NPR Story
1:37 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

GOP 4th Congressional Candidates Spar In Advance Of June Primary

Originally published on Mon June 16, 2014 6:41 am

Four candidates are vying for the Republican Party’s nomination in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District after U.S. Representative Cory Gardner’s surprise decision to run for the U.S. Senate against Democratic Senator Mark Udall.

CBS 4 and Colorado Public Television recently hosted a debate with the four GOP candidates competing in the conservative and vast district that stretches from Wyoming all the way to New Mexico and the Kansas border.

Bente Birkeland reports from the state capitol

“Big Government is the root of our problems; it’s the cause of Obamacare,” said Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck. “I want my children; I want your children to make sure they grow up in a better America.”

Buck was originally in the U.S. Senate race but stepped aside when Gardner changed gears and is now vying for the open seat in the fourth. Unless something drastic happens – the winner of the June 24 primary will likely have an easy victory over the Democratic challenger.

Weld county Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, the only woman in the race, said from the Veteran’s Administration to the IRS, to health care, the federal government is not working.

“They are overreaching, they are over-pending, and they are overregulating,” Kirkmeyer said. She also highlighted her expertise in the region.

“I am the only candidate in this race who was raised on farm and who has made a living from farming. I think that’s important that we have someone who understands agriculture,” she said.

Agriculture is a main industry in the district that includes Greeley and a large portion of the eastern plains where Steve Laffey, a former mayor from Rhode Island, and state Senator Scott Renfroe round out the group of primary candidates.

Renfroe touted his eight years in the state Legislature and his conservative track record saying he understands the problems facing the residents.

“I’ve had to vote day in and day out on those issues,” Renfroe said. “One of the frustrations people have with politicians is that they’ll promise you one thing in a debate or on the campaign trail and then they go to D.C. and they change and they’re different. And they do things that you say, 'what in the world were they thinking?' I am the same person as when I started.”

The candidates agree with each other on almost every issue. They all want to repeal the Affordable Care Act and move to a market based health care system. They don’t support increasing the minimum wage or creating a pathway to citizenship for people living in the country illegally. Steve Laffey also vehemently opposes setting up banking co-ops for the marijuana industry.

"I don't support people smoking marijuana legally," Laffey said. "While it's certainly a state issue, it's a giant disaster for Colorado. We're a laughing stock around the country now. People are eating cookies and jumping out windows. Kids are showing up at school with an ounce of pot. Who thought this up?"

The candidates aren't all in lock step however. For instance, while none of them support gay marriage, Laffey backs civil unions. He’s also the only one who opposes the personhood amendment and believes abortions should be allowed in the case of rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother. Ken Buck supports abortion but only in order to save the life of the mother. The other candidates don’t support abortions in any instance.

There was only one moment during the debate when a candidate directly challenged another, and it was on the topic of Social Security reform.

“As life expectancy goes up, the retirement is going to have to go up. I also believe we’re going to have to means test at some point,” said Ken Buck. “The Warren Buffets and those folks, they’re not going to get Social Security, they don’t need Social Security. But for those relying on Social Security and have built a retirement plan based on receiving Social Security, we don’t touch it.”

Ken Buck’s position was challenged by Steve Laffey.

“We will never balance the budget if we keep talking like that,” Laffey said. “Everybody in America is going to have to pay some price to balance this budget before it’s too late.”

The candidates also differ on the secessionist movement for rural parts of Colorado to form a new state.

“I did not endorse either way on that,” said Scott Renfroe. “I did not come out in support.”

Weld commissioner Barbra Kirkmeyer however was on the forefront of the movement.

“It was really about sending a message because there is such a disconnect between the rural parts of this state and with what was going on down at the capitol with our Denver politicians,” Kirkmeyer said.

The candidates blame Denver Democrats for passing stricter gun laws and a renewable energy mandate for rural electric co-ops. Whoever wins the primary will face off in November against Democrat Vic Meyers from Trinidad. Because the seat is a Republican stronghold many see the real race coming to a close with the June 24 primary.

The candidates debate appears below courtesy of Colorado Public Television.


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