Democratic candidate Alex Walker, who’s running in the 3rd Congressional District primary race, set the tone during his opening statement at a virtual forum hosted by several local chapters of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters, Wednesday.
Three Democrats – Walker, Sol Sandoval, and Adam Frisch plus Republicans Don Coram and Lauren Boebert participated in the forum via Zoom.
“I’m young and gay,” Walker said. “I’m a moderate, and I’m afraid for my country. Dangerous insurrectionists tried to take over our country – one of them is on this call. We must fight for what is right,” like clean jobs, housing, survival.
“Lauren Boebert, I’m so happy you’re here, (to answer questions); you’re a huge part of the problem,” he said.
Boebert followed Walker with an opening statement in which she blamed President Biden for high gas prices. Boebert said she was the only conservative at the forum (a jab at Coram) and that electing conservatives was necessary for getting the country back on track.
“I have an A-rating from two gun-rights organizations,” she touted, with a provocative image of an AR-15 rifle displayed on the wall behind her.
The event was moderated by Sara Blackhurst, CEO of Action 22 — a Pueblo-based nonpartisan member-driven organization that works on policy issues affecting 22 southern Colorado counties.
Restore the Balance, a bipartisan nonprofit organization founded in Mesa County, hosted the watch party, along with the League, at Warehouse 25 Sixty-five Kitchen and Bar in Grand Junction. Restore the Balance co-founder and president Tim Sarmo facilitated the event.
Walker wasn’t the only one who criticized Boebert. Each of the candidates, including Frisch of Aspen, denounced the congresswoman’s behavior during her time in office.
“People are sick of her antics,” Frisch said. “She did not win her home county. The conservative media in her district has turned against her.”
Coram, Boebert’s Republican primary challenger, told viewers he’s a candidate for all — not just for his party, and that he appeals to the 80% of voters in the middle — not the “extremists on the Left and the Right.”
“I’m a legislator, not an instigator,” he said. “I’m one of the people not out trying to be famous.”
Sandoval, of Pueblo, spoke of her pride in being the daughter of hard-working immigrants and lifelong union members. She emphasized her experience as a social worker and as a health advocate for the Colorado Trust Foundation and how since declaring her candidacy a year-and-a-half ago she has been traveling around the state talking with people and developing relationships with both Republicans and Democrats.
“It is time to elect someone who will look out for the citizens of the 3rd Congressional District,” she said. “I’ve been training for 20 years to serve you in Congress. We need to elect an adult who knows how to listen.”
Boebert, whose husband earns nearly $500,000 annually as an oil and gas industry consultant, said she lives in a community that has been regulated into poverty, and that “the Left is shutting down our energy industry.” Opening up public lands for energy development is “imperative,” she said.
Frisch countered by saying there’s only one live well in operation right now and that there should not be talk of expanding access to public lands when the industry already has acreage it could develop.
Walker explicitly said public lands should not be opened to oil and gas development, and that we “need to pivot to clean energy.”
Forum questions were submitted by a bipartisan committee, some of which were given to candidates in advance, while other questions were answered by candidates extemporaneously.
Boebert often repeated that “liberal policies are hurting this country” and that voting for anyone else is a vote for Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden.
When asked about their positions on firearm regulations, Boebert said that Democrats’ efforts toward gun safety reform are “emotionally driven,” and that new regulations won’t end school shootings.
“Gun-free zones have proven to be deadly,” she said.
While every candidate said they support responsible gun ownership, and some would agree to fixing loopholes regarding background checks, and passing Red Flag laws, only Walker said he would ban military-style assault weapons – which elicited applause from the audience.
When asked about their positions on Roe v. Wade, and a woman’s right to choose an abortion, Boebert answered that she is “pro-life.” With a smirk, she added she told Planned Parenthood to “go fund yourself.”
Walker noted what he called the “insane GOP hypocrisy” of Republicans who often talk about personal freedoms and constitutional rights, but don’t support a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion.
“It’s a woman’s right to choose; It’s her body,” Walker said.
Sandoval said abortion should be a decision left to the woman, and that every woman has a right to dignity and privacy,” on such issues.
All candidates touched briefly on the topic of water, with Frisch noting there wasn’t much disagreement regarding the need to protect water. Walker has often called for renegotiating the Colorado River Compact, that governs the apportionment of use of the water.
Coram called attention to Boebert’s use of the word “introduced” when talking about her so-called achievements.
“I ran because I’m a success-oriented guy,” Coram said. “I looked, but couldn’t find any successes connected to the congresswoman. She kept saying ‘introduced’ but the key word is ‘pass.’ She takes credit for things she voted against. Last year she said health care of veterans was not her problem. It is (her) problem.”
A discussion among the approximately 80 watch party members took place following the forum, which was aired live on Facebook.
Walker appeared to be an audience favorite, with one senior man saying he didn’t know much about the candidate prior to the forum, and was “blown away by Alex’s intelligence.”
An informal ranked voting exercise found Sandoval as the most favored candidate, with 34 votes, followed by a close second by Walker, with 30 votes. The ranked vote system showed Frisch at third place, followed by Coram. Boebert, who did not receive any first-place preference votes, was dropped after the first round.
Sandoval and Walker were voted the most dynamic of the candidates. And while Frisch was voted as having the best grasp of details, audience members said his delivery, or projection could have been better.
Sandoval, who’s bilingual and typically greets audiences in Spanish before she switches to English, ended by saying “I say, ‘adios to Lauren Boebert.’”