Retired U.S. Air Force intelligence officer Rich Cimino, a Republican Grand County commissioner running for state Senate district in the central and northern parts of Colorado’s Western Slope, believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is a war criminal for his brutal invasion of democratic Ukraine.

“Putin is absolutely a war criminal. I hope this attack backfires on him,” Cimino said by email. “I strongly back Ukraine. I pray for the Ukrainian people who are taking up arms against the Russian invaders. I applaud the Ukrainian President [Volodymyr Zelensky] who said, ‘I need ammunition, not a ride.’”

Rich Cimino

Former prosecutor and current State Rep. Dylan Roberts of Avon, Cimino’s potential Democratic opponent should he land the GOP nomination for the Colorado Senate District 8 (SD8) race, agrees Putin is a war criminal.

“Putin’s invasion was unprovoked, unnecessary, and a violation of international law and norms,” Roberts said in an email. “Putin’s behavior thus far constitutes war crimes, in my opinion, and my heart breaks for the Ukrainian people. I am also heartened and encouraged by the Ukrainian resistance and bravery in the face of this inhumane invasion.”

Former Eagle Town Board member and gun store owner Matt Solomon, who’s also seeking the Republican nomination to take on Roberts – the only Democrat to enter the race so far – said in a phone interview, “What’s happening in the Ukraine is a terrible series of events.”

Asked about former President Donald Trump’s praise of Putin’s invasion as “smart” and “savvy,” Cimino, a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, said, “I encourage every Republican and every American to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

Matt Solomon

Pressed on whether praise of Putin gives aid and comfort to the enemy, Cimino said, “Americans of all political stripes have been near-unanimous in their condemnations of Putin. While I fault the Biden administration for being tardy in imposing tough sanctions and organizing world support for Ukraine, I’m pleased that he has condemned the invasion.”

Roberts, who on Monday co-sponsored a bipartisan state house resolution supporting Ukraine, had a more direct message for Trump and others lauding Putin’s actions.

“Any American president or politician at any level that offers praise of any kind to Putin would be siding with a dictator over democracy,” Roberts said.

Solomon said he couldn’t comment on Trump’s praise for Putin because he doesn’t know the context of his statements.

“It was a public statement, but I haven’t had the opportunity to speak one on one with the person whose comments you’re referring to and what he meant by those comments,” Solomon said. “I’m not condoning [Trump] and I’m also not supporting him. I’m just saying I can’t comment to the context of his comments.”

Disagreement on Energy and Climate

Solomon went on to decry overregulation of the oil and gas industry in Colorado that has been pushing companies out of the state at a time when global energy markets have been roiled by pandemic and war.

Dylan Roberts

“Global trade and global economics affect us locally 100%, and we need to have vision and foresight so that we can make the correct decisions now that convey that reflectiveness so they’re not just reactionary in nature,” he said. “Oil and gas is a prime example.”

After redistricting, state Senate District 8 will include the vast majority of Eagle County, most of Garfield County, and all of Clear Creek, Gilpin, Summit, Grand, Jackson, Routt, Rio Blanco, and Moffat counties.

Northwestern Colorado traditionally has been home to extensive natural gas drilling and coal mining, and SD8 could be pivotal in terms of party control of the state Senate.

Roberts, in a previous interview, addressed the balance between shifting to renewable energy to combat climate change and the fossil-fuel economy in SD8.

“While the burning of fossil fuels is a contributor to climate change, I recognize that energy production has been, and should continue to be, a major part of SD8’s character and a driver of its economy,” Roberts said, pointing to his bipartisan record in the legislature of supporting innovative energy production.

Cimino, also in a previous interview, blasted climate-change laws: “Yes, climate change is occurring, and it has been for at least several centuries. It is quite possible that change is at least partly caused by human activity. However, extreme climate change laws attacking oil and gas and agriculture must stop.”

Agreement on2020 Prez Election

All three candidates agreed Joe Biden is the freely and fairly elected president of the United States, despite Trump’s ongoing and baseless assertion that he was the real winner of the 2020 election.

Roberts and Cimino disagreed with last month’s Republican National Committee resolution censuring U.S. Republican Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger and declaring Jan. 6 “legitimate political discourse.”

“As the Senate Minority Leader ‘Mitch McConnell] said, ‘The issue is whether or not the RNC should be, sort of, singling out members of our party who may have different views from the majority. That’s not the job of the RNC,’ Cimino said. “Instead, we need to focus on winning elections by offering the voters of Colorado real solutions.”

Solomon said: “The political environment in our country has been so divisive and negative, it is no wonder the majority of people in our Senate District 8 are unaffiliated or claim independence. Jan. 6 is one more example of this negative divisiveness that we must overcome.”

Asked if Colorado should be considering laws and taking actions aimed at election security up to and including sending alternate presidential electors in the 2024 presidential election, the three candidates differed significantly.

“I am always open to changes to law that make our elections more reliable and secure but do not see a reason to consider alternate electors or any reforms along those lines,” Roberts said.

Cimino said no, but strongly opposed the Colorado law, which was later affirmed by voters, that would award Colorado’s electoral college votes to the national popular vote winner. 

While none of us in Senate District 8 want to be micromanaged by an overbearing government and we all want to have the utmost faith in the process, election security is a very important issue,” Solomon said. “It could include everything from alternate presidential electors, to mandatory identifications for voters, to special paper on which ballots would be printed.”