Women in Support of Education (WISE) hosted a debate in the Ouray Community Center on Tuesday evening between District 59 State House incumbent J. Paul Brown (R) and challenger Mike McLachlan (D). Moderator Nancy Wolkin asked questions submitted by audience members and kept candidates to time limits.
The candidates come from different backgrounds. Brown is a rancher in Ignacio and has served as a county commissioner and school board member. McLachlan was raised in a military family and after an honorable discharge from the United States Marine Corps earned a law degree. He practices in Durango. Both candidates have raised families and believe that District 59 is the most beautiful in the state.
Candidates on common sense
McLachlan said that common sense involves talking to all sides on an issue and making a decision that makes sense for everyone. “We need to do away with the gridlock and fighting,” he said.
Brown believes that common sense is learned early on in life. “There are things that happen. You have to come up with solutions to problems,” Brown stated. Brown admitted that not everyone will agree on the solutions, but you should still, “look for the best way to go to solve a problem.”
Candidates on fracking and regulations
“Fracking is something that has been going on for many years. There are some regulations in place,” Brown said. “I think they are adequate as far as right now.” Brown referenced his personal experience with fracking and feels it is necessary if we are to have an oil and gas industry.
McLachlan also recognized the long term successful use of fracking in La Plata County. He referred to using reasonable, scientifically based regulation. “We do it carefully and scientifically. We get a baseline and make sure water quality is not harmed by the fracking,” McLachlan stated.
Candidates on broadband
“In running for District 59, it’s really been a thrill to meet people and communities. When I first visited Ouray County, I immediately learned that you have impaired broadband service,” McLachlan said. He said he fully understands that this is an important issue to the schools, communities and businesses. “The legislature needs to go back and review this issue,” McLachlan said. He also pointed out that he has not taken any corporate money, namely from Qwest, whereas Brown has.
Brown expressed his confidence in the EagleNet project to provide broadband to every corner of the state and at having Silverton resident Pat Swonger on the EagleNet team. “Having him there rests my mind. I think EagleNet will get it done with him there at the helm,” Brown said.
Candidates on adequate funding for education
Brown came back to his time on the school board and expressed how important this issue is to him. He referenced a bill that was passed “to take additional funding so that if forecast funding came in earlier, the money would get to K-12…$300 million will be put into K-12 this year.”
McLachlan feels there are two issues with education funding: the short-term and the long-term. He explained that his wife is a teacher in Durango and they believe “strongly in public education.” Especially, McLachlan said, in early education. He referenced a recent study that reports that by the time a child is four years old they will have assimilated 80 percent of what they will learn.
Candidates on the increase in child poverty
McLachlan was quick to point a finger at Brown’s voting record. Referencing Brown’s single dissenting vote on a homeless child bill in the legislature, McLachlan said, “Mr. Brown doesn’t seem to be concerned for children living in poverty.”
Brown’s response was that “there is no one in the state legislature that cares more about children than I do.” Brown explained that he voted the way he did because the bill raised the age of those covered from 18 to 26. “I don’t want to expand the program at the expense of other kids,” Brown said.
McLachlan also referenced Brown’s vote against FBI background checks on childcare workers. Brown’s reply was that a background check was already in place. “It seemed that this bill was adding to the bureaucracy. We have to be careful about adding new programs, because it takes away from what we’re already doing,” Brown said.
Candidates on TABOR
Both candidates agreed that it’s not unconstitutional and feel that it is up to people of Colorado to decide to keep it in place or not.
Candidates on visual impact and farming
McLachlan said the right to farm is a constitutional right that is subject to reasonable regulation. “I agree with the right to farm. But, it’s not an absolute right. Counties can adopt their own land use regulations,” McLachlan said.
“I really believe in the right to farm,” Brown said. He emphasized the importance to farming of building certain structures to be efficient and expressed his strong support of private property rights. “Counties need to be very careful when regulating farms,” Brown said.
Candidates on women’s right to choose
Brown expressed his pro-life view and that he doesn’t believe “that an abortion should be used as a contraceptive.”
McLachlan praised Brown for having four “strapping sons,” but said a difference between the two is that he has a daughter. He related that he would not go home and tell his daughter he voted to allow someone else to tell her what she could do with her body. “I believe these decisions should be made by people in consultation with a medical professional, their family and their faith,” McLachlan said.
Candidates asked to bring something new to the table
For their closing remarks, Wolkin asked the candidates to say something new. McLachlan believes we need to do a better job of attracting discharged veterans to Colorado for higher education.
Brown expressed his belief in “limited government and more freedom and individual responsibility.” He also expressed a desire to bolster infrastructure by repairing Colorado’s deteriorating roads.