U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert and her Democratic challenger Adam Frisch answered questions about rising inflation, the environment and education policy Wednesday in their final debate before ballots arrive next week in residents’ mailboxes.
In his opening remarks, Frisch described himself as someone who “(stands) up when (he) sees problems” and said that he decided to run for Congress last year because he felt that Boebert was not prioritizing the needs of constituents.
“It was not focused on the ranchers and farmers, it was not focused on our veterans in our district,” Frisch said. “She seemed to be more focused on herself and traveling around the country. I see that her and her mentor Marjorie Taylor Greene are the leaders of this ‘angertainment’ industry that’s been talked about, and I think people want the circus to stop.”
Frisch said that, if elected, his first goal would be to join the House’s bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus in order to collaborate with representatives on both sides of the aisle to pass legislation that benefits Americans, especially those in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District.
“For 20 years, I’ve been saying that if there was a ‘Get Stuff Done Party,’ I’d be in that party,” Frisch said. “But that party’s not doing very well right now, and I think our country is suffering for it, and I think our district is suffering for it immensely.”
In Boebert’s opening statement, she said the government is “broken” and that she “just wants the government off our backs.” She frequently criticized U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who she said is “running a con game in Washington, D.C.”
“We used to trust our elected leaders on both sides of the aisle to look out for us, but they failed that,” Boebert said.
Questions posed at the forum largely centered around rising inflation, with both candidates emphasizing energy independence as an important step toward reducing costs of living in the district. Boebert said she does not want to “rely on our adversaries for energy development, rather than producing that good, clean energy right here at home.”
Frisch said that while he believes renewable energy is “important in time,” he wants to focus on achieving energy independence in the district through a combination of both renewable and nonrenewable sources.
“We produce the cleanest coal, the cleanest energy, we do great work in solar and natural gas,” he said.
Frisch said another priority for him is lowering the prices of prescription drugs such as insulin, calling Boebert out for voting against the Affordable Insulin Now Act, which would have capped the price of monthly insulin supplies at $35.
To address the lack of affordable housing in the district, Frisch said he would “love to see a lot more money coming from D.C. straight into the county level and local control.”
“This is not a liberal or conservative or moderate conversation – it isn’t,” he said. “You bring home the bucks to have the local elected and civic leaders make those investments in that community.”
Boebert said she is in favor of expanding opportunity zones, which allow private investors to develop real estate in low-income census tracts in exchange for federal capital gains tax advantages. She mentioned Durango’s designated opportunity zone, in which 4,200 residents of the city live.
On the subject of immigration reform, Boebert expressed concerns about fentanyl “coming into our country” via the southern border. She cited a bill she introduced that would classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction as a part of her response to drug trafficking.
Boebert described the Biden administration’s current immigrant policy as consisting of “wide-open borders,” which she said she plans to hold Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas “accountable” for.
Frisch agreed there is a “drastic” problem at the southern border, but argued that increased security “can be done with humanity.” He cited the bipartisan Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 as an example of what he views as “very thoughtful” immigration legislation.
“We need to put more funding on the border to process those families and children and people that want to go through the legal process,” he said. “We should be supporting the legal immigration process as much as possible.”
When asked about climate change legislation, Frisch said he would like to help Colorado “continue to work in a more responsible way toward renewable energy” while still maintaining its reputation as “the cleanest producer of (natural) gas and oil and coal in the country.”
He also emphasized the importance of ensuring that water falling in Colorado stays to support agriculture in the state.
Boebert argued that the most important step in reducing carbon emissions is to prevent wildfires.
“I say we have to start with managing our forests if we want good clean air and water resiliency and to be good stewards,” Boebert said.
The moderator presented candidates with the statistic that homicides, suicides and accidental deaths from firearms are now the leading cause of death for children and the second-leading cause of death for adults aged 25 to 35, surpassing motor vehicle deaths.
In response to the question of how gun-related deaths can be mitigated without infringing on the Second Amendment right to bear arms, Boebert said the country “certainly (needs) responsible gun ownership, but that doesn’t involve restricting the rights of Americans to own and bear a firearm.”
“All of these knee-jerk reactions don’t do anything to solve the actual problem,” she said of gun control legislation.
Boebert also denounced the movement to defund the police and remove police officer qualified immunity, saying that such efforts are “encouraging this crime to take place in our state.”
Frisch said he is a “big proponent of the Second Amendment” and supports more bipartisan collaboration on gun safety measures. His response focused more on suicide prevention, describing the mental health crisis in the state as an “utter disaster” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
He said he would like to see the district’s 28 counties receive better health department funding “to make sure we can get to the root cause of what’s happening” in terms of mental health.
When asked whether he supports the federal government’s involvement in education, Frisch said the funding of public education is a big priority for him. He obtained his substitute teaching license at the beginning of the pandemic, and his wife, Katy, is the president of the Aspen School District’s Board of Education.
He said his goal is to obtain both more state and federal funding for schools in the district, especially those in underserved rural areas.
“I so cherish to try to figure out how to get more money not just from Denver, but also from D.C.,” Frisch said.
Boebert criticized Frisch for his wife’s role on the Aspen Board of Education, saying the district has taught “critical race theory and terrible comprehensive sex ed.” She also called for the dissolution of the federal Department of Education.
“The money we invest in public education should follow our students, not the institution, allowing parents to make the best decision for their children,” she said.
She also spoke out against the Biden administration’s Student Debt Relief Plan, calling it “grossly unfair to those who paid off their student loans or never got loans.”
On the issue of health care, Boebert described the current system as a “mess” and called for “more competition, closer doctor-patient relationships and more portability with our health care insurance,” emphasizing the importance of support health care workers and veterans.
Both candidates agreed that expanding rural health care access must be a priority, with Frisch arguing that Colorado “(needs) to make sure that private practice practitioners are staying in the valley and on the reservations.” He said there are no circumstances under which he supports a nationalized approach to medicine.
He also called Boebert out for voting against the PACT Act, which would expand VA benefits for veterans exposed to toxic chemicals during their service.
In her closing remarks, Boebert cited endorsements from the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Washington Examiner as evidence that she will “fight for our district.”
“It is just such an honor to be with you all, to be your representative and to take this fight all the way to Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats,” she said.
Frisch closed by highlighting the bipartisanship of his endorsers, naming the National Council of Coal Miners, the Ford Party and Marina Zimmerman, a Republican who challenged Boebert in the primary election.
“I don’t report to Joe Biden, I don’t report to Nancy Pelosi and I won’t be reporting to anyone in D.C. because my focus is on the families and the businesses of our district,” Frisch said.
The virtual forum, hosted by the Colorado League of Women Voters, was moderated by energy economist and Durango resident Lori Smith Schell, who previously served as an unaffiliated commissioner on the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission.
Residents of the 3rd Congressional District submitted questions in advance of the event, and Schell said those posed to the candidates were selected to “represent the diversity of the citizen’s concerns and perspectives.” Each candidate was given two minutes to respond to each question, as well as three minutes at the beginning and the end of the forum for opening and closing statements.
Kate Corliss 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.