Candidates clash at Club 20 debate

Third Congressional District candidates Diane Mitsch-Bush (D) and U.S. Representative Scott Tipton (R) talked energy, healthcare and more. COURTESY PHOTO

RBC | Club 20 organization—an amalgamation of county, municipal, business and individual members advocating for the well-being of our 20 some western Colorado counties—recently hosted a debate for the candidates of the Third Congressional District, which includes Rio Blanco County, as well as eight State House Districts, three State Senate Districts, the Colorado Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Attorney General, the Second Congressional District and Colorado Governor. Club 20 debates are unlike some others in that the candidates are given the opportunity to “cross-examine” each other, often resulting in a lively exchange.

The most hard-hitting were the candidates for Colorado’s Third CD, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, and his Democratic challenger, former Routt and Eagle counties state representative and former Routt County commissioner Diane Mitsch-Bush.

They started out on healthcare. Tipton suggested that we all need to step back a bit and look at what we can really agree on regarding healthcare and accessibility. Mitsch-Bush emphasized the importance of maintaining and improving funding for rural health clinics and hospitals. She also underscored the critical nature of protecting coverage for preexisting conditions which Tipton had voted many times to eliminate by withdrawing the Affordable Care Act. Both said they favored lowering the cost of healthcare for rural Coloradans.

At one point, Mitsch-Bush specifically asked Tipton why he didn’t support allowing Medicare/Medicaid to negotiate drug prices. Tipton responded that Mitsch-Bush didn’t understand how that process works, that those negotiations are done privately within non-profit insurance agencies. She also scored Tipton for not voting to allow the prescribing of medical marijuana, especially for veterans in Veterans Administration facilities.

With regard to energy and energy development, both candidates stated they were “all the above” energy advocates, in favor of fossil fuels and renewable sources, which is Club 20’s policy as well. Mitsch-Bush, however, cautioned that despite protests that regulation holds back our energy development, it is usually the vagaries of the international marketplace that makes us vulnerable in oil, gas and coal.

Tipton pushed Mitsch-Bush on support for development of the pipeline and liquified natural gas export facility at Jordan Cove in Coos Bay, Ore. Mitsch-Bush acknowledged the tremendous value and potential for natural gas development from the Mancos Shale in the Piceance Basin, but said she is cautious about the realities of the international demand, that she’d want to see long-term favorable contracts for the gas in place before committing herself on Jordan Cove, and she expressed concern about the agricultural land to be disturbed by the needed pipeline crossing Oregon, plus making sure the proposal, from a Canadian company, really makes sense for the jobs economy in Colorado.

Tipton argued that the demand and contracts are in place. Mitsch-Bush argued back that any contracts she knows of are not long-term.

Tipton also told Mitsch-Bush the most important first vote she would make in Congress would be for leadership and asked if she would support Nancy Pelosi for speaker. Mitsch-Bush responded that she has not made any commitments on leadership, that Congress needs new leadership, and that, “I will support the candidate who will be best for the Third District in Colorado.” She then scored Tipton, saying, “You guys like to raise this question as a distraction from the real issues and your votes in Congress.”

Tipton compared his opponent to Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. Mitsch-Bush quickly pushed back at Tipton’s socialist portrayal of her candidacy and told the audience that she would promote bipartisanship and not be governed by big donors, but rather serve her constituents’ needs. Both candidates said they support continuation of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, but Tipton pressed Mitsch-Bush on whether she supported sanctuary cities. She responded, “Absolutely. It’s the right of cities and towns to determine what happens within their boundaries, not the federal government.”

One point of agreement was both candidates supporting the idea of moving the national Bureau of Land Management office to the West, preferably to Grand Junction.

Mitsch-Bush told Tipton that he hasn’t done enough to help farmers and ranchers get the migrant worker help they need, and that he votes with and backs President Trump way too much. Tipton criticized Mitsch-Bush for wanting single-payer health coverage and refusing to take a position on the Jordan Cove LNG export project.

Rio Blanco County is one of twentysome western slope counties geographically comprising Club 20. Members of the regional chamber of commerce-like organization elect three delegates to represent their county on the Club 20 board of directors. Rio Blanco County members are currently represented by Reed Kelley as the voting director together with County Commissioners Jeff Rector and Si Woodruff. Former RBC commissioner and former Rangely mayor Peggy Rector is a part chair of Club 20. Hinsdale County Commissioner Cindy Dozier is the current Club 20 chair. The primary mission of Club 20 is to develop and adopt policy on issues critical to western Colorado which promote thriving, healthy communities.

Courtesy to the Herald Times by Reed Kelley, Rio Blanco County Club 20 Voting Director.

Special to the Herald Times