COLORADO– With ballots for the primary election being mailed out this week, five candidates running in the primary for Colorado’s third congressional district participated in the League of Women Voters and Action22 forum on Wednesday night, providing the first opportunity for voters to see the five side-by-side in real time, albeit virtually.
Moderators said they would only be using names – not titles - when addressing candidates, who included Republicans Lauren Boebert and Don Coram plus Democrats Adam Frisch, Sol Sandoval and Alex Walker.
The “this is not a debate” rule of the forum prevented the back-and-forth typically seen when candidates appear together. The structure of the forum largely prohibited that, as well, with candidates allowed only one minute to answer a series of policy questions, forcing a choice between either stating their position on an area or rebutting another candidate’s position.
That didn’t stop the occasional jabs though, despite the civil, low-key tone of the event. Coram, Frisch and Walker made a point of criticizing Boebert’s “extremist” legislative behavior during the time she’s been in office, crediting her behavior as part of their motivation to run for office.
Boebert took broader aim, calling out liberals’ “radical left” agenda while making sure to include fellow Republican Don Coram in that category.
As she did in the Democratic forum last week, Sandoval focused more on her personal story, experience and what she would bring to the seat if elected.
The order of candidates answering questions was randomly assigned with Alex Walker -self-described as a “young, gay, moderate, mechanical engineer” – first up, and, straight out of the chute, he held true to his image as a firebrand.
“I’m running because I’m afraid for our country,” he said. “A dangerous and vocal minority of insurrectionists want to take over the country and one of the people who helped plan the largest coup is on this call.” After calling on voters to be “angry” and saying he stands for “clean jobs, higher paychecks, access to health care and affordable housing” Walker thanked Boebert for being in the forum because she was “part of the problem.”
Lauren Boebert followed, saying the “country is paying a price for Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi’s failed policies”, citing problems ranging from rising crime rates to wildfires. She highlighted her “A ratings from two-gun organizations”, adding she “ran as a conservative, was elected as a conservative and votes as a conservative” and has “delivered results” for the district. “I’ve proven I have the guts to stand up”, she said, calling “for more fearless conservatives, not less” who are needed to stop the “invasion (into the country) of millions of illegal immigrants, drug cartels and sex traffickers.”
Democrat, “father, husband, businessman” and self-described moderate Adam Frisch said he was “running because of poor performance” by the incumbent. “People are sick and tired of her ginning up the angertainment,” he said. Frisch repeated his claim that, unlike other “extremists”, Boebert is a weak candidate who did not carry her own county in the 2020 election with “even conservative media turned against her” in the district. Frisch promised to focus on pressing problems like inflation, not his “Twitter account” and to bring “dignity back to CD3.” Frisch also mentioned his endorsement by the Durango Herald for the Democratic primary.
Republican Dan Coram, who just completed eleven years in the state legislature, said he was running because of “extremism” on both sides. “Hate and division isn’t going to solve problems,” he said, adding that “everywhere” he goes, “people are sick and tired of the rhetoric and gridlock”, highlighting that unaffiliated voters are now the biggest party. Coram summarized a background that included farming, ranching and extensive legislative history and a promise to be a candidate available to all voters. “I’m a legislator, not an instigator, and I’m running to change the culture in Congress.”
Sol Sandoval, a Democratic progressive who garnered “almost fifty per cent” of votes at the state assembly, told her trademark personal story as the daughter of proud, naturalized citizens who can relate from experience to the struggles many are experiencing in the district. She spoke of her accomplishments working for twenty years as a social worker and health consultant in Pueblo, which allowed her to develop relationships with people from both parties. Sandoval promised to “care” for the people in the district and “to be the leader that is so desperately needed.” She closed by listing off the numerous endorsements from individuals and organizations she has received in her candidacy.
All candidates had received the first four questions in advance of the forum with the remainder of questions being selected from over 100 submissions from the public.
The first question asked candidates what message they have for the 200,000 unaffiliated voters in CD-3.
Boebert said she would “say to them what I say to all voters: liberal policies are ruining this country.” She went on to claim that “the left is intentionally flooding our country with illegal immigrants”, adding that a vote for “any of the four other candidates” in the forum is “a vote for Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden.”
Frisch said it was “important to turn down the volume” in political rhetoric, saying he was focused on people “in the middle, and not on Twitter or social media”, and highlighting his experience as a consensus builder.
Coram said he is already reaching residents from both parties. “I’ve done this in five elections”, he said, with four Republican counties and four Democratic counties in his state senatorial district. Corum said he had also been endorsed by the Durango Herald.
Sandoval said she is “not a lifelong politician”, has a history of working across the aisle and has already begun “establishing relationships with Republicans.”
Walker, running as a Democrat, said he understands unaffiliated