Sharp differences between Meghan Lukens, Savannah Wolfson in House District 26 debate
The candidates running for Colorado House District 26 showed sharp differences in a Wednesday, Oct. 19, debate in Eagle.
Democrat Meghan Lukens stressed her “Three E’s” platform on the economy, the environment and education. Republican Savannah Wolfson focused on rising prices and affordability, law enforcement and “standing up for our part of the state.”
House District 26, redrawn after the 2020 Census, now includes Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, as well as most of Eagle County. Both Wolfson and Lukens live in Routt County.
Asked about inflation and the economy, Lukens said the district’s top challenges are the current housing and child care shortages. Noting that small business is the “lifeblood” of the district, Lukens said addressing housing, child care and other pressing issues will require public-private partnerships, and claimed she’d already started working on some of those partnerships.
Wolfson said addressing the child care shortage should include regulatory relief for providers.
Education funding provided a moment of some agreement, when both Lukens and Wolfson said they want to eliminate the state’s “stabilization factor,” which essentially moves education funds to other areas of the state budget.
How to fund education?
Lukens more than once mentioned that Colorado is last in the U.S. in teacher pay. Wolfson more than once noted that the state has long been governed by one party — the Democrats — and asked why that party hasn’t yet addressed some of the state’s pressing needs.
The candidates also agreed that the state’s wolf reintroduction project — a ballot measure approved in 2020 — should be rethought. At least one pack of the animals has been confirmed as living in the northwestern part of Colorado. Those animals have already killed livestock.
Lukens acknowledged that voters approved the measure, noting that the state government’s job is to distribute funding for ranchers’ losses and mitigation.
Wolfson said the state shouldn’t spend any money on wolf reintroduction, adding that the animals already in Colorado should be collared and tracked.
“Humans are forcing (wolves) into a situation we created,” she added.
Ideas about water
The candidates were also asked about protecting the state’s water supplies.
Wolfson said any future plans should prioritize human needs over the needs of fish, adding that the Front Range needs more reservoir storage.
Lukens said “it’s imperative” for the state to find partnerships to ensure both river health and the viability of the state’s agricultural producers.
Abortion, especially in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision of the early 1970s, was another topic put to the candidates.
Lukens said she’s “grateful” for the Colorado legislature’s actions to set abortion protections into state law, adding that decisions about pregnancy should be between a woman and her doctor.
Wolfson said she opposes using taxpayer funding for abortion services, adding that this year’s state law allows teens to not inform their parents when seeking an abortion. But, she noted, the people she speaks to are in favor of “reasonable” regulations on abortions.
Another culture-war question to the candidates came from local resident Terry Quinn. Speaking about teaching Critical Race Theory in public schools, Quinn asked what the candidates can do to ensure that other perspectives are also presented.
Wolfson accused Lukens of leading “one-sided, partisan” discussions in her high school social studies classes at Steamboat High School.
Lukens said her classroom presents “many different views” every day, adding that parents are welcome to check her lesson plans on the Google Classroom platform.
In their closing statements, Lukens reminded the audience that she has deep roots in the district, and is already working on “partnerships” with local groups.
Lukens pledged to “work to get results … we need a leader who can rise up above polarization.”
Wolfson’s closing remarks borrowed from former President Ronald Reagan, who once asked voters if they were better off today than they were a few years ago, and said she hopes to return balance to Colorado politics.
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