The liberal incumbent of Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District met his conservative opponent in public for the first time at an Aug. 29 citizens meeting in Larimer County.
Democrat Jared Polis and his Republican challenger, state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, did not debate at Forks Food and Fuel in Livermore but answered questions from a largely conservative audience at the low-key meeting.
Polis is seeking re-election in a district that formerly had left-leaning Boulder as its epicenter. Congressional redistricting following the 2010 census added more conservative areas such as Conifer and Evergreen to the 2nd District.
Third-party candidates Randy Luallin, a Libertarian, and Susan Hall of the Green Party were not at the meeting.
Candidates put conservative foot forward
Both candidates put their more conservative foot forward while fielding questions from Larimer County residents in the semi-rural town of Livermore, about 20 miles northwest of Fort Collins.
Lundberg spoke about his general philosophies of hands-off government.
“I believe that my job is … to make sure the government stays out of your way, first and foremost,” Lundberg said. “As government grows, liberty diminishes.”
Polis, whose voting record leans much further to the left, highlighted his charter-school background, his congressional votes against auto-industry bailouts, and his desire to privatize the U.S. Postal Service as a cost-saving measure.
Handling of wildfires
Several residents spoke about federal handling of recent Colorado wildfires. One man asked if either candidate would support the government giving affected residents “unencumbered funds” — money that’s not burdened with regulations on how it should be spent.
“We’ll solve this problem with Colorado common sense,” the man said.
“We need to clear out the dead wood,” Lundberg said. “Not just in the forest, but in the regulatory process.”
Another resident wanted the successful candidate to commission a review of U.S. Forest Service forest management policy to see whether the organization should make changes.
Polis said he thinks some problems within the Forest Service could stem from understaffing, but a change in some system mechanisms could help. He seemed receptive to a resident’s suggestion that the logging and paper industry should be encouraged as a mitigation tool, although he said much public land in Colorado wouldn’t be accessible because of the terrain.
“There’s a role for public-private partnership,” he said.
The Affordable Care Act
Discussion of the Affordable Care Act raised the hackles of some Larimer County residents.
“I get a visceral reaction to ‘Tax, tax, tax, tax, tax, tax, tax,’ ” a woman said. “Why should I work and save money if you’re going to take it away?”
Polis, who said he helped write the bill, said the law needs fine-tuning but is a step in the right direction. Polis supported the act because he thinks it will improve competition in the health-care market. He also pointed out that no part of the law includes creation of “government insurance.”
“As long as you’re allowed to choose the doctor of your choice, the hospital of your choice … I think that’s good,” Polis said.
Lundberg, who serves on an oversight committee for the Colorado health-care exchange, said the act represents a government takeover, and that he would work to repeal it.
“This is a government-prescriptive plan,” Lundberg said, adding that factoring federal government mandates into the health-care process will insert inefficiencies that will cost time and money.
The candidates’ backgrounds
Polis, a Boulder resident, was an entrepreneur and educator before being elected to Congress in 2008. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science at Princeton University before serving for six years on the Colorado Board of Education and co-founding two charter schools in Denver. He has said many of the issues he would like to fix in Congress are still not addressed: Polis favors a requirement that the federal budget be balanced every year, putting an end to deficit spending.
Lundberg, a Berthoud resident, is a veteran politician who bested two other Republican candidates for the chance to challenge Polis. Lundberg represented state House District 49 for six years before being appointed in 2009 to complete a term in state Senate District 15. In 2010, he was elected to a full term in District 15.
Lundberg is a small-business owner and earned his bachelor’s degree in history and social science from Rockmont College, which later became part of Colorado Christian University. Lundberg went on to serve on CCU’s board of directors. He also helped found Christian Home Educators of Colorado and was appointed to the Colorado Commission on Family Medicine in 2000 by then-Gov. Bill Owens.
Both Conifer and Evergreen were formerly part of District 6, which had been represented by Republican Mike Coffman since his election in 2008.
In addition to the mountain towns, the new District 2 also includes Boulder, Fort Collins and Estes Park, and Grand, Clear Creek and Summit counties.
Voter registrations in the new district show the following changes, according to the Colorado secretary of state:
• Registered Republicans in 2010 totaled 93,991; in 2012, 120,125.
• Registered Democrats in 2010 totaled 138,086; in 2012, 126,421.