House District 57 candidates address Colorado’s urban-rural political divide |

House District 57 candidates address Colorado’s urban-rural political divide

John Stroud / Post Independent
Colorado House District 57 candidates Colin Wilhelm, left, and incumbent Perry Will.
Courtesy Photo

There’s a war on in Colorado, and it pits Front Range interests against the interests of the Western Slope, incumbent Republican state Rep. Perry Will said during Thursday night’s Issues and Answers Forum.

“They push their agenda, their policies, and they don’t really seem to care about the effect over here in the Western Slope,” Will said when asked about one of his key campaign messages.

Will, a longtime state wildlife officer from New Castle, is seeking formal election to the Colorado House District 57 seat that he was appointed to last year. His opponent is Democrat Colin Wilhelm, a Glenwood Springs lawyer.

War is a strong term, and one that isn’t helpful in forging political partnerships in Denver, Wilhelm said.

Yes, Democrats hold the majority in both the state House and Senate, as well as the Governor’s Office, Wilhelm said.

“That means you have to work within the boundaries you have,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you go to war against people and not compromise.

“… When you do that, you still have to fight for western Colorado and the 57th District,” Wilhelm said.

Will and Wilhelm agreed on some issues, including opposition to Proposition 114 regarding the formal reintroduction of gray wolves to Colorado, and whether Colorado should support the National Popular vote question. Both had serious reservations.

They also had similar ideas for diversifying the region’s economy.

“Public lands make up 75% of our district,” Will said, pointing to recreation opportunities and the outdoor industry and manufacturing opportunities around that.

Said Wilhelm, “We’re really beholden to single industries.” That can be different for different communities in the district, but the need to diversify applies to Garfield as much as Rio Blanco and Moffat counties, he said.

“I agree with increasing outdoor recreation businesses, and other small business,” Wilhelm said.

Both candidates said the region should embrace the one possible silver lining of COVID-19 — remote working by professionals and online entrepreneurs who are relocating to rural areas.

“People want to live here in western Colorado, because of what’s happening in the cities with lawlessness,” Will said. “People want to be safe.”

Watch the entire Issues & Answers Forum, co-sponsored by the Glenwood Springs Post Independent — including races for Garfield County commissioner, state Senate District 8, state Board of Education and information about ballot questions — here:

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