find common denominators," said Tapia, who is running against incumbent Scott Tipton.

Also at Thursday’s forum were Routt County treasurer incumbent Brita Horn and her challenger, Oak Creek Mayor Nikki Knoebel, as well as Routt County coroner candidate Darrel Levingston. Coroner incumbent Rob Ryg was unable to attend, but Sheriff Garrett Wiggins, who is running unopposed for re-election, gave a statement on his behalf.

Colorado State Board of Education 3rd Congressional District incumbent Marcia Neal and challenger Henry Roman also were present, fielding questions about their background in education, what they could offer at the state level and their views on Common Core standards.

Videos were shown for some additional candidates and representatives for the No on Amendment 67 and No on Amendment 68 campaigns as well as a representative in support of Proposition 104 also spoke during the event.

A video recording of the forum will be available at SteamboatToday.com later this week and will be shown during upcoming broadcasts on TV18.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow