Faceoff in CD3, amenable AG debate highlight Club 20 event | AspenTimes.com

Faceoff in CD3, amenable AG debate highlight Club 20 event

Matthew Bennett
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Democratic candidate for 3rd Congressional District Diane Mitsch Bush, left, and Republican Congressman Scott Tipton, right, speak during the Club 20 debates at Two Rivers Convention Center Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in Grand Junction, Colo. (Chancey Bush/The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel via AP)

Club 20, billed as the "Voice of the Western Slope," held its fall political debates Saturday in Grand Junction and, while numerous candidates vigorously debated and cross-examined their opponents, the hotly contested race for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District seat proved the most contentious showdown.

After what was to be the headline act, a gubernatorial debate between Republican Walker Stapleton and Democrat Jared Polis, failed to materialize when Polis opted out of the event, the CD3 debate between incumbent Republican Scott Tipton and Democratic challenger Diane Mitsch Bush became the main event.

"You asked me a question, let me answer! Those are the rules," Mitsch Bush fired back at Tipton during one of their numerous heated exchanges.

Tipton did not waste any time comparing his opponent to Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. Mitsch Bush, however, quickly pushed back at Tipton's socialist portrayal of her candidacy and told the audience that she would promote bipartisanship and not fall victim to big donors, but rather serve her constituents.

When asked if she would support Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House should the Democrats take control of the House this November, the former state representative and Routt County commissioner responded, "I am going to support the candidate who is best for our district.

"We need new leadership," Mitsch Bush said. "I will not necessarily support Nancy Pelosi, but you know what? You guys are using this issue to cast our attention away from the bills that you have passed."

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Finding an issue Tipton and Bush agreed upon was like finding affordable housing in Aspen — no way.

Although Club 20 often gets labeled as right-leaning, this year's fall conference and debates, audience-wise, arguably leaned left.

Tipton had his faithful base in attendance, but Mitsch Bush fans definitely purchased their fair share of tickets. However, once their candidate left the stage, they too left Grand Junction's Two Rivers Convention Center, resulting in a sparse crowd for Stapleton's Q&A session.

Polis opted out of participating in the Club 20 debate, and told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent in a recent interview that he instead chose to schedule the Oct. 6 debate sponsored by the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel and Colorado Mesa University, because it's a free event as opposed to Club 20's paid admission format.

According to Club 20.org, a non-member ticket for Saturday only, which included meetings, debates and a keynote luncheon, carried with it a price tag of $155 if purchased before Aug. 31 and $175 if bought after that date. However, non-members wishing to just to see the evening debates did have the opportunity to get in for $25.

Although the club made up of Western Slope governments and business interests has historically charged, with a marquee sponsor in Chevron, many Mitsch Bush fans laughed when Club 20 Executive Director Christian Reece said ahead of the Stapleton Q&A that organizers still had no idea why Rep. Polis declined their invitation.

"There's plenty of people in my district, there's plenty of people who live here in Mesa County that simply can't afford that ticket price," Colorado House District 26 Rep. Dylan Roberts, whose district includes Eagle County, said after his debate with Republican challenger Nicki Mills.

Reece told the Post Independent that Club 20 was "extremely disappointed" in Polis' decision not to participate, and said her organization found out through a press release, not from the Polis campaign directly.

Republicans, Democrats and independents alike certainly got their money's worth during the debate for the open Colorado Attorney General seat between Republican George Brauchler and Democrat Phil Weiser. Lively, bipartisan and anything but mean-spirited, the two candidates discussed contentious topics like Roe v. Wade and LGBTQ rights with civility and respect for each other's beliefs.

A rare sight, which clearly resonated with just about everyone in the debate auditorium: those wearing Mitsch Bush T-shirts and others sporting Tipton flair even came together and agreed, saying it was the best debate of the evening.

Another area that saw bipartisan support was a mention of the recent push to move the U.S. Bureau of Land Management headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction.

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