Asked Wednesday to talk about his “day job,” Colorado House District 57 Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Cowdrey, couldn’t help but laugh.
“This is my day job,” he said. “But, my background is in farming and ranching if that’s what you’re asking.”
Baumgardner, whose image isn't that of a stereotypical politician, is usually quick with a smile or joke and has been described as down-to-earth.
But during a candid conversation Wednesday in Craig, Baumgardner said it felt like a long time since he laughed out loud or cracked a smile.
Last week, a Denver television station aired a story claiming Baumgardner has knowingly harbored an unregistered sex offender at his Hot Sulphur Springs ranch for more than a year.
The station later posted a story stating the initial allegations were discovered to be unfounded, but Baumgardner said the damage has already been done.
Since the story broke, Baumgardner's statehouse-issued email address has been inundated with hate mail from residents throughout the state.
The representative shared one of those messages Wednesday on his Blackberry.
The message was written by a man in Denver who cited the story, demanded Baumgardner change his stance on civil unions and threatened violence against the representative because of that stance.
“It’s amazing that those who scream and yell the loudest about tolerance are usually the least tolerant people,” Baumgardner said. “As a Christian, I believe in helping people rebuild their lives even after tragic mistakes.
“That young man (from the email) should be expecting a visit from the Colorado State Patrol.”
Baumgardner, who is vying for Colorado State Senate District 8 against incumbent Jean White, R-Hayden, in Tuesday's primary election, dismissed the television story as a late attempt to distract voters from issues.
“This campaign shouldn’t be about the personal lives of Jean White or Randy Baumgardner,” he said. “It should be about our voting records and where we stand on the issues.”
Below are Baumgardner's views on energy and education, and his reasons for why he will vote against civil unions if the issue is again debated by the legislature in 2013.
On energy development in Northwest Colorado:
“Energy is very important to the state of Colorado. I have supported coal, natural gas and oil, but I also supported a solar bill and a wind bill. I know you’re shocked, I do support all types of energy.
“With the growing population in this state we’re going to need multiple sources of energy and the state is going to need a balanced energy portfolio. Nobody wants to breathe brown air or drink oil in their water, but these things can be done responsibly and we need them.”
On Colorado House Bill 10-1365, also known as the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act:
“I did not vote for HB 10-1365, but I did vote for the State Implementation Plan. I look back on that several times, but knowing what I know now, it wouldn’t have mattered. You learn from your mistakes and I hope the (Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado) win their lawsuit against the Public Utilities Commission (and stop the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act).
“Clean Air, Clean Jobs was all about the government stepping in and picking the winners and losers, and coal was going to be the loser. I stood up for coal. Are wind and energy important? Yes. Can we live on those alone? No. We need conventional sources of energy to sustain us until something revolutionizes the energy industry.”
On sage grouse conservation:
“I don’t think there is a balance because if the Division of Natural Resources comes in and says energy development is affecting the sage grouse, they’re going to shut it down.
“As far as putting the sage grouse on the endangered species list, I think it is just another example of using a scapegoat to shut down industry. And not just energy, agriculture and the hunting industries are being affected too.
“It’s the same with other industries and other species."
On state funding for education:
“I don’t believe we, as a state, can continue to fund education with the population growth. They say by 2050 we’re going to have another five million people here. Unless there’s a tax increase we can’t continue to fund K-12 and higher education.
“The reality is the cost of education continues to go up, but I’m not sure all of that money is benefiting the students. There seems to be a lot of things we’re teaching kids at the kindergarten, first- and second-grade levels that should really be taught in the home.
“If I could be satisfied that the per pupil amount we’re sending to the schools was going to teaching reading, writing and arithmetic, and not for the fancy statue outside, then I do believe government should play a bigger part in it, but right now I’m not so sure.”
On improving student scores on state standardized tests:
“We passed legislation this year that says if you can’t read at a third-grade level by the third grade, then you can be held back. But there are certain pieces of the legislation I don’t like, such as the parents having the authority to keep their child continuing on up until the third grade.
“When I was in school if you didn’t pass, you got held back. We’re at a place in this society where we don’t want to hurt our children's feelings, we don’t want them to feel bad. Sometimes ‘no’ hurts, but ‘no’ can also be a good thing.”
On same-sex unions:
“I voted no this session as a representative and I will vote no as a state senator until the Colorado Constitution changes. The Constitution of the State of Colorado says that marriage is between one man and one woman.
“In 2006, this went to a vote of the people and lost. They say (civil unions) are not the same as marriage, but the legislation continues to feature the words ‘same-sex marriage’ and ‘spouses’ appeared in the bill over 23 times.
“If they want it about civil unions, keep it about civil unions. If they change the constitution by a vote of the people, then I’ll be happy to uphold what the constitution says. Until that changes, I’m a no vote.”
On the biggest issue facing Northwest Colorado:
“Jobs and the economy. We have got to get government out of the way with its regulations and rules, and changing the rules and changing the regulations halfway through the process.
“We need to be a more business-friendly state because for the last several years we haven’t. Democrats have tried for years to do away with enterprise zones because they don’t understand how tax break incentives work.
“Our tax incentives are a performance-based program that rewards companies for coming here, hiring local residents and making a profit. If they meet those criteria, then they get a break on their taxes. I’m not saying give them the farm, but that is a great way to encourage businesses to come to Colorado."
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