3rd congressional district Democratic primary candidates debate ahead of June vote
Former Colorado state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, Glenwood Springs attorney Karl Hanlon and ex-Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi bashed President Trump and his cabinet members and made their political agendas known at a recent Glenwood Springs Democratic debate.
The three are vying to win the nod in the June 26 primary to face Republican 3rd District Congressman Scott Tipton, the four-term incumbent from Cortez.
Before any of the blue candidates get their shot at taking on the president’s policies, one of them must first unseat Tipton, who has served Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2010.
It’s a district which, according to ballotpedia.org and the Colorado Secretary of State’s website, Tipton won by a 4.3 percent margin in 2010, a 12.3 percent margin in 2012, a 22.3 percent margin in 2014, and a 14.3 percent margin in 2016.
Safe to say, the last Democrat standing, pending the June 26 primary results, will have a steep, rocky mountain to climb in the November general election against Rep. Tipton.
The hour-long debate May 7 was sponsored by the political action group Indivisible CD3, and took place at the River Blend Coffee House. Questions ranged from how each Democratic candidate planned on defeating Tipton to their views on the Second Amendment, environmental issues and more.
“We were the first to come into this race and say we will not take corporate PAC money,” said Hanlon, a Carbondale resident and municipal and water attorney practicing in Glenwood Springs.
“As soon as you start down that path you start building relationships and entwine yourself in a world that you can never fully extricate yourself from, and we see that now when you look to our president, or Zinke, or Pruitt or, our favorite person in the room, Scott Tipton,” Hanlon said.
Mitsch Bush touted her past “progressive political career” and rattled off a list of endorsements her campaign had received on the trail, including several state legislators and former U.S. Sen. and Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar.
“I have been endorsed by the Progressive Democrats of America as the candidate in this primary,” Mitsch Bush said of the Denver chapter endorsement. “The reason they endorsed me is because I have a proven record of implementing progressive policy that matters and helps people’s lives.”
Speaking of progressives, Menconi, the former Eagle County commissioner and founder/director of a national youth charity, stated, “We live in an oligarchy.” He played up the fact that he campaigned for Bernie Sanders for president in 2016. “I gave him $100 when he jumped into the race. I’m a Berniecrat.”
At times, Menconi spoke irreverently regarding The Second Amendment.
“I’ve even considered repealing the Second Amendment,” Menconi said. “Now, our police departments are looking like military departments, and then it gets down into the hands of individuals like young people who shouldn’t have guns. So I’m going to never vote for a defense budget.”
While on the topic of guns, Mitsch Bush pushed her record of shooting back at the NRA by voting for universal background checks and magazine limitations.
“I got attacked in the local newspaper. ‘She doesn’t believe in the Constitution,'” Bush said. “I know how to fight the NRA.”
Hanlon, a proclaimed gun owner his entire life, took shots specifically at House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“What I find offensive, is that we have a coward on the House floor in Paul Ryan who said, ‘This conversation is too hard for us to have,'” Hanlon said. “If we can get the money out of the conversation then at least we can talk about it.”
Mitsch Bush, again, relied heavily on her recognitions and her record as a state legislator when an environmental policy question was raised.
“In 2017, I was named the Legislator of the Year by Conservation Colorado,” she said. “It’s not the economy or the environment. It’s the economy and the environment.”
Very critical of President Trump’s cabinet members, Hanlon did not mince words when talking about the current United States Secretary of the Interior or the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
“As a starting point you have to push back against an administration that is willing to sell off everything in their own interests,” Hanlon said. “Does it come to impeachment of cabinet level officials? It may well come to that if you look at what Zinke and Pruitt are doing.”
Menconi, obviously not a fan of fracking in oil and gas production, wants to ban the operation altogether.
“I don’t understand how, with the science, we can look our children in the face and say that this is a business,” Menconi said. “This is a Ponzi scheme.”
Ballots for both the Democratic and Republican primaries are expected to be mailed out the second week of June. For the first time this year, unaffiliated voters can vote in the party primaries without declaring an affiliation.
Unaffiliated voters can request of their county clerks either a Democratic or Republican primary ballot ahead of time. Otherwise, they will receive one of each in the mail and must choose which one to complete.
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