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Candidates turn out in force to meet Evergreen voters

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By Vicky Gits

More than 100 people nearly filled the Lake House on Thursday night, Oct. 2, for a candidate forum, despite competition from the high-profile vice presidential debate on TV.

The forum was sponsored by the Canyon Courier and the Evergreen Area Chamber of Commerce, with Shelly DeWitt of DeWitt Strategic Solutions as moderator.

Chamber personnel booked the Lake House more than a month before the announcement that Sarah Palin and Joe Biden would debate on national TV the same night.

“We were concerned about attendance because we knew people would be interested,” said chamber executive director Melanie Nuchols. “We encouraged people to record it. Then it turned out they aired it twice. I got home at 10 p.m. and saw it from the beginning.”

Representatives of the presidential and Senate campaigns were at the forum, as well as most of the candidates for U.S. House of Representatives, state Senate, state House, district attorney and county commissioners. A total of 17 candidates or their representatives were in attendance.

Each candidate had four or five minutes for an introduction. Questions were submitted in advance.

Colorado Senate District 16

Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne

The incumbent senator from Summit County representing District 16, Dan Gibbs was chosen by committee to replace Joan Fitzgerald, who resigned to run for Congress. Before that, Gibbs served one term in state House District 56.

The youthful firefighter stressed his Evergreen roots, his outdoorsy boyhood and his grassroots political experience. His mother and stepfather are Evergreen residents.

Growing up in the Gunnison area, Gibbs said, he loved “community service, Boy Scouts and adventure trips.” He went to work in Washington for Colorado’s U.S. Rep. Mark Udall in 2000 and was there when the planes hit the Pentagon on 9/11.

He returned to Colorado in 2003 as regional director of Udall’s mountain office in Minturn, covering Eagle, Summit and Grand counties.

“I thought it was the greatest job in the world because I was continuing to make a difference in the community,” Gibbs said. When Gary Lindstrom decided not to run, Gibbs was approached to take over. “I said, why not me? I can do a good job. I won 67 to 33 percent.”

As a legislator, Gibbs was the prime sponsor of 26 bills and passed 22, he said. He is on the transportation committee and is vice chair of the judiciary committee.

In the question period, Gibbs said he approved of last week’s action to remove the anti-labor and anti-business constitutional amendments that had been slated to go on the November ballot. He said Colorado was the fifth business-friendly state in the U.S.

Don Ytterberg, R-Evergreen

A family man and resident of Hiwan for 21 years, Ytterberg has never served as a public official. He operates a national construction business out of his home office and has a BA in engineering and an MBA. So why is he making the run for the state Senate?

“The fiscal practices I have seen in this state don’t suit me as well as they used to. I’m a fiscal conservative,” he said. A believer in the TABOR Amendment, Ytterberg pledged: “We have to live within the budget.”

He doesn’t believe that transportation is a high enough priority. “We are facing a transportation crisis; 125 bridges are rated substandard. It will be very costly, but it should be a top item.”

The two main issues among voters are the economy and energy, Ytterberg said.

“People are saying they can’t buy everything they need. These are real problems. We need to engage in an economy strengthening program.”

Ytterberg advocated greater access to public lands for energy development.

“We are one of the top natural-gas producing states in the country, and somehow we come across as if that’s a bad thing. A century ago, Boulder was full of oil fields.”

In the question period, Ytterberg said the labor amendments headed to the ballot “would have been a retreat from the state’s current harmonious business-labor relationship.”

House District 25

Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen

As a candidate for office for the first time, architect Cheri Gerou of Evergreen stressed her love of Evergreen and the foothills and her desire to keep it a beautiful place to live. “We love this community. This is a fabulous place to live.”

She is married and has two children, 27 and 25, whom she raised in Evergreen. While establishing an architecture business with her husband, she came to understand the problems employers face.

“I know the regulations involved and how hard it is to support employees and also manage to bring home a paycheck.” She noted that I-70, U.S. 285 and Colorado 93 all run through the district, and that transporation is a huge issue.

A believer in the principle that less government intervention is better than more, Gerou said, “You always do better when you control your own money.”

On energy matters, Gerou stressed the importance of sustainability, as well as energy independence, while taking advantage of the state’s energy resource. She believes in “restoring fiscal discipline” and a “business-friendly” environment.

As a mountain dweller for 29 years, Gerou understands what it means to live with trees and the threat of fire. “It’s not a matter of if, but when,” she said. “We should have an emergency fund for fire-related issues. We need to support volunteer firefighters who are saving us.”

Andrew Scripter, D-Arvada

A mortgage banker for 11 years and a former tennis pro, Andrew Scripter and his young family have put down roots in Arvada.

In his introduction speech, Scripter outlined an economy-oriented five-point agenda consisting of supporting small businesses; fostering renewable energy; investing in the right kind of education, including vocational training and early education; investing in the infrastructure; and supporting our war veterans.

“If we are supporting small business, we will create the kind of diversified economy that grows regardless of what happens on Wall Street. ee Small business is the key to the future,” he said.

Given the limited future of fossil fuel, “the state should continue to invest in renewable energy, which will diversify the economy and create jobs, leading to the right energy formula for our children in 30 years.”

“The news of the world is truly bad these days, but I believe our future is bright. We have the necessary tools to create our future,” he said.

In response to a question about the pine beetle, Scripter said, “We face a fire of biblical proportions. ee Our district needs to have the funds, and I believe, as a part of the majority party, I’m in the best position to develop the funds.”

Jack Woehr, L-Golden

“This is my fifth run for public office, but I’m not really a politician,” Jack Woehr of Golden said in his introduction.

“I’m an intellectual dissident,” said the self-described computer software guru. He doesn’t ever expect to win an elected office as a third-party candidate, but he believes in getting other opinions into the mix.

Woehr said the two-party system is at the root of the problem with government.

“The war in Iraq, conflict in the Middle East and the loss of civil liberties are all a product of bipartisan action,” Woehr said. “The two parties are self-perpetuating institutions and represent a tiny spectrum of opinion. But they have a monopoly.”

“Who’s to blame for the mess the country’s in? It’s impossible to believe that President Bush was competent to lead the country. Whose fault is that? (Voting in a presidential election ) is like Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee,” Woehr said.

A candidate who accepts no monetary contributions, Woehr believes it’s hard to imagine $1 billion being spent on a presidential campaign.

Woehr complained that people frantically added citizen initiatives to the ballot because “democracy was in a failure mode.”

”The parties are so busy getting elected they don’t have time to lead,” Woehr said.