Senate District 8 candidates lay out positions in local forum
About Jean White and Randy Baumgardner
Jean White, of Hayden
• Appointed to fill vacancy in Colorado Senate in 2010
• Former teacher and businesswoman
• Born in South Dakota
• 38 years in Northwest Colorado
• Married to former State Sen. Al White for 33 years
• Mother of two grown children
Randy Baumgardner, of Cowdrey
• Served four years in Colorado House
• Businessman and rancher
• Born in Indiana
• 18 years in Colorado
• Married to Lori Baumgardner
• Father of one young son
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The two Republican candidates vying for the Colorado Senate District 8 seat agreed on some points during a forum Monday night, and got in a few digs at one another.
The debate featured State Sen. Jean White, of Hayden, the incumbent in SD 8, and State Rep. Randy Baumgardner, who represents House District 57 and is from Hot Sulphur Springs.
The two are facing off in a primary election this month, thanks to the 2011 redrawing of House and Senate district boundaries in the state. The new Senate District 8 takes in Moffat, Garfield, Rio Blanco, Routt, Jackson, Grand and Summit counties.
The winner will face Democrat Emily Tracy, of Breckenridge, who is a former Cañon City Council member, in the general election.
Questions for the candidates came initially from moderator Ron Milhorn, news director at KMTS-FM radio, and from a panel of three citizens — Chris Treese and Bob Spuhler, both of Glenwood Springs, and Dallas Diaz, of Silt.
About 40 people attended the event at the Garfield County Administration Building.
Both candidates said they opposed the idea of cutting tuition rates for the children of illegal immigrants, which came up in the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions but was killed by the Republican-led House.
But they disagreed on civil unions.
"I do support civil unions. It is not about gay marriage," White said, but is about civil rights for a minority group.
She said her position is in line with her belief in what she described as the "Republican principles of individual freedoms, personal responsibility and limited government. I just think it¹s the right thing to do."
Baumgardner, who said he twice voted against civil unions, indicated that it is a legislator's duty to oppose such legislation.
"We swear an oath to the Constitution of the State of Colorado," he said, "and the Constitution defines marriage as between one man and one woman."
His remarks drew applause from the gathering.
Later in the program, the two were discussing their different approaches to the principle of "working across the aisle" with Democrats.
Panelist Spuhler noted that White has been accused of being too chummy with Democrats.
"I do work across the aisle," White said, "and I think those kinds of relations are important to get to a more balanced approach" in creating legislation.
Baumgardner said he works well with Democrats, too.
"If the Democrats want to vote with me, that's great. But I don't beg them for it," he said.
White quickly shot back, "You don't need the Democrats when you're in the majority."
She referred to her service in the Democrat-controlled Senate, while Baumgardner has spent the last two years in the Republican-controlled House, drawing general laughter from the audience.
Energy balance, education funding
Regarding the state's energy industry, both candidates said they, like Gov. John Hickenlooper, favor the "all of the above" approach to energy development.
"We need a balanced energy portfolio," said Baumgardner, noting that renewable energy is more expensive than such traditional energy sources as coal and natural gas.
White agreed, and added that the state may be getting too ambitious with its renewable energy mandate, which now requires that 30 percent of utility-generated energy come from renewable resources by the year 2020.
"We have to be very careful that we don¹t go too far in the way of renewable energy, so that it tips the balance and is a burden to consumers," she explained.
The thorny issue of education funding, for K-12 schools as well as higher education, came up more than once.
Diaz asked about how to equalize per-pupil spending among the diverse school districts of the state.
White said that the state's K-12 funding has "stabilized" and that for two years there have been no cuts to the state's educational
White noted that she has toured nearly two dozen small schools in her district, and found that local districts were "taking control of their own destiny" by seeking tax increases from voters to support educational spending.
Both she and Baumgardner indicated they would like to see more local control of spending issues, rather than leaving it to the state to pay for elementary and secondary education.
School funding opened up another bit of sparring, when White asked Baumgardner why he voted against K-12 spending in the 2012 budget process.
"I didn't vote against K-12 funding," Baumgardner replied. He explained that he voted against the budget because it contained no spending cuts equivalent to the $750 million that was cut in 2011.
"Our job," he said, "is to make sure that we don't grow government."
White countered, "When you vote against the budget, you vote against K-12 spending, and you vote against higher education."