Colorado House District 57 candidates Democrat Jo Ann Baxter, left, and Republican Bob Rankin, right, debated in a candidate forum hosted by the Craig Daily Press on Thursday.

Photo by Mary Austin

Colorado House District 57 candidates Democrat Jo Ann Baxter, left, and Republican Bob Rankin, right, debated in a candidate forum hosted by the Craig Daily Press on Thursday.

Baxter, Rankin debate for HD57 in Craig

Education highlighted as primary issue dividing candidates

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Colorado House District 57 Debate

Jo Ann Baxter and Bob Rankin debate the issues Thursday night at J.W. Snacks in Craig.

Jo Ann Baxter and Bob Rankin debate the issues Thursday night at J.W. Snacks in Craig.

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“I think we need to take a look at our school district in its totality. There’s more to rating or grading a school district than just one test, taken one time during the year.”

Jo Ann Baxter, Craig Democrat for Colorado House District 57, on Colorado’s public school system

There’s officially less than a month until the November general election.

And with the final push well under way, numerous state and local candidates participated Thursday in one of the last candidate debates of the 2012 campaign season at JW Snacks, 210 E. Victory Way, in Craig.

Moderated by Craig Daily Press editor and publisher Bryce Jacobson, the debates concluded with the race for Colorado House District 57 between hometown Democrat Jo Ann Baxter and Carbondale Republican Bob Rankin.

The candidates fielded more than 50 minutes of questions on topics ranging from jobs and the economy to energy and natural resources.

Baxter and Rankin have each said over the course of the campaign that they share similar views on a good portion of the issues, education not being one of them.

“I think we need to take a look at our school district in its totality,” said Baxter who is well-known locally as a 29-year Moffat County educator. “There’s more to rating or grading a school district than just one test, taken one time during the year.

“I object to that. We need multiple measures to make sure we are achieving what it is we hope to achieve.”

Baxter added she is against taxpayer dollars going to support a voucher system that would ultimately benefit for profit private schools, an idea Rankin has championed throughout his campaign.

“There are a lot of stakeholders, who pay a lot of taxes, who are unhappy when they see low test scores,” Rankin said. “My advocacy for vouchers also extends to my advocacy for charter schools and mixing online education with regular schooling.

“I am not proposing running a business model school system. My proposal is to just create a little competition. I guarantee you it will make everybody better.”

Before coming to odds about how to best address the state’s public education system, Baxter and Rankin started off the debate voicing support of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Colorado blueprint for economic development.

As a Colorado legislator Rankin said he would support state initiatives with legislation when appropriate.

“But we also need to pick out the gems,” he said. “Completing our broadband network is one of those gems, tying our high school and community colleges to the workforce is another, and, in regards to tourism and energy infrastructure, instead of talking about diversity go vertical and look for industries that complement our existing industries and strengths.”

Baxter tagged onto Rankin’s comments about tourism, which is one of Colorado’s bread and butter economic drivers.

“We need a thriving tourism industry not just for economic development, but also for outdoor recreation for health and social opportunities,” she said.

Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or jmoylan@craigdailypress.com.

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