When elected, my priority will be advocating on behalf of the people who live in House District 58. Having lived in the district for the past 25 years and after listening to the concerns of voters, I believe that the following issues are top of mind for many. My goal is to serve on the House Agriculture, Water, and Natural Resources Committee in addition to the House Committee on Appropriations. I want to serve as a resource and leader on issues related to water, agriculture, and natural resources and provide a strong voice regarding efficient and equitable state spending.
The Colorado River
The ongoing aridification and changing climate of the Southwest has resulted in reduced Colorado River flows. This change in hydrology has focused much attention on the ability of the State of Colorado (and other Upper Basin States) to meet their obligations to the Lower Basin States as set forth in the 1922 Colorado River Compact. Because the Gunnison and Uncompahgre Rivers are major tributaries to the Colorado – any actions considered by the State of Colorado and/or the Colorado General Assembly to address the Compact requirements will have a direct impact on the people of HD58. I have been working on Colorado River issues and water management challenges facing the West Slope for more than two decades and plan to put that experience to work in the Statehouse. Unfortunately, the target is on West Slope agricultural water users as the best source of water for meeting the state’s compact requirements. Water users on the Front Range of Colorado also rely on the Colorado River because of transmountain diversions, which move water from the upper reaches of the Colorado River to the Front Range. My priority will be fighting for equitable, statewide sharing of any future requirements for water deliveries to the Lower Basin for compact compliance.
Agriculture is the primary industry in House District 58. The fruit growers in Hotchkiss, sweet corn producers in Olathe, cattle producers in Gunnison, forage producers in Montrose, and dryland bean producers in Dove Creek deserve a representative who has a heart for their industry. Being an effective advocate for agriculture is about supporting the efforts of individual producers to make the decisions needed to ensure their business operations are viable. In the last five years, the Colorado State Legislature has adopted laws that impact labor costs, permitting, water availability, endangered species, soil health, private property rights, and more. This trend is likely to continue in the coming years. My recent experience working at the Capitol on behalf of agricultural water providers and the cattle industry has reinforced my belief that a strong voice on behalf of agricultural producers at the Capitol is essential. Although I come from the livestock side of the industry, I have a deep respect for all things agriculture and will continue on the path that our current representative set to make sure your voice and concerns are heard. Of the 100 members of the Colorado General Assembly, you can count the number of actual producers on one hand. We need a strong voice.
The question of energy production and development is important to many voters in House District 58. Actions taken by the Colorado Legislature and changes in market demand can have significant impacts on communities in the district – just take a drive to Somerset in Gunnison County to see the impacts related to reduced demand for coal production. When I served in the General Assembly in the early 2000s, I spent a considerable amount of time on issues related to surface use impacts from drilling, protecting royalty owners, and supporting the development of the full range of energy sources. I have no doubt that the legislature will continue to consider bills related to alternative energy sources, regulation of the oil and gas sector, and providing transitional assistance for coal-producing areas. I believe in a balanced approach that acknowledges the important role that both traditional and non-traditional energy sources play.
The Colorado General Assembly has, in recent years, been able to take substantive steps toward addressing the persistent underfunding of public education in our state. While there is more work to be done to increase teacher pay and provide adequate resources, I believe that progress is being made. Both of my children attended public school and received an excellent education that has well-prepared them for their future endeavors. If they are able to stay in Colorado and raise their own kids, I want to ensure that they have the same opportunities. There are a number of very heartfelt issues currently being debated in addition to inadequate funding: curriculum content, school safety, and protection of student and parental rights, to name several. I would approach legislation from the perspective of a parent, with the welfare of the students as my top priority, and I would seek input from people in the district and educational professionals to help me make the best decisions on behalf of HD58.
Affordable Housing and Land Use Planning
Accessing the housing market is a major challenge for most working families in HD58. There are a range of issues driving the high cost of housing and the shortage of affordable workforce housing. I believe that local officials and community members should take the lead on efforts to address the challenges we face and that statewide mandates such as the legislation that was introduced in 2023 are not the best path forward. What might work in Crested Butte may not be a good approach in Norwood and vice versa. My job as your representative would be to seek your input and guidance when legislation is being proposed so that the legislature does not make the situation worse, that decision-making stays in the hands of the local communities, and that legislative actions are helpful.
On June 24, 2022, a majority of Supreme Court Justices voted for the first time in history to remove a human right from the Constitution by overturning the longstanding Roe v. Wade decision. The Colorado General Assembly followed this action by passing legislation affirming the reproductive rights of women in Colorado. I believe in personal responsibility and the protection of individual human rights. The recent Supreme Court decision removed the fundamental right of women to control their own bodies, and this is unacceptable. The Colorado General Assembly should be focused on ensuring human rights and freedoms – not eliminating them. When elected, I will vote to support the right of women to make their own decisions regarding their personal health.
The issue of gun rights is important to the people of House District 58. I am one of the thousands of people in the district who own a gun. I believe in the rule of law and want the right to defend myself. But I also believe in the right of people to go to public places or send their kids to school without the fear of being a victim of gun violence. For me to believe in individual rights, I need to keep both of those perspectives in mind. I will support the right to own guns and use them appropriately but not in violation of the rights of others. More needs to be done to address the root cause of gun violence. My opinion is that the mental health aspect of gun violence needs to be the focus of the conversation – not the weapon itself. I will vote to defend the Second Amendment, but I will also consider measures that are designed to address the root causes of gun violence and protect victims.
Working Across the Aisle – Problem Solving
The Colorado General Assembly meets for 120 days a year, and they consider an average of 600 different measures. HD58 is a geographically and politically diverse district with a wide range of opinions and concerns. My approach to serving as your representative would be to fix problems without creating new ones for the people of the district. The question should always be asked: “What is broken that needs to be fixed?” and “Have all the differing points of view been heard?” I have a proven history of providing leadership that is based on listening to both sides of an issue, being respectful, and then fighting for the best outcome. Having been a legislator, I know how challenging it can be to advocate for and make decisions on behalf of a district that has a wide range of views. I will provide effective leadership on the issues that are important to HD58.