Questions and answers: Diane Mitsch Bush and Lauren Boebert

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Photos and collage by Gay Gangel-Fayhee

3rd Congressional District Democratic candidate Diane Mitsch Bush takes part in a virtual campaign rally.

Diane Mitsch Bush

Author’s note: These questions were posed to Diane Mitsch Bush in response to numerous accusations made by Lauren Boebert in her campaign rallies in Meeker, Craig and Steamboat Springs in late September.

Aspen Journalism: Boebert routinely refers to you as a “far-left, job-killing socialist.” How do you react to this assertion?

Diane Mitsch Bush: That’s a load of garbage. First, I’m no socialist. I earned a reputation as a pragmatic, independent leader in the State House. I stood up to Democratic leadership on water issues and worked with Republicans to get things done. More than 70 percent of my bills were co-prime-sponsored by Republicans.

Second, I’ve got plenty of plans to create good-paying jobs in CD3. One of my top priorities is creating a federal infrastructure bank. That will mean reliable funding for improvements to our water infrastructure, broadband, the electric grid and transportation infrastructure — and good-paying jobs to accomplish those projects. Not only will that put people back to work, but it’ll also rebuild our communities.

COVID has also shown how weak the medical supply chain is, and I propose incentives for medical supply companies to manufacture their products in CD3. We’ve seen shortages in Personal Protective Equipment, ventilators and other supplies throughout the pandemic. There’s no reason that we can’t create more of those products right here in CD3 to create good-paying jobs and save lives.

Finally, public lands are responsible for more than 500,000 jobs across the state every year. Colorado’s outdoor economy relies on public lands, and I’m fighting to keep public lands in public hands.

AJ: When she was in Steamboat Springs last week, Boebert referred to Steamboat as “the heart of the lion’s den.” I assume she was talking about the town being largely Democrat. What is your reaction to such a statement? Does it indicate to you that she is disinclined to represent, or maybe even understand, the interests of largely Democrat-voting ski/resort towns that make up the economic backbone of much of CD3?

DMB: Let’s clarify one thing about the mountain counties — they’re not rich. Most of the high-income folks are second homeowners. When you look at the wages in the mountain counties, they’re much lower than Denver. People struggle here. They struggle with health care costs, child care and housing. People often have to work two or three jobs just to pay rent. Now, with COVID, they’re really struggling, they really can’t make it.  

This is a geographically large and diverse district, and the next representative for CD3 needs to represent every town and every county — from Gunnison to Pueblo and Cortez to Steamboat. The fact is, there are issues that affect everyone in this district no matter where they live, like the ridiculous cost of health care and finding a good-paying job. That’s why I’m talking to voters everywhere — not just in blue counties and towns. If Boebert can’t treat people with respect, no matter where they live, how can we expect that she’ll represent us all, not just her supporters?

AJ: She said liberals want to “over-regulate, over-tax and overspend, ultimately destroying everything we are at home building.” Reaction?

DMB: I’m all about cutting red tape, and that’s just what I did in the State House. Some regulation is important for maintaining public health and safety, but I’m all for getting rid of unnecessary regulations.

AJ: She said, “I am the only candidate who has fought so hard for water. Without our electoral votes, you can kiss our water good-bye.” This latter assertion came after she talked about her opposition to the national popular vote compact issue that’s on the ballot.

DMB: You wanna talk about fighting for water? Democratic leadership in the State House tried to pass legislation without any Republican support that would have been terrible for my district. So I stood up to them to pass a bill that was much better for Western Colorado. I’ve worked on these issues for decades, and I know water law like the back of my hand.

Boebert didn’t even show up to the annual Water Congress meeting to answer tough questions about water challenges. Instead, she blew off the Water Congress and went to D.C. to hobnob with Washington insiders and sent a recorded video of her reading a speech written by her handlers. If she wants to talk about water policy so badly, she should agree to one of the four debates I’ve accepted.

AJ: She talked incessantly about her opposition to the various virus shutdowns, bragging about her defiance by opening her restaurant against health department orders. She said she was very influential in getting Rifle to open up. Reaction?

DMB: Candidates and members of Congress should lead by example and support public safety, but Boebert has put public health and safety at risk throughout this pandemic. She opened her restaurant against the guidance of the county health department. She told Pitkin County public health officials that one of her fundraisers would be outside and that attendees would wear masks. Video from that fundraiser showed that the event was inside and almost no one was wearing a mask. She has a total disregard for our safety and thinks the rules don’t apply to her.

