Candidate makes pitch to residents

Democrat running for governor visits Craig

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More than 40 people turned out Sunday afternoon to hear the leading Democratic candidate for governor discuss topics including health insurance, methamphetamine abuse and abortion.

Speaking Sunday afternoon at the Serendipity Coffee Shop in downtown Craig, Bill Ritter, a former Denver district attorney, said one of the most important issues facing Coloradans is affordable health care.

More than 760,000 Colorado residents, 180,000 of them children, don't have health insurance, Ritter said.

"Really, it's a health insurance crisis in this state," he said.

Ritter said if elected governor, he would bring together the different stakeholders involved in the health care debate to find a solution.

Ritter also said Sunday that he is pro-life, but doesn't plan to outlaw abortions.

"It's not part of my agenda to change the law in this state," he said.

Ritter said he would restore state funding to Planned Parenthood that Gov. Bill Owens cut.

Methamphetamine use in Colo--rado, particularly rural Colorado also is a concern, he said.

"It's a big issue for me," Ritter said. "We have got to get a handle on meth."

Ritter, who set up Colorado's first drug court while he was Denver's district attorney, said drug abuse is the most pressing law enforcement issue in the state.

Fighting drug use takes three things, Ritter said: treatment, education and enforcement.

Toni Cartwright, of Craig, asked Ritter on Sunday where he stood on gun control.

Ritter said he has been a hunter and gun owner since childhood and owned a gun for protection while he was district attorney.

Ritter, who stopped in Craig as part of weekend swing through Northwest Colorado, said he thinks gun regulations should be different in different communities.

"Gun regulation is a place where local control is possible," Ritter said.

Gun laws in Denver don't need to be the same as gun laws in rural communities, he said.

Cartwright, a registered Republican, said she came to Sunday's event because she wanted to learn more about Ritter.

She said she asked Ritter about gun control because a few years ago, she posed the question to a Republican legislator who avoiding answering.

Ritter also discussed immigration.

As district attorney, Ritter said, his office asked federal immigration officials to arrest illegal aliens who had committed crimes. But the federal agents said they didn't have the resources to make the arrests, Ritter said.

Ritter said he supports a guest-worker program that would allow illegal immigrants to gain temporary residency.

"They're gonna be here," Ritter said. "We have to find a way to integrate them into the system."

Ritter's Republican opponents for the governor's seat are Bob Beauprez, the former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party who currently represents Colorado's 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House, and Marc Holtzman, the state's former technology secretary and former president of the University of Denver.

Gary Lindstrom, a state representative from Summit County, also is running for the Democratic nomination.

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