Democratic contenders in CD3 race face off in e-forum

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Diane Mitsch Bush touted her political experience and James Iacino his business background as distinguishing factors voters should consider in the upcoming primary to determine the Democratic nominee to run for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District seat.

As ballots for the June 30 primary election hit the mail Monday, the two Democrats introduced themselves to would-be voters in an online Zoom forum that evening. The forum, moderated by former state lawmaker Roger Wilson, was sponsored by the Democratic parties of Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties.

“Voter registration is changing in the 3rd District,” said Mitsch Bush, the former Routt County commissioner and Colorado state representative who came up short in her 2018 bid to unseat incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton.

With 39% of the sprawling congressional district’s voters now registered as unaffiliated, and many Republicans she said she has talked to looking for a representative who will stay true to their rural Colorado roots, Mitsch Bush said she has the crossover support to win this time around.

“Moderate Republicans, including many ranchers and small business people, are sick and tired of Trump, and want someone in Congress who will represent the people,” Mitsch Bush said, calling Tipton a “lap dog” for President Donald Trump and his policies.

She said her experience working across the aisle in the state Legislature, and building consensus among people with diverse political beliefs in Routt County will serve her well in Congress.

Challenging her for the nomination is Iacino, a third-generation Coloradan now living in Ridgway, and the owner of his family’s longtime business, the Seattle Fish Co.

“The key to this district is meeting folks where they are … going out and hearing them directly,” Iacino said of his ability to relate to people on issues that affect them personally.

“What have wages done, compared to their costs? What about jobs and education opportunities? … What people are tired of now on both sides is the political extremes.”

Representing the 3rd District, he said, “is about listening to people, and really making a connection with them one-on-one.”

The forum touched on several timely issues, from the federal government’s role in responding to the coronavirus pandemic and addressing police brutality and race relations, to immigration policy and the United States’ standing in the international community on trade, military conflict and climate policy.

“We’ve seen serious deficiencies in our federal government’s ability to react to this pandemic,” Iacino said, adding that funding cuts for the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization is the wrong approach.

“That only makes us weaker as a nation when we’re trying to respond to a pandemic,” he said. “We need to work with our partners around the world to address this.”

Mitsch Bush said advance coordination and communication on a world scale is crucial, and did not happen on the part of the U.S. in the case of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The lack of a science-based federal preparedness plan has contributed to the spread of a disease, and has also caused death,” she said. “This administration has paid no attention to science.”

Both candidates said they support expansion of the H2A visa program to provide necessary workers for the agricultural and hospitality industries in the 3rd District as part of a comprehensive immigration reform plan.

They also said DACA protections should continue for those who arrived with their families as children and remain undocumented, until a path to citizenship can be established.

“Right now, we have a 12-year average waiting period (to establish citizenship),” Iacino said. “That’s often not a possibility for folks who need to be here working and providing for their families.”

Asked what committee appointments they would seek if elected to Congress, both candidates picked Agriculture and Natural Resources as being the most relevant to 3rd District constituents. They differed on their third choice, though, as Mitsch Bush opted for Transportation, and Iacino for Small Business.

A recording of the forum is expected to be made available by the Democratic parties in the three counties for voters to view ahead of the primary election.

Iacino and Mitsch Bush also are slated to participate in a Wednesday evening Zoom forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of La Plata County and other co-sponsors.

They are to be joined by Republican challenger Lauren Boebert of Rifle, who hopes to win her party’s nomination over Tipton in the June 30 primary. Tipton has indicated that he will be unable to participate in that forum.