Two Democratic candidates fighting for state and national office, and one more grappling to retain hers, were featured at the Colorado Democratic Party’s Democracy Tour Montezuma County on Saturday.
Candidates Adam Frisch and Kevin Kuns, along with incumbent Barbara McLachlan, met more than 40 Democrats at the Mancos Community Center, where they answered questions about strategies for turning out the vote, reproductive rights, support for teachers and education, water and climate change, and more.
Frisch, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s challenger the 3rd Congressional District, said the November election in the state’s largest district, which encompasses 28 counties, cannot be won on the backs of Democrats alone: “The district, 25% D, 31% R, 43% unaffiliated,” he said.
But the candidate, who describes himself as a conservative Democrat, said he has spent “a lot of time meeting with a lot of frustrated Republicans” who “want their party back” and bringing unaffiliated voters into the Democratic coalition is the key to victory.
“Liz Cheney got 36% of the vote, Don Coram got 36% of the vote,” he said. “… It just shows that there is a path.”
He said women’s reproductive rights is an issue that hits close to home for him, with his father being an OB/GYN of 50 years, three sisters – one of whom is also an OB/GYN – and a teenage daughter.
More federal funding for local school districts, and allowing the districts to decide how to spend the money, is also something Frisch wants to see, he said.
When asked by an attendee if there’s any individual issue he’s willing to fight for as a congressman, even if it would mean losing his seat, he said women’s health care is his No. 1 issue, but stopped himself and said he’s not willing to dump any issues he’s campaigned on.
He said water and aridification in the face of climate change is as bipartisan an issue as issues get, and it’s an entryway into getting Republicans to discuss climate change.
“We need to do a much better job as a Democratic Party earning rural America’s trust. We’ve lost that over the past 30 years,” he said.
He said voting rights and democracy are key issues for him, too. He said he became a Democrat when he was young because the U.S. Supreme Court is a “driving force” in American politics and it’s important to ensure that a Democratic Senate is appointing justices.
Residents posed several questions to each candidate at the Democracy Tour Montezuma County event on Saturday, ranging from inflation to state district shakeups and abortion rights.
McLachlan, running for re-election in Colorado House District 59, said when inflation enters the conversation, the first thing people tend to do is look for somebody to blame for it. She said it’s not an issue of blame, but an issue of world events.
“We’ve just gone through a huge pandemic,” she said. “We’ve had manufacturing shut down for two years and now we’re supposed to be getting things back (to normal) and things are more expensive.”
She likened the economy to a cruise ship – it turns slowly.
“I think we’ll get there, but it’s a very slow turnaround,” she said.
Kuns, running for election in House District 58, said inflation comes and goes and this round is worse than previous ones because of three major factors: No. 1, two years of the COVID-19 pandemic; No. 2, the Russian invasion of Ukraine; and No. 3, Saudi Arabia is not pumping oil.
“It was the perfect storm, and guess what? That storm fell on Democrats because Democrats are in the White House,” he said.
He added that billion-dollar businesses such as Amazon and ExxonMobil have been reporting record profits.
Frisch said inflation is a “subset of economic stagnation” that the rural American working class is facing, in addition to a 5% job growth and negative wage growth, the costs of health care and affordable housing, and “the amount of food we put on people’s tables.”
“The representative I’m running against is basically 0-for-5 in small businesses,” he said. “I’ve not had a perfect record as a small-business owner, but a pretty darn good record in construction and homebuilding.
He said he’s done business in 80 countries and spent 10 years working on international interest rates.
“Who do you want sitting at the table and representing CD-3 in Congress? Who do you want representing you, your kids, your family, your business and your community?” he said.