AJ: What do you make of the “government cheese” anecdotes she has weaved into her persona? Ditto her “working at McDonalds at age 15” anecdotes, which, in Steamboat, included the statement, “I learned job skills I didn’t know I had.”

DMB: I won’t speak to Boebert’s personal story, but she’s not the only one that had a tough childhood. I grew up with a single mother who struggled to make ends meet. We lived paycheck to paycheck until she joined a union — AFSCME. That’s when things really turned around for us. My mother had a safe workplace and wages she deserved because her union supported her.

My childhood showed me that we are stronger when we stand together and support one another. That when we provide people with safe workplaces and livable wages, they can do anything. That’s why I support programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that make sure people have their basic needs met, and that’s why I support more stimulus spending to support our small business and people that have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic.

AJ: She disparagingly said you are in favor of the Green New Deal. Respond.

DMB: The Green New Deal introduced in February 2019 is a 15-page resolution drafted by left-wing liberals on the East Coast. Back in the State House, we called resolutions “letters to Santa Claus.” The resolution doesn’t do anything, and it’s remarkably out of touch with the issues that we face in rural Colorado. I don’t support Bernie Sanders’ and AOC’s Green New Deal. It doesn’t take into account the issues that we’re facing in CD3.

AJ: She said you “refused to support the Jordan Cove pipeline that would be tremendous for our district and our state and we know it could create international markets to export our clean liquid natural gas to other countries who are currently dependent on communists, on dictators for their energy.”

DMB: Let’s be clear about something: Congress doesn’t approve construction of the Jordan Cove pipeline. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approves the pipeline. Whether or not this project is approved would not be in my hands as a member of Congress.

That being said, I have a lot of outstanding questions about the Jordan Cove pipeline. The first is: is there a market for this? Some have said that the Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) from the pipeline would be sold to China and Japan, but both of those countries already have agreements in place with Russia — which will supply the LNG much cheaper than we would. Before I can in good faith support a project like this, I need to understand if there’s actually a market for the LNG that would be transported by the pipeline, and if there isn’t, what the benefit would be to oil and gas workers in this district.

The second is: how would eminent domain come into play with this project? I believe in private property, and I’m really concerned that the federal government using eminent domain to build a pipeline to transport natural gas that there may not be a market for would really harm people from whom they take property. I need more information so that I can make the best possible decision. That’s what a representative does, and that’s my top priority.

AJ: She said you have “advocated for universal health care,” “had a multi-year love fest with Bernie Sanders and his socialized medicine schemes” and the she (Boebert) “could not afford the payroll tax of socialized medicine.”

DMB: I don’t support eliminating private insurance or Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill. I support keeping the Affordable Care Act in place — particularly because it is the only law on the books that protects more than 300,000 people in CD3 with a preexisting condition. Repealing the ACA would rip health insurance from more than 400,000 people in Colorado. Instead, I would focus on proposals to lower health care costs while keeping the ACA in place — like getting resources to our rural hospitals, ending surprise billing, fully funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program and authorizing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices.

AJ: She said you “should be disqualified from this race for wanting to represent Colorado’s Third District which is made up of more than 80-percent federal land.” Not quite sure what she was getting at here. I am under the impression you are in support of the federal land located in the Third.

DMB: I will always protect and defend our public lands. They are a major economic driver in Colorado and CD 3. They support more than 500,000 jobs across the state. Legislation like the CORE Act protects and expands our public lands as a way to support the outdoor economy and create new wilderness areas. My opponent opposes the CORE Act and calls it “a land grab by Denver liberals.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. The CORE Act was written by conservationists, outdoorsmen, small business owners, ranchers and county officials. This legislation and bills like it will boost our outdoor economy and ensure that public lands stay in public hands so that all Coloradans may enjoy them.

AJ: She said, disparagingly, “my opponent has stated that she is proudly endorsed by Planned Parenthood. I will tell Planned Parenthood to go fund themselves.”

DMB: I support access to the essential health care Planned Parenthood provides, and I am proud to have their endorsement. If elected, Lauren Boebert would defund Planned Parenthood and take away critical life-saving services like cancer screenings from families right here in the 3rd district. We can’t let that happen.

AJ: She said, “I signed up to get in the way.”

DMB: That’s not how you get things done. Boebert has made it clear she’s more interested in picking partisan fights than she is in delivering results for this for this district. I’m running for Congress to represent everyone — not just the people who vote for me — and I’ll work across the aisle to fight for lower health care costs and create good paying jobs.

