State House 33 Candidates Meet for First Forum
If you go
What: Congressional District 2 candidate forum
When: 6 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 29
Where: Broomfield City Council Chambers, 1 Descombes Drive
More info: broomfieldchamber.org
Jay Geyer: email at jay@JayGeyerforColorado.com or call 720-432-1390. On Twitter: @GeyerforCO
Matt Gray: email at Matt@MatthewGray.us or call 303-335-0219. On Twitter: @matthewogray
Eric Rutherford: email EricforColorado@gmail.com or call 303-944-1574
Kim Tavendale: email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 720-507-7455
Constituents heard Wednesday night from candidates running for State House 33 and learned their stance on everything from gun control, abortion and universal health care to funding for education and transportation and, not surprisingly, their thoughts on oil and gas.
Women wearing red “Moms Demand Action” T-shirts recorded portions of the candidate forum, and also in attendance were residents who are regular speakers at Broomfield City Council meetings where energy is on the agenda.
The two-and-a-half hour forum was held in Broomfield and hosted by the Broomfield Chamber of Commerce and League of Women Voters, was recorded and can be viewed on the city’s website .
Running for House District 33 — which includes Broomfield and portions of Erie, Lafayette, Louisville and Superior — are Independent Jay Geyer, Democrat Matt Gray, Republican Eric Rutherford and Libertarian Kim Tavendale.
Grayson Hofferber, Broomfield Chamber board president and moderator of the forum, allowed three minutes for opening statements before jumping into questions that were answered by all candidates in turn.
Geyer, a husband and father of two daughters, teaches ethics and political philosophy at the University of Colorado, chose to run as an independent after the 2016 campaign and election where it became “painfully clear to me that we have a broken system in this country and this state.”
“It became clear to me neither party is interested in fixing this broken system because they were reaping the benefits of it,” Geyer said. “I knew independent leadership was needed to fix the system and get things working again.”
He believes partisan gerrymandering is an issue that politicians have no reason, electorally-speaking, to reach across the aisle or to reach out to moderates, which is leading to increased polarization. Most of these politicians accept special interest money to fund their campaign, he said, which can lead to championing those interests even when they’re in conflict with community interest.
“I’m thrilled to run for HD33,” he said. ” You will know that I represent you. I won’t have any of those party bosses because I’m an independent and I’m not taking any money from partisan special interest groups so there’s no question where my loyalties lie.”
During his introduction Gray, who has served as Representative for two years, spent less time on his personal background and more on bipartisan legislation he wrote, sponsored and helped pass, including bills on tax credits for people aging in place, extending statute of limitation for domestic violence victims and providing legal protection of residents subject to forced pooling.
Part of the bill states residents will be immune from liability for costs arising from any spills, releases, damages or injuries resulting from oil and gas operations on the drilling unit.
“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished and exited for what we’ll do in the future,” he said.
Rutherford was raised in Boulder before graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy. He worked as a DEA agent in Texas and returned to Colorado to earn an MBA from CU Boulder. He is now a business owner and involved in several community boards and nonprofits.
Rutherford, who at one point during forum called himself a “Republican environmentalist” who favored 2,500-foot oil and gas setback proposal, said he doesn’t answer to his party, but rather lives and votes by his principles.
He said he believes every person is a value to society and should have the opportunity to shine; he believes in being a champion of natural resources for future generations and to secure clean water; to promote actions that slow climate change; to be a good steward of taxes and understanding the strength of a society is built on family.
Tavendale, a wife and mother of two children, is a small business owner and has lived in Broomfield since 2008. Originally from New Zealand, she grew up in Papua New Guinea, and said she is best described as a serial entrepreneur. She has two businesses, and is a partner in two more.
“Small business is very dear to my heart,” she said. “I’m a Libertarian because I care about people.”
She said she is concerned about the proper role of government, which she thinks should be protecting private property and protecting the individual right of people.
“Basically, we think you’re adults and should be treated as such,” she said. “I’m running for this House District 33 seat mainly because I get to share the table with these lovely gentlemen and we have some interesting and lively debates.”
Candidates were largely in agreement over what they perceive as most pressing issues, citing education and transportation for the district and oil and gas, particularly for Broomfield.
