Tension was palpable as Colorado Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, likened himself to an airplane pilot with thousands of hours at the controls and compared his opponent, Democrat Andy Gold, to a pilot who studied the manual, but had never flown. It peaked when White interrupted Gold's closing statement by stating, "That's a lie," when Gold claimed that White voted twice against making emergency contraception available to victims of rape.
Three candidates for Colo--rado's District 57 House of Representatives seat took advantage of Monday night's candidate forum at Centennial Mall to explain their philosophies, comment on issues and make a few pointed barbs.
White, serving his sixth year in the Colorado Legislature, leaned heavily on the experience he's gained and his track record for introducing legislation that's benefited Northwest Colorado. He said he's supported private property rights, fought for more funding for education and secured $19 million in tourism funding.
"I've got experience that's tried and true," he said.
And if you agree with that, you should vote for White, Gold said. But, if you're ready for a change, his name is on the ticket.
Gold, a Grand County Democrat, said his experience growing a business and managing its budget has prepared him for public office. That, and the new ideas he brings, could put Colorado ahead of the curve instead of behind it, he said.
"We've dug enough," he said. "The deeper the hole, the harder the climb. I want to help lead us out of the hole."
Colorado ranks well below other states in education fund, graduation rates and health care, he said.
Libertarian Mike Kien said he is running to "give citizens the chance to vote for fiscally responsible government."
He favors restoring the conditions of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, specifically the condition that all new revenue should be placed in a reserve.
"Our politicians have a spending problem," he said.
Candidates' views differed on nearly every topic. Gold emphatically supports increasing Colorado's minimum wage.
"Minimum jobs should provide a minimum subsistence of living," he said.
At the opposite end of the spectrum were Kien, who opposes any form of minimum wage, and White.
"Employment is a contract between the employee and the employer, and the state should have nothing to do with it," White said.
White believes that Colorado should stiffen its stance on both illegal drugs and illegal immigrants, saying that if Colorado enforces its laws, violators will be forced to go to other states.
"If they're not here, then we don't have to pay for them," he said. "If we force them to other states, then they pay."
Gold said increased border patrol isn't the only solution to curbing illegal im----migration. He believes that illegal immigration will naturally decrease if Colorado enforces its own em--ployment laws.
The responsibility lies with the federal government, Kien argued, and residents should force the federal government to handle the issue.
But Kien doesn't believe the federal government is infallible. He blames federal legislation for the nation's growing methamphetamine problem.
"We wouldn't have a meth problem if the government hadn't made white diet pills illegal in the '60s," he said. "People created an alternative."