Republican and Democrat candidates for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District primary discussed their stances on national and local issues during a virtual town hall-style candidate forum Wednesday.
The forum was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Colorado and lasted an hour and a half. Viewers tuned in on Zoom and Facebook Live, and candidates answered questions submitted by voters.
All of the Democratic candidates – Adam Frisch, Sol Sandoval and Alex Walker – were in attendance as well as both Republican candidates, Lauren Boebert and Don Coram. Candidates for third or unaffiliated parties were not in attendance because they do not have a primary election, although they will appear on the ballot for the general election in November.
Boebert touted her experience representing the district, while the other four candidates expressed their displeasure with her time in office.
“I got into this race because I think Congresswoman Boebert is weak and she’s going to lose. People are sick and tired of her antics of ginning up the angertainment industry along with some of her other extremists in office,” said Frisch, a moderate Democrat and a former Aspen city councilmember.
Coram, a state senator from Senate District 6, emphasized his experience and background in local politics as well as in ranching and farming.
“I’m the guy that has been out there with his sleeves rolled up being hard each and every day for decades, and I’ve been talking to people that are sick and tired of their rhetoric and the gridlock that’s happening in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “I’ve been known as a negotiator, a facilitator. I’ve been a legislator and I’m not an instigator and I’ve tried to find the solution.”
Sandoval, a social worker and community organizer from Pueblo, discussed her goals to work across the aisle and build consensus in getting things done.
“Anytime that a bill comes across my desk, I’m going to ask myself, ‘Is this going to improve the lives of the people in CD-3?’” she said. “I’m not going to be concerned with whether there's a ‘D’ or an ‘R’ next to it, and so we need to elect an adult who knows how to listen. As a community organizer, I’ve been trained to listen, and I look forward to dialogue and working along with, you know, everyone to make sure that this district is fully represented.”
Walker, who introduced himself as a “gay, moderate, mechanical engineer,” referred to himself several times as “politically homeless” and discussed his position as a centrist as well as his dissatisfaction with the two-party system.
“I see two broken parties and an opportunity to bring common sense back to Washington. I will push back on what is broken in both parties proudly, defiantly and with data because party politics are broken,” he said. “Contrary to what Lauren Boebert said, I don’t support liberal policies. I don’t support conservative policies, because I have values. I support small businesses free markets, health care freedom, health care access, mental health care. These aren’t party issues, they are values and they are rooted in common sense, not blind fealty to Joe Biden or Donald Trump.”
Meanwhile, Boebert discussed her time in office as a first-term congresswoman and a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and limited government involvement.
The district hasn’t been won by a Democrat in over a decade, but hopefuls in either party vying to represent Colorado’s largest district fought to distinguish themselves and win over voters as the June 28 primary approaches.
Multiple candidates expressed frustration during the forum with Boebert’s rhetoric and social media presence, which they considered divisive and distracting from the issues facing constituents in CD-3.
Responding to a question about what the two highest priority items would be if elected, Walker and Coram highlighted the water issues facing Southwest Colorado, with Sandoval also discussing environmental issues. Sandoval, Walker, Frisch and Boebert said they would prioritize economic issues such as the economy, jobs, inflation and supply chain issues, respectively. Additionally, Boebert said she will prioritize securing the southern border and discussed some of her accomplishments in office such as keeping the Bureau of Land Management headquarters in Grand Junction.
In addition to issues specific to CD-3, candidates were also asked their position on Roe v. Wade and access to contraceptives.
Walker called out GOP “hypocrisy” on the issue and said he supports increasing access to medicated abortions.
“A woman’s right to choose is her right, it’s her body and the GOP hypocrisy on this issue is insane for a party that apparently stands for freedom,” he said. “They sure seem intent on taking yours away.”
Sandoval, who has been endorsed by abortion-rights groups Cobalt and COLOR, said she would ensure that a pregnant person’s rights to safe and legal abortion are protected.
“I’m probably the only one on here who has actually gone to Planned Parenthood for health care and also birth control,” she said. “So, medical decisions should always remain between a woman and her physician, no one else.”
In contrast, Boebert highlighted her endorsements from anti-abortion groups Right to Life Foundation and Susan B. Anthony List. She also expressed her support for keeping the Hyde Amendment in place, which prohibits federal money from being used for abortion except to save the life of the pregnant person or if the pregnancy results from rape or incest.
Coram, who has previously worked to expand access to contraceptives in the state, said he is personally opposed to abortion and that in order to stop abortions, it is key to stop unwanted pregnancies.
Frisch said abortions should be, “safe, legal and rare,” and highlighted his personal ties to reproductive rights issues, as his father was an OB/GYN, and so is one of his sisters.
When it came to local issues, all five candidates expressed concerns about water issues, such as drought and water rights.
“For years, Colorado and the West have suffered from drought,” Boebert said. “I support increased water storage, like the Wolf Creek Reservoir up in Moffat County and worthwhile delivery projects that will supply clean water in dry times. I’m a strong advocate for protecting local communities’ water rights and keeping their water in the 3rd District.”
Coram, Walker and Frisch all discussed the renegotiation of the Colorado River Compact, which will expire in 2025. Whoever wins the general election in CD-3 will take part in renegotiating its new terms.
Candidates also discussed issues such as their stances on repurposing money meant for law enforcement to go to mental health resources, expanded use of public lands for oil and gas drilling, immigration, prescription drug prices, election security and firearm regulation.
Boebert leads the Republican candidates in fundraising, while Sandoval leads the Democrats. As time winds down until ballots are cast for the primary, all of Boebert’s challengers offered themselves as an alternative to her, while Boebert discussed some of her accomplishments since taking office in January 2020.
The primary election will be on June 28 and the general election will be on Nov. 8. Ballots for the primary election were sent to voters beginning Monday. Unaffiliated voters can choose which ballot they want to complete, but they can’t vote in both parties’ races.
Nina Heller is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at email@example.com.