Rep. Brown takes on his rival

Club 20 debate lets candidates drill each other

McLachlan Enlarge photo

McLachlan

GRAND JUNCTION – Democratic challenger Mike McLachlan tried to paint state Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, as out of step with his constituents during a debate Saturday.

“Mr. Brown and I provide a stark contrast to the voters of (House District 59). I believe Mr. Brown’s ideological views are extremely narrow,” McLachlan said. “I will be a representative for everyone in the 59th district.”

Brown said he’s guided by his values.

“My motto is limited government, more freedom and individual responsibility. Those principles guide my life and my votes in the Legislature,” Brown said at a debate at Colorado Mesa University.

Club 20, the Western Slope’s lobbying organization, sponsors the debates every election year. Its main draw is that it allows candidates to cross-examine each other on stage.

Brown asked McLachlan if he supports state employee unions and hydraulic fracturing of gas and oil wells. McLachlan said he supports unionization rights for state employees. Fracking has been used for years, he said, but there is evidence to suggest it might endanger water.

“The question we need to answer is whether or not it should be used in all circumstances,” McLachlan said.

Brown also asked McLachlan if he supported amnesty for illegal immigrants.

“I’m not running for ambassador to the United Nations,” McLachlan said. “I’m not running for Congress. That is a federal question.”

McLachlan quizzed Brown about three bills he voted against in 2011. On two of them, he was the House’s only “no” vote.

The bills changed state laws on homeless youths to make them match federal law, required criminal background checks for child care workers and created a voluntary income tax checkoff for public preschools.

Brown said the youth homelessness bill expanded government.

“There is nobody that cares about children any more than I do. I felt it was a duplication of services,” Brown said. “I stuck to my principles on that vote even though it was against the rest of the Legislature.”

He did not remember the other two votes from 2011.

Brown voted for the child care background check bill in committee and when it initially passed the House, and he voted to agree to Senate amendments. But moments later, he voted against final passage, according to the official House Journal.

Both candidates largely agreed on water issues – as Western Slope Republicans and Democrats often do.

They look skeptically at water diversions to the Front Range. Brown added that he supports more dams in Eastern Colorado to capture flows that go out of state.

“We need to be storing that water. That will satisfy the demand over on the Front Range and leave us alone,” Brown said.

jhanel@durangoherald.com