With the August primary approaching, the Moffat County Tea Party is hoping to inform as many voters as it can before they go to the polls, Tea Party member Jeanie Durham said.
“We want all the candidates that are running to have the same air time or time with the people,” Durham said. “The people (should) decide. The Tea Party … they do not want to pick the candidate for you.”
On Thursday, the Tea Party hosted a candidate forum in hopes of doing just that — letting voters decide.
Three candidates for Third Congressional District — State Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, Libertarian Gregory Gilman, and independent Jake Segrest — appeared.
Phyllis McConnell spoke on behalf of her husband, Bob McConnell, a Steamboat Springs resident who is also running for the congressional seat.
Libertarian candidate Mike Kien, of Oak Creek, who is running for Colorado House District 57, also attended.
About 35 residents attended the forum, which lasted about two hours.
Candidates were given a chance to introduce themselves to the crowd before being asked questions from a panel of three Tea Party members.
The first round of questioning was directed at congressional candidates.
Candidates were asked if they favored reducing the national debt and balancing the federal budget by eliminating waste, fraud and corruption, rather than increasing taxes.
Tipton said he agreed, but “we have to be solutions-oriented.”
“We have seen the national deficit more than triple,” he said. “We have had a Congressman that has gone to Washington and forgotten the word representative and exactly what it means. …We have to reign in this out-of-control federal budget.”
McConnell said her husband thinks the federal deficit is unacceptable.
“Cutting corruption in the government is a very small piece,” she said. “We have to look at departments like the Department of Education and bring education back to the states and community level. ... We are taking a serious look at every single department.”
Candidates were asked if they should be held accountable for stances they take during campaigns.
Gilman said he finances his own campaign and the only people he is accountable to are constituents.
“How many times have we heard politicians say what everybody wanted to hear to get elected and as soon as they’re in office, they go back on what they said?” Gilman said. “It happens all the time and that is because their campaign contributors are getting them elected through money and so they feel like they owe them something.”
Segrest said there is “zero accountability” in federal government — something he would seek to change.
“They need to be held accountable while they are in office and I think we need to remove a lot of the benefits that they have when they leave,” he said.
Candidates were asked if they favored eliminating the federal Department of Education and returning education control to state and local governments.
Tipton said he thinks education is best left at the local level.
“Who cares more about our children than our moms and dads, our grandparents?” he said. “Who can better reach them than local teachers and administrators?”
Gilman said the Department of Education is an example of a federal department that has gone “beyond its scope outlined in the constitution.”
“We need to take our federal government back to those items that were enumerated in the constitution,” he said. “The Department of Education gets in the way of letting teachers teach.”
Candidates were asked if they favored reducing restrictions and controls for exploration of non-renewable energy sources.
Segrest said America should work to reduce its dependence on foreign energy sources.
“We’re long overdue,” he said. “We could have, at this point, been close to self sufficiency had it not been for some of these regulations and hyped up Hollywood stuff about nuclear power.”
McConnell said it’s a “no-brainer,” and that her husband understands what energy means to Northwest Colorado.
“Bob is the only candidate who has come out and said we have to reign in the (Environmental Protection Agency) and get rid of the Endangered Species Act and open this place up,” she said.
Kien was asked several questions throughout the remainder of the forum including if he favored increasing candidate accountability.
“The founders of this country just assumed that we the people would never vote for somebody that raised their hand and swore an oath to defend our constitutional rights, turned right around and ... lied to us,” he said. “But they do it all the time.”
Candidates were asked if they favor expanding wilderness areas and endangered species without the input of local residents.
Kien said he would not support more wilderness areas and that “we have too much of it already.”
“I love to look at that old land … but what we are saving isn’t pristine anymore,” he said. “… We are just taking it away. We are not even allowed to look at it anymore.”