Lawmakers are not going to have long-term solutions until special interest groups are kept out, Geyer said, and people are willing to work across the aisle and not base a decision to support a bill on which party can claim a victory.
Hofferber asked several oil and gas questions, including whether the health, safety and welfare of Broomfield has been protected and what is a candidate’s position on Initiative 97, which would establish the minimum setback of oil and gas wells to 2,500 feet — up from the current 500 feet for homes and 1,000 feet for schools.
Gray, who did not give a definitive “yes or no” to the Initiative 97 question, started off his comments by bringing up Ballot Initiative 301 that says heath, safety and welfare is a priority in Broomfield and that “getting 57 percent of Broomfield to agree is actually relatively difficult.”
“We’re not anywhere close to where we need to be right now,” he said.
Geyer said he understands the community’s anger and believes the government has failed citizens; no one should have to be at risk from oil and gas developments. He does not support Initiative 97 because he thinks it’s bad policy that doesn’t allow people the freedom to choose to take on risk for themselves.
“I would be in favor, however, of a 2,500-foot consent permitter,” he said, “because I think 2,500 feet is as good of a place to start as any.”
Rutherford was emphatic of his support of 2,500 setbacks.
“Our children own this land,” he said. “Our children’s children own this land. Their grandchildren own this land.”
Rutherford, who called himself an amateur survivalist who loves the back country, said he is concerned about water pollution and wonders why the initiative is even a question.
“My point goes back to my principle of needing to take care of land for our unborn children,” he said.
As a mother, Tavendale understands the desire for a 2,500-foot setback.
“Do I want my kids living next door to a well?” she said. “No, I don’t. Half a mile away is close enough as far as I’m concerned.”
She said the idea of a big corporation with a lot of money coming in and saying they are going to develop minerals because they’re legally allowed is an “act of aggression.”
“Yes, I’d like to see wells 2,500 feet away,” she said.
On the topic of whether candidates would support universal health care, only Gray gave an answer that was met with applause.
“The answer is yes,” he said. “If you live in this country you should have access to health care.”
There are a lot of excuses why it can’t happen, he said, but none of them are good enough. Colorado has the ability and the economic resources to figure it out.
“It’s on us as government, as businesses and as a society to figure out how we’re going to do it,” Gray said, which can be done in part by listening to doctors, nurses and home health workers.
“Anyone here or at the general assembly that says there are children in this state that don’t deserve access to health care, ok, let’s have that debate,” he said. “It’s not a question of ‘if.’ It’s a question of ‘how.’”
Rutherford believes the concept is great in theory, but won’t work. Americans just don’t want to be told what to do and the Affordable Care Act is “a perfect example” of that, he said.
Tavendale, who has lived under universal health care, said she had to wait 22 months for a “non-life threatening surgery.” She doesn’t think people understand how expensive universal health care ends up being, she said, and there can be little choice in which hospital you go to or which doctor you see and there is a waiting list.
Universal health care has to be an “all or nothing” endeavour, she said, and not something Colorado could do on its own. It can work in some parts of the world, but its all struggling.
Geyer agreed that there is no reason to not have universal health care and that it is one example of the broken party system. He does not think it is economically feasible in Colorado where the state cannot afford to pay for roads or teachers.
“We’re a long ways from being able to even dream of affording something as expensive as universal health care in this state,” he said. “In the interim we have to find a way to meet people’s needs, especially for the most vulnerable among us.”
Candidates also came up with solutions to affordable housing, including Gray’s stance that government can make sure public servants, including teachers and police officers, are earning a liveable wage.
There will be a similar forum Aug. 29, also in the Broomfield Council Chambers, for the four candidates running for Congressional District 2.
Rutherford suggested offering 5- to 10-percent down on home costs so that those public servants can afford houses; monthly payments are not too high, he said, but not everyone has enough for a down payment.
Other interventions, Geyer, said would be to examine subsidizing affordable housing. Tavendale approached the issue from the side of developers who are coming up against high costs of building, which then get passed on to residents.
Candidates had time to visit with constituents, who were submitting questions throughout the forum, after the event.
Jennifer Rios: 303-473-1361, email@example.com or Twitter.com/Jennifer_Rios