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As race for CD3 tightens, we asked candidates about their policy positions

Boebert, challengers weigh in on gun violence, economic priorities and renaming mountains
Lauren Boebert, candidate for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, makes a campaign stop in 2020 at the Wild Horse Saloon in Durango. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

The once-large pool of candidates hoping to unseat U.S. House Rep. Lauren Boebert in the 3rd Congressional District was nearly halved this week after five Democratic candidates failed to qualify for the June primary ballot.

Sol Sandoval will appear on the Democrats’ primary ballot in June. She was the only candidate of six to gain the necessary 30% of the delegate vote at the Democratic Party’s assembly, garnering 46%. Two other candidates, Adam Frisch and Alex Walker, successfully petitioned onto the ballot. Scott Yates also submitted a petition to appear on the primary ballot that is being processed by the Secretary of State’s Office.

Boebert and Marina Zimmerman will both seek a spot on the primary ballot through the Republican district assembly process. Don Coram, the third Republican candidate, has submitted a petition that is also under review. Zimmerman did not provide answers to questions for this story.

The Durango Herald asked candidates who remain in the race to address questions related to several local and national issues. Answers have been lightly edited for clarity and in some cases trimmed for brevity, but not grammar.

If elected, how will you bring funds to Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District?

Frisch: When I am elected, I will head straight to the Problem Solvers Caucus, the bipartisan group that brought the country the infrastructure bill. The Problem Solvers Caucus is the epicenter of what the Constitution had in mind for Congress – people from both sides of the aisle working together on issues that matter to the people in their districts. I have the experience to do just that, and am going to Congress to work with everyone for our district’s needs – not party needs or personal gains.

Sandoval: I’ll start off by voting for legislation like the COVID 19 relief package and the infrastructure bill that will bring real and needed federal investments into CD3. We have so many needs that could be met that aren’t, including roads, bridges, and water conservation projects.

I will join other members of our Colorado delegation to ask for member designated projects in CD3. That’s your job as a representative: to speak up and demand a return on the taxes we all pay with federal investments in our community. It is absolutely your obligation to look out for the home folks.

Walker: Great representatives have experience at the negotiation table, or experience creating national attention for local issues. I have both. I spent 10 years building a successful career in business and my already-national campaign is proof that I can fight big for the folks of CD3.

Yates: ​​Federal spending is complex, but the tactics are not complicated: It just takes hard work. I think a lot of people in Congress let their ego get in the way of just hustling. The way I got going with all the businesses I started was to just work really hard. That’s what I’ll do representing this district: Hard work. No ego. Get ‘er done.

Boebert: I won’t request earmarks because they are a tool for Nancy Pelosi and Democrats to buy votes. However, I’ve been very successful through the appropriations process, because the appropriations process is the right way to deliver conservative solutions for the District. As the Representative for Colorado’s Third Congressional District, I advocated for rural Colorado to the Appropriations Committee and was able to secure nine appropriation requests signed into law that support our District. We need more members of Congress to follow the appropriations process and to make the difficult decisions to get overall spending in line. That’s why I voted against Pelosi’s $1.5 trillion, 2,700+ omnibus spending bill … and introduced a Balanced Budget Amendment.

Coram: Sen. Coram will utilize every avenue available to bring back federal dollars to the 27 counties of the 3rd Congressional District. This includes sponsoring legislation, advocating for grants, attaching amendments to appropriations packages, and utilizing the community program request program. As the sole representative of a district larger than 25 states, it would be a dereliction of duty not to use every available option.

Scott Yates is a Democratic candidate for the 3rd Congressional District in 2022. (Handout/via The Colorado Sun)
Only a select number of bills introduced each session are ever enacted into law. What strategies would you pursue as a representative to elevate legislation that benefits Colorado?

Frisch: We need to build bipartisan relationships with other Western states’ representatives. Washington D.C.’s policies are too urban-centric, and Democrats have for too long focused on urban issues, not electing folks like me who understand rural issues and have the skills and desire to work across the aisle. It is time for our district to have a representative that can build relationships with everyone in Congress, not to ridicule half the people that we rely on for our district and Colorado’s needs.

Sandoval: I will start with my priorities, which are education, health care, and more opportunities for working Coloradans. My strategy would be to work with, not against, other members of the Colorado delegation to get things done.

For example, we can increase the use of telemedicine to make health care more available for rural communities. And I like Sen. Bennet’s Medicare X proposal to create a public option by expanding Medicare eligibility to underserved areas, which would be a big help for rural Colorado.

And we can better leverage federal dollars in education – Title 1 programs, for example – to help our hurting rural schools and school districts.

Walker: One thing I won’t do is copy Lauren Boebert, who has yet to pass a single bill, even out of committee. If you want to get things done you need to learn how government works while asserting yourself as a leader. I would sponsor and co-sponsor bills across the aisle based on my values and the voices of the people in our local community who elected me.

Yates: The reason I love fixing Daylight Saving Time as an issue is that it is an example of something that is achievable, deeply bipartisan, and stuck. By not grandstanding on the hot-button issues, I won’t be offending anyone in the other party, and I won’t be stealing the limelight from anyone in my party. I’ll just be that quirky guy who cares about DST, water, etc., and I’ll be happy to let other people get the credit for the results. Results are what really matter, and that’s all I’ll be paying attention to. I don’t look that good on TV anyway. ;-)

Boebert: As a member in the minority, I speak up as loudly as I can to make sure bad bills and bad policies are exposed and opposed. For example, Joe Biden was fully prepared to hand out $450,000 to illegal immigrants until I spoke up about it and introduced a bill. Because of my public pressure campaign, they dropped this proposal. Instead, I’ve been laying the groundwork for a Republican majority, introducing bills that will help get the country back on track, put a stop to the woke madness that is infiltrating everything from our military to women’s sports, get our fiscal house in order, deliver solutions for Colorado’s Third District, and get the government off the backs of our citizens so they can live free and prosper.

Coram: As a state legislator, Sen. Coram has delivered for his district by advancing legislation from committee to final floor votes while serving in both the minority and the majority. This is because of the investments he has made in relationships with members of his own party as well as relationships across the aisle. The result has been real solutions enacted for the real issues. This is the exact same approach Sen. Coram will take with him to congress.

Republican state Sen. Don Coram got into the hemp business after he helped legalize the crop in Colorado. (Michael Sakas/Colorado Public Radio file)
What is your top economic priority?

Frisch: My top economic priority is getting inflation under control. It’s too hard for the average Coloradan to afford a simple, comfortable lifestyle for their family. I’ve spent the last fifteen years working on affordable housing solutions in the Roaring Fork Valley, and have learned what it takes to work together across jurisdictions to find regional housing solutions. At the same time, we must also address root problems in our supply chain and government spending, increase worker’s wages, and support small businesses without unnecessary and burdensome regulations.

Sandoval: Workforce development and opportunity. Too many people in this district are struggling financially. We need to create more job opportunities through apprenticeships, trade schools, and job training for people who are already working and looking for better paying jobs through more skills.

By investing in workforce development, apprenticeship training, and growing industries like health care, technology, and renewable energy, we can open the door to career advancement and better opportunities for Colorado families and businesses.

Walker: Saving and rebuilding CD3’s economy. I built my career growing small businesses and local economies. Together, we can turn CD3 into a clean jobs superpower that boosts your family’s pay 25% in three years, while lowering income taxes for families making less than $100k. (We’ll make up the difference with fair corporate taxes – for once.)

Yates: I call it “Human-centered economic development” and what I mean by that is making the economy work for families and small businesses, not for Amazon and Wal-Mart. A lot rolls into that, including rural broadband, affordable housing, tax policy, and more. Luckily, as an outsider and a successful business founder, I really don’t care about lobbyists and it will be easier for me to blow them off and stay focused on the results I care about, which are the results that people in Southwestern Colorado, the West Slope, and Southern Colorado care about also.

Boebert: My priority is to restore the proven principles of the America First agenda. That starts with putting American workers first, getting the government out of the business of choosing winners and losers, reducing dependency, and sticking up for ourselves around the world. We proved this approach elevates all of our citizens economically, keeps peace around the world, and allows us to prosper in an environment where jobs are plentiful, inflation is low, and the goods and services we need as a country are readily available.

Coram: Families in the 3rd Congressional District and rural Colorado are being hurt by record inflation and supply chain issues. It is crucial that our representatives in Congress work immediately to address and remove government barriers that are increasing the costs of heating our homes, filling up gas tanks and buying groceries.

Former Aspen City Council member Adam Frisch, a Democrat, is running to represent 3rd Congressional District. (Handout)
Coronavirus cases and deaths have seen sharp declines. But variants remain a concern. Three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, how do you think we should approach the virus both at a personal and societal level?

Frisch: I believe in vaccines. I suggest people should do the same if I am asked. At a societal level, I believe kids need to remain in school, and our public health policy should support making that happen. The extended school shutdowns were a huge disservice to our kids and our communities, especially those most vulnerable. During the height of the pandemic, I signed up to substitute teach at our local public elementary and preschool because I wanted to help eliminate any barriers I could to having all kids attend school. Each of the counties in our district should manage their own rules going forward.

Sandoval: I think we have to prioritize personal responsibility, common sense and looking out for each other. We’ve experienced this pandemic for two years and now we have been provided with plenty of information and options including vaccinations and testing. We know to look out for the medically vulnerable and the elderly, just as we do with other practices in our personal life.

Walker: I supported a cautious response to COVID in 2020 and 2021 because we weren’t prepared to treat it. The GOP and Lauren Boebert’s insistence otherwise cost lives. However, with vaccines and antivirals now available, we must get back to daily life so kids can go to school and businesses can operate with stability. Given current data, I’m in favor of lifting mask and vaccine mandates.

Yates: I think we just need to give everyone a break. The pandemic was rough on every single person. I think if we can start there, just acknowledging how crappy it has been, that’s a good start. Then we can all take a deep breath and figure out what we need to do next. Luckily the vaccine works really well, and so we can figure out how to create the world we want to live in. If we learned anything over the last couple of years, it’s that we can completely remake organizations, and our daily lives. Now instead of remaking them based on the virus, we can remake them based on the world we would like to see.

Boebert: If you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. If you want to get a vaccination, get a vaccination. But stop federal mandates. The government’s job is not to force me to take an injection or force my kids to wear a mask, it’s to secure my God-given rights.

Coram: Individuals, not government, know what is best for them when it comes to medical decisions.

Colorado has the 21st highest firearm death rate in the country, according to CDC data. What would you do in Congress to address gun violence at the federal level?

Frisch: I support the Second Amendment. Given Washington politics, there will not be any increased Federal firearm regulations from Congress in the foreseeable future, regardless of the upcoming congressional elections. Any regulation effort will be at the state level. I am focused on our rural district’s characteristics, which is less about urban gun violence and more about having better overall mental health services in our district. The last few years have shown a huge increase in mental health issues in our communities, and we are woefully underprepared to meet our district’s needs. Our focus should be on funding effective mental health programs and to providing support to families that are struggling with these needs, including our many veterans, who are disproportionately affected.

Sandoval: As a mother who’s a gun owner, and a supporter of responsible gun ownership, making sure we keep guns out of the reach of kids with safe storage is a top priority and something we should do nationally. I also believe we should pass background checks.

Sol Sandoval speaks with Westside Mobile Park residents in Durango during a campaign stop. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Walker: I support the Second Amendment. That said, we must protect our kids. School shooting threats have risen 998% in 10 years. My partner and I have held off having kids because we’re not sure they won’t be killed at recess. I believe in common sense solutions like closing the Charleston loophole and passing “no fly, no buy,” while instating harsher punishments for people who break firearms laws.

Yates: More than half of those were suicide, so the biggest thing we can do is work on improving our mental health care. After that, well, I’m not exactly sure how much we can really do. There are so many guns out there now, new regulations don’t seem like they would do a lot. I’ll certainly look at any proposals that come up, but I don’t have any gun policies that I will be leading on.

Boebert: I’m proud to serve as the co-chair of the Second Amendment Caucus and will always fight to make sure our Second Amendment rights will not be infringed. I have the right to defend myself with my firearm, and the government does not have the right to take that away from me. Cities with the highest murder rates typically have the most stringent gun restrictions and their murder rates have increased as they’ve made the decision to go soft on crime and defund the police.

Coram: Sen. Coram supports the Constitution as a whole, including the Second Amendment.

What do you think is the most pressing issue with the U.S. immigration system and what will you do about it in Congress?

Frisch: The most pressing issue with the U.S. immigration system is the rhetoric that is thrown around on both ends of the spectrum. We need safe and secure borders as well as flourishing, functional, and well-funded immigration pathways. People should be treated with respect and kindness, and children should never be blamed or locked up and separated from their parents. But we need rules, and rules need to be followed. We can have security without cruelty.

Sandoval: As the child of immigrants who came to this country seeking a better life, I believe we must fix our broken immigration system with comprehensive immigration reform and a better visa processing system. This is not just a matter of compassion but a matter of practicality – our tourism and agricultural businesses in the 3rd Congressional District rely on immigrant workers and seasonal employment.

Walker: Racism. Yes, we must have secure borders. Yes, we need enforceable visa quotas. We have had both for 50 years. Donald Trump created a culture of hatred and violence toward immigrants. Seventy five percent of Americans agree that immigrants strengthen our communities. I don’t stand for xenophobia, and I’ll stand against it in Congress.

Yates: Like water, health care, housing and so many issues, I think Washington gets too tied up in Big Solutions, instead of in small ones. There are dozens of great, small, ideas that would increase the amount of legal immigration, and we need to get to work on all of them. Immigrants are a huge part of that work force. If we could get more immigrants into those jobs, it could help the overall economy and give a lot of people a lot more options.

Boebert: We need to build the wall, secure the border, and allow law enforcement to do their jobs. There is a full-on invasion at our southern border with millions of illegal immigrants entering our country. I filed articles of impeachment against Biden and Harris over this because they have refused to uphold their Constitutional duty to enforce our laws and protect the American people. It’s a horrible policy that allows drug traffickers and sex traffickers to exploit our country, separates children from their families, takes jobs away from Americans, raises the cost of living for all of us, and increases crime. We need to put a stop to it. I introduced the Secure the Southern Border Act to build the wall, end “catch and release,” restore the “remain in Mexico” policy, and stand for the rule of law.

Coram: Yes, we must secure our borders. Equally as important is addressing our legal immigration system because it is broken and penalizes people who are following the law. Both parties are responsible for kicking the can down the road on this. We must immediately address the real problems in the system including how we accept and process visas, the inefficiencies with guest worker programs, and especially the amount of time for adjudication.

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has sparked a debate about domestic energy independence, specifically from Russian imports. How should the U.S. become less reliant on foreign countries for energy?

Frisch: Energy independence is as important as ever. While our nation's goal should be 100% domestic renewable energy production, that will take time. We need to be realistic about our nation’s energy needs. Oil and gas produced domestically is much better for our economy, the global environment, and our country’s values. We can still focus on the needed energy transition while making sure we are not reliant on repressive countries. I look forward to bringing my international business experience of doing transactions in over 55 (countries) to help the people of our district.

Sandoval: I strongly believe in developing and expanding renewable energy and the jobs it already has and will continue to produce for Colorado. We already have a renewable portfolio standard of 30% that has done well for our state. I’d like to see that as a national standard so that Colorado’s renewable energy sector and its workers can grow and thrive.

Walker: Through a growth-positive switch to clean energy that sparks our economy. CD3 has the chance to establish itself as a clean energy superpower. We can lead the nation in clean energy production, growing Colorado’s economy for the next 100 years and giving your family 25% higher pay within three years.

Yates: Every single thing we can do on energy, we need to do, and do right away. We need more drilling. (And we need more workers to get that done, see above about immigration.) We need more renewable energy. (Luckily this district has abundant wind, solar, and hydro potential.) And we also just need more creative thinking about energy, water, and agriculture.

Boebert: Drill, baby, drill. Banning Russian energy imports is a good start, but refusing to ramp up domestic energy production is insane. Our District has some of the cleanest natural gas in the world, and we produce it with more stringent regulations than any country on the planet. We can secure our economic future, stop funding our enemies, and help our friends around the world by simply producing the energy we need right here. I introduced the Protecting American Energy Jobs Act to immediately restart construction on the Keystone XL Pipeline, reverse Biden’s mandates halting energy leasing on federal lands, and develop energy infrastructure to get us back on track for American energy dominance.

Coram: We must return to American energy independence immediately! This includes resuming the Keystone XL pipeline construction along with reauthorizing and expanding the extraction of natural resources on federal lands. We need to unleash American energy! It was more than disappointing to see that Lauren Boebert was one of eight members of Congress, including Marjorie Taylor Green, who voted against revoking normal trade relations with Russia. That was the absolute wrong vote.

Where do you stand on the renaming of landmarks and mountain peaks with names that Native Americans may consider offensive, such as Squaw Mountain?

Frisch: The relevant jurisdictions should work with local Native American communities, who should drive the discussions, in coming to agreement on any possible renaming. It’s important to come to a table together to understand issues from different perspectives, not just react based on preconceived notions. I believe in dialogue, getting out there and talking to people, and working on issues together. Conversation and listening to all viewpoints is what made my years on City Council successful, and I intend to continue in Congress.

Sandoval: As a woman of Indigenous descent, this is offensive to me personally. We need to respect our heritage and rename these landmarks and peaks with better, more respectful designations.

Walker: Ironically, to whitewash a mountain’s name is to whitewash the problem. Instead of fighting over a name, let’s spend our energy redirecting resources to the communities in question. Fights over names give racists like Lauren Boebert an easy way to ridicule people of color. Stop taking the bait.

Yates: It’s not just Native Americans who find those names offensive. Anyone with a history book and a willingness to be honest about our past cringes when they see names like that. I think they should be changed.

Boebert: I worry there are certain renaming efforts where wokeism may overreach. For every person that expresses concern about these issues, I hear from others that are proud to be associated with sports teams, schools, and products that hold Native Americans and others in high esteem.

Coram: History is important. Monuments and landmarks commemorate and oftentimes honor a period, person or event in history. We should not be in the business of trying to erase history, rather we should be learning from it.

For Democrats only: A Democratic representative hasn’t been elected to the 3rd Congressional District in over a decade and redistricting just gave Republicans an even greater political advantage. What makes you think the district is going to flip blue this November?

Frisch: I am confident a majority of the people in our district – Democrats, Republicans and independents – are tired of our current representative’s betrayal of her district. People want a representative who will represent them, not their own self interests. Only a moderate Democrat that aligns with rural values can build a coalition with moderate Republicans and independents to defeat her and bring some common sense and decency to the hard-working people of Colorado’s 3rd district.

Sandoval: Forty percent of the district are unaffiliated voters, and they are the key. Redistricting also included many of the historically Latino communities in the San Luis Valley. I am fully bilingual and I can engage voters who otherwise may not feel this race speaks to them. I can reach Latino voters who may not have voted in the last election.

Walker: I am the only candidate who can beat Lauren Boebert, because I have electrified moderate voters and progressive voters alike. I don’t pledge fealty to party politics. I am my own man, and I make my decisions based on my values and community. We’ve reached thousands of undecided Colorado voters and one million undecided voters nationwide in a month. What can we accomplish by November? Victory.

Yates: This district is the greatest district in the country. It has Rocky Ford melons, Pueblo Chiles, Olathe sweet corn, and Palisade peaches. It has breathtaking mountains and valleys. It has a remarkable history that goes back to the dawn of human activity on our continent, and in a post-virus world it has the potential to be an economic powerhouse of the future. To make all that happen we need to aggressively protect our water and our land, and work hard to get things done. People will be voting for someone who will really represent them, and get things done. That’s me.

For Republicans only: Given former president Donald Trump's influence on the Republican party, would you consider yourself a pro-Trump Republican today? Why or why not?

Boebert: Absolutely. America First principles led to economic strength and security, the highest levels of employment for all Americans including our minority communities, lower inflation, lower crime, lower gas prices, lower illegal immigration, and they kept our enemies in check.

Coram: Sen. Coram has been a lifelong Republican and held various leadership positions with the Republican party. As such, he voted for the Republican nominee, former President Trump, in 2016 and 2020. Sen. Coram has not supported the actions of former President Trump since he lost his re-election bid. The Republican Party supports the constitution (and) the rule of law. The 2020 election is over. This election, Republicans need to be focused on making the case to the American people why our policies are better for their pocketbooks, their businesses and their families 2022.

Skye Witley, a senior at American University in Washington, D.C., is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez. He can be reached at switley@durangoherald.com.

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