Colorado’s fourth congressional district has four candidates, incumbent Cory Gardner, Josh Gilliland, Brandon Schaffer and Doug Aden. They presented their ideas at the Northern Colorado Open Forum, sponsored by the Longmont Chamber of Commerce, last Monday. The debate covered the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), Higher Education, spending cuts, what bills they’d like to introduce, immigration and the Electoral College.
Cory Gardner is the incumbent, elected in 2010. He introduced himself and talked about the fourth congressional district, “an incredible place of opportunity and innovators and small business owners, people who understand that the way we get our country back on track is by getting government out of the way and letting America work.” He discussed bipartisan legislation he has introduced to create energy opportunities and a small business savings account. He strongly supported NISP and other water storage projects, saying it is possible to do this in an environmentally friendly manner, but that communities and farmers needed the South Platte River Basin needed the project to meet their water needs, and that without it, “we will see the dry up of tens of thousands of acres of irrigated farmland.” Regarding education, he discussed the Make College Affordable Act which he had introduced, and which was cosponsored by both Jared Polis and Ron Paul, and which has been endorsed by both Colorado State University and the University of Colorado. He also supports both gas and alternative energy proposals, saying that Colorado has a particular abundance of all forms of energy which should be developed. He called the debt a national security threat. He pointed to Brandon Shaffer’s role in increasing Colorado state taxes by 26 percent in the last eight years, including Shaffer’s support of significant fee increases on farmers and energy, and increasing taxes on seniors by eliminating the homestead tax exemption. His proposal to address the issue of debt is to “balance the budget, cut spending and grow our economy.” His first bill in the next session would be to continue to cosponsor a balanced budget amendment, and he also expressed the need to address burdensome taxes on farmers and ranchers, like the estate tax. Thirdly, he wanted to address the system of “regulation by litigation,” which he said “strangle small businesses with onerous lawsuits.” Gardner said he supports a “fair immigration system,” meaning that borders are strengthened and enforcing existing laws, while supporting a stem act to give priority in the lottery to people educated in the sciences and math.
Josh Gilliland is the Libertarian Party candidate, defining that viewpoint as believing in “fiscal responsibility and social tolerance,” adding that “this truly is the mainstream view of American politics these days.” He also supported NISP, citing the statistic that between 2009 and 2011, 1.4 million acre feet of water went into Nebraska that was rightfully Colorado’s. He said that the high student debt is a direct result of the federal government getting involved in education, and that free market principles would lead to “higher quality and lower prices. It’s been proven time and time again.” He would not do this overnight, but would rather start phasing out government intervention. To address the debt, he proposed to balance the budget, cut spending and restructure the income tax structure as a fair tax, saying we need to address it now, even though “everyone in this room will feel a pinch.” He cited leading economists, who say that instituting the fair tax will give over a 10% bump in GDP in the first year. He wishes to work on a balanced budget amendment as long as this balancing is created by spending cuts instead of tax increases as one of his first bills, with others including decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level so that states are able to decide whether or not it should be legal, and legalizing gay marriage and the fair tax. Regarding immigration, Gilliland said he supported strong borders, while reducing the welfare incentive of illegal immigrants, while making it easier to get a green card, so people didn’t feel the need to bypass the legal system. Legalizing drugs, he said, would reduce border violence by 70%.
Brandon Schaffer is the Democrat candidate, currently the president of the Colorado Senate. His approach, he said, is “going door to door and listening to your issues at your doorstep.” He placed significant emphasis on a farm bill, which he referred to throughout the night. Regarding NISP, for example, he said that he “strongly believes that more water storage is needed to support our agricultural economy,” but he did not support it as the other candidates had, saying “this is an example where we need the Army Corps of Engineers to move more quickly in their evaluation of this project, but one thing we can do now to help farmers in this state is to pass a farm bill.” When Cory Gardner asked him for a “yes or no” answer regarding his support of NISP, Shaffer did not answer, instead deflecting attention back to the 2008 Farm Bill, which expired at the end of September, and the issues around which Democrats and Republicans have differing ideas about how to address. Regarding education, Shaffer echoed the recent Democrat talking point that higher education is “an economic development tool” to prepare people for a “21st century economy,” and claiming that there are jobs available in America with no one skilled or educated enough to be able to take them. He also argued that increasing investment in early childhood education would help to reduce the crime rate and number of prisoners. He said we need to “look at how every department of government is spending and utilizing our tax dollars to make sure we’re getting the very most out of those expenditures.” He also discussed the need to close loopholes, which he claimed incentivized the outsourcing of jobs. His first legislation, he said, would be to create an incentive for small businesses to collaborate with Community Colleges to “create a job pipeline,” training workers while providing a workforce. To address immigration issues, he proposed to secure the borders but create an inside path to citizenship through education and military service.
Doug Aden, the Constitutional Party candidate, introduced himself saying “Each of us has a birth right of endowed and unalienable rights, those being defined as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” saying that meant that each of us should be afforded the opportunity to freely own and operate our farms, industries and businesses, and to freely enjoy the profits of that labor. He said that he would support NISP, as long as it was done in a way that was fair for the land owners. Regarding higher education, he said that government involvement had created an environment in which higher education and healthcare costs both consistently exceeded the rate of inflation. Regarding the debt, he said that it was necessary to balance the budget and eliminate unconstitutional programs and agencies, developing a plan and sticking with it, as well as selling off certain assets with the proceeds only applied to the national debt. His first bills would be to audit the Federal Reserve and prevent the attachment of unrelated riders onto bills, as well as requiring the congressional record to contain accurate recordings of the proceedings, as well as the 28th Amendment, the Liberty Amendment, which would restore power to the states and people from the federal government. Aden pointed to the unemployment issue when asked about immigration, and said that there should be a law which stops the issuance of green cards when the unemployment rate is above 5%, while fostering an environment in which businesses create opportunities for both citizens and immigrants.
All candidates strongly opposed a change to the Electoral College, except Brandon Shaffer who said “I’m intrigued by the idea of a popular vote, but not yet.” The debate can be watched online, and also airs on Channel 8, The Longmont Channel, where it will re-play multiple times from October 8-31. The broadcast dates are 7pm Mondays, 3pm Wednesdays, 7pm Fridays, and 10am and 7pm on both Saturdays and Sundays.
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