Congressional candidates speak out at Democratic forum in Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

Congressional candidates speak out at Democratic forum in Steamboat

Democratic candidate for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District Diane Mitsch Bush of Steamboat Springs makes a point at a campaign event in Steamboat Springs on Monday night, as fellow candidates Karl Hanlon, left, and Arn Menconi listen. All three Democrats are vying in the June 26 primary race for the right to challenge incumbent Congressman Scott Tipton in the November general election.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Nearing the end of a long tour through the 29 counties that comprise Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, it was clear that the three Democrats vying to challenge Congressman Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, in the November election were comfortable with one another and their audience during a Monday campaign event in downtown Steamboat Springs.

Karl Hanlon, who grew up on a ranch in North Park and now lives in Carbondale; Arn Menconi, an attorney and former Eagle County commissioner, who has formed nonprofits that benefit children; and former State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, of Steamboat Springs, showed their senses of humor were intact with the primary election 14 days away on June 26.

"I feel like I'm speed dating," Hanlon quipped.

Menconi, who holds an MBA degree from the University of Denver, even traveled to Steamboat with Hanlon's campaign manager.

Mitsch Bush, who represented Routt and Eagle counties at the state legislature before stepping down in November 2017 to campaign for Congress, told about 75 people gathered along the banks of the Yampa River on the deck of Sake2U restaurant, the critical question in the race was who was best suited to defeat Tipton.

Menconi earned a laugh from the crowd by asking, "Raise your hand if you haven't already made up you mind to vote for Diane."

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Minutes earlier, a passing rafter on the river had called out, "Go Diane!"

Catherine Carson, moderator and chairwoman of the Routt County Democrats, asked the three candidates to describe how they would fix the nation's woes related to health insurance.

"There's only one (way) — long-term, universal single-payer health care,” Mitsch Bush said. “We're the only industrialized democracy that doesn't have it. We need to protect and defend Medicare. (House Speaker Paul) Ryan et al are bent on shrinking it. We must defend CHIP (the Children's Health Insurance Program).”

Menconi, who told the audience that he has been arrested more than once while taking part in demonstrations at the nation's capital, quickly acknowledged that he was the most outspoken of the three candidates. He asserted the U.S. could provide health care for all Americans if it spent less on the "multi-national military/security" industrial complex.

"I may be the Bobby Seale of the three," he said, referring to the former Black Panther from the mid-1960s, but, "How are we going to pay for this $700 billion," in military spending?

Hanlon said he would seek to make changes to the Obama Administration's Affordable Care Act so that it doesn't punish the rural counties in his district.

"There are moments when it did great things," Hanlon said of Obamacare. "There's no question bolstering the ACA is a high priority. We need to make it more transparent. Without question, universal health care is a human right … We can't have what the ACA did in rural America."

He writes on his campaign website, "Rural communities continue to suffer from a lack of competition both in health care providers and insurance providers. The result has been ever-increasing premiums coupled with decreasing access to quality health care."

Asked by Carson for their reactions to the Trump Administration's stance on dismantling international trade agreements, Menconi said he has always been opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. President Trump withdrew the United States from the pact just days after taking office in early 2017. He described the TPP as a means to benefit multi-national corporations at the expense of America citizens.

Mitsch Bush had a very different take. She pointed out the tariffs the administration has placed on steel also apply to aluminum and that could hurt Colorado's outdoor equipment industries.

"The decisions were based on emotion, and a wide array of local businesses are going to be hurt," Mitsch Bush said. "Those policies were originally aimed at China, and no (they affect) all our partners. They are going to skewer our outdoor manufacturing industries, whether it's Moots and Eriksen (bicycle companies in Steamboat) or Osprey packs in Cortez. Those things are going to cost more."

Hanlon noted that American agriculture will be hurt by the dissolution of trade agreements.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.