House District 25 candidates address issues around health care, retirement fund, fracking

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By Sandy Barnes

 House District 25 Rep. Cheri Gerou and challengers Lorna Idol and Jack Woehr addressed issues concerning health care and the political process during a candidates forum Sept. 27 sponsored by the Jeffco League of Women Voters.

Libertarian candidate Woehr said he does not believe the state would opt out of Medicaid benefits expansion, in his response to a question about health care funding.

The entire health care system is “out of whack,” he said.

“Obamacare is just the beginning of the cleaning of the system,” said Woehr. “It’s a horrible mess.”

“I don’t think we need to expand Medicaid,” said Republican Gerou.

Democratic candidate Idol said more than half of the people on Medicaid are developmentally disabled, have long-term health-care challenges and are expectant mothers. A cooperative effort is needed to address state health care, she said.

While answering a question about funding changes for state retirees’ benefits administered through the Public Employees’ Retirement Association, Gerou said that a couple of years ago the state did a bit of a fix. The program is still in financial trouble, she noted.

“We shouldn’t change anyone who is now on PERA,” said Gerou. “New people should have the option to grow retirement (funds) from the stock market.”

“The question should be: Is PERA going to continue to exist?” said Woehr. “It needs to be rebooted in some way.”

The candidates also discussed a failed state bill that would have created a discounted tuition category for illegal-immigrant students in Colorado attending college.

“I think that we need to do something about undocumented students,” Gerou said. “I think that at least we need to have the conversation. … I don’t know how we’re going to pay for it.”

Idol, who has a professional background in higher education, said there should not be a separate category for undocumented students.

“I think the president is correct: They should be citizens,” Idol said. 

“The ‘undocs’ are the dry leaves of the economy,” said Woehr. “I welcome them with open arms. I think the immigrants should be welcomed to Colorado.”

While discussing whether the state should regulate hydraulic fracturing to extract gas and oil, the candidates offered sharply differing points of view.

Gerou said the issue is one of local versus state control.

“Colorado is a locally controlled state,” Gerou remarked. “I personally believe that fracking is not dangerous.”

“When water is used for fracking, then the water is no longer usable for anything,” said Idol.

“Hydraulic fracking for oil and gas is poisoning water,” said Woehr. “I’m personally against it 100 percent.”

During her remarks at the forum, Gerou pointed to her experience in office, which includes working with state finances as a member and chairman of the Joint Budget Committee.  

“I was the first woman to ever chair the Joint Budget Committee,” she said.

Idol stressed the importance of collaboration rather than competitiveness in effecting positive change in the political arena. As an educator with a doctorate in literacy and special education, Idol said she is known internationally for the development of a collaborative model. 

“The future of our state and the country are at stake,” said Idol.

Idol also quoted Winston Churchill: “ ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.’ ”

Both Idol and Gerou have expressed concerns about the partisan flavor of Jefferson County, which is a three-way divide among Democrats, Republicans and the unaffiliated.

Gerou pointed out that 95 percent of the bills considered by state representatives have nonpartisan support. 

“Mostly, I represent you. I serve my district,” Gerou said to those gathered at the forum in the Evergreen Fire/Rescue auditorium.

“I want to represent all of you,” said Idol. “I won’t represent just one party.”

“I think in the 21st century, the two-party system is in failure mode,” Woehr said. “I think we need to break up the power monopoly … I will always support human freedom.”

Contact reporter Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.