State House candidates square off in Aspen to represent the valley | AspenTimes.com

State House candidates square off in Aspen to represent the valley

The Roaring Fork Valley’s representative in the Colorado House says all the right things on the campaign trail, conceded one of his challengers, but his votes rarely match his talk.

Democratic challenger Rick Davis urged voters at a forum in Aspen last night to hold Republican incumbent Gregg Rippy of Glenwood Springs accountable for his two-year voting record in office.

“If Gregg’s voting record was the same as the stances he takes, I wouldn’t be running against him,” said Davis, also of Glenwood Springs. “I’d be campaigning for him.”

The men, as well as Natural Law party candidate Abba Krieger of Carbondale, are vying for the State House District 61 seat. Rippy is a construction company owner and executive. Davis is a construction manager. Krieger is in medical care.

The winning candidate in the Nov. 5 election will have the distinction of representing a unified Roaring Fork Valley. Due to redistricting, the valley will be contained in one House district starting in 2003.

Davis and his supporters on a panel posing questions at the debate attacked Rippy’s voting record during his two years in the House. Mick Ireland, one of the panelists, said Rippy was ineffective at introducing legislation. He introduced three bills last session, none of which passed. One was on branding livestock, and two involved tort reform that would protect construction companies from jury awards, Ireland contended.

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Davis picked up on the representation theme. He claimed he would do a better job of representing the entire diverse district, not just “special interests.”

Davis pointed to impact fees on developers as a major difference. He said he has successfully searched for ways to add impact fees as a member of the Glenwood Springs City Council and would do the same on the state level.

Rippy voted against a growth-management bill that included an amendment pertaining to impact fees. Rippy said impact fees “have their place” but often get applied unfairly. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that fees can only be levied to offset impacts caused by a development, not to make up for past growth effects, he noted.

Rippy said it is fair to make developers pay their way, but not pay more than their way.

The incumbent countered criticism of his votes by noting he is “very proud” of his record. In a response to a question by panelist Tony Hershey, Rippy outlined a plan to work with the state water engineer and the Legislature in 2003 to pass legislation that would enable water users to contribute water to benefit rivers and streams in times of drought.

Rippy said the owners of the Salvation Ditch in Aspen should have been allowed not to divert water from the upper Roaring Fork and send the excess water to Glenwood Springs without jeopardizing their rights. The ditch company made the offer when drought conditions made it apparent that trout in the Roaring Fork River were threatened by low streamflow.

The state water engineer ruled against the plan, contending it conflicted with the water laws he had to uphold.

While Davis and Rippy sparred over differences, Krieger took the boldest stances in the debate. He hammered at the theme of overhauling the education and health-care systems. “Both are broken,” he said.

Krieger wants the state government to provide health-care coverage for all and get the insurance carriers out of the picture. He also wants to change the medical focus from crisis care to prevention. Adopting those steps, he claimed, would save millions of dollars and create a healthier population.

Krieger also wants the government to promote greater health by making exercise venues more accessible for all people and by building amenities such as bicycle trails.

The Natural Law candidate also proposed a greater role for the government in regulating foods to assure higher quality.

Krieger said it should disturb all Colorado residents that 80 percent of Colorado’s $14 billion budget is spent on health-care and education issues yet the Legislature devotes so little time to them. The leaders of the state government must shuffle priorities to address more issues in those areas, he said.

Krieger stressed the importance of third parties in American political history in an attempt to persuade voters not to write him off.

“The Natural Law party is willing to go where no other party has gone before,” he said.

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