M. John Fayhee / Aspen Journalism

3rd Congressional District Republican candidate Lauren Boebert addresses a crowd of supporters at a recent campaign rally in Meeker.

Lauren Boebert

Editor’s note: This list of questions was sent numerous times over the course of a month via various channels to Lauren Boebert and her campaign. The responses finally came in too late to include in the main Cd3 story by the author.

Aspen Journalism: How do you address the concern that your platform neglects the interests of the majority of the voters in places — mostly resort-based — like the Roaring Fork Valley, Steamboat Springs and Eagle County — all of which are outdoor-recreation-based that serve as regional economic engines whose fiscal influence extends way past the city limits to places like Garfield County?

Lauren Boebert: I reject your premise that my platform is location-specific. My platform supports freedom and prosperity for all Americans.

AJ: We have heard that one of the ways you would address future water issues in the 3rd Congressional District is to expand existing reservoirs. Which reservoirs specifically? And by what legal and monetary means?

LB: Yes, I would support the expansion of existing reservoirs. It is the most cost-effective and least time-consuming process for communities that want to support such an expansion.

AJ: How do you feel about the legalization of marijuana at the federal level?

LB: This has proven to be a states’ rights issue, and I don’t think the federal government should interfere with that.

AJ: At your talk in Steamboat Springs, [in late September], you connected Colorado’s national popular vote bill with the potential loss of water in western Colorado. You stated, “Without our electoral votes, you can kiss our water good-bye.” Would you please clarify that connection?

LB: Former Colorado Director of Natural Resources Greg Walcher said the connection is obvious: Give California more political control and they will use it to take our water.

AJ: What is your stance on the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act, which is supported by a majority of people in the Roaring Fork Valley?

LB: I’d like to see a responsible plan put in place to manage the 6 billion standing dead trees in the Western United States. I’d like to see more local input on CORE (i.e. not politicians), instead of having Denver Democrats cram through legislation on the back of the National Defense Authorization Act. 

AJ: As I’m sure you know, without immigrant labor, the resort-area economy that funds large swaths of the 3rd Congressional District would be in big trouble. Resort-area employees and agricultural employees. What are your views on immigration and, by extension, the border wall?

LB: I support comprehensive immigration reform that addresses our labor needs. That starts with securing the border and having a viable entry and exit system.

AJ: You make good use of the government cheese anecdote. (We assume of which you speak came from the Reagan-era Agricultural and Food Act). What would have happened to your family were a social safety net not available? What are your views regarding programs such as SNAP, Social Security Disability, etc.? Are you totally against any sort of government safety net?

LB: Promises made should be promises kept, and there should be a safety net for the most vulnerable in our society. There should also be incentives to become less dependent on the government.

AJ: You stated in Steamboat Springs that you did not miss any payroll at Shooters Grill during the shutdown. Did you take advantage of any of the federal government programs, like low-interest SBA loans or other programs?

LB: No.

AJ: You say you used to counsel women at the Garfield County Jail. What program was that part of?

LB: The county has an inmate program that various groups participate in. I participated as a part of my church.

AJ: According to your Wikipedia profile, you “became a born again Christian in 2009.” Is that accurate? What is your denomination? What church do you attend?

LB: Yes, that is accurate, and I attend a non-denominational church.

AJ: That same profile states “Boebert has called for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.” You have stated that you want to see a system implemented that retains coverage for pre-existing conditions. Would you please clarify exactly what health-care system you are advocating?

LB: Wikipedia is not a primary source of information. Please see my health care op-ed published in the Pueblo Chieftain.

AJ: The word “Freedom” is a prominent part of your campaign. Aside from your unwavering advocacy of the Second Amendment, what specifically are you advocating freedom to do and freedom against? Please be more specific than “government intervention.”

LB: The United States Constitution guarantees freedoms to the people that government can’t take back. Let’s start with those.

AJ: We get the impression that you are disinclined toward the concept of political compromise. But, unless one party has complete control, it seems that compromise is necessary to get anything accomplished. I mean, Reagan and Tip O’Neill got along great despite their political differences. You stated in Steamboat Springs, “I signed up to get in the way.” Do you not envision circumstances where you might have to bend a bit for the benefit of your constituents?

LB: Again, I reject your premise. I don’t believe that Democrats are the party of compromise and they continue to prove that. They ignored the opportunity they were given to negotiate with the president on issues like infrastructure, stimulus, DACA and more. I am happy to tackle any issue with any member with Congress that wants to sincerely work toward finding common ground. For example, I have to believe there are Democrats that want to offer more choice and more price transparency when it comes to healthcare.

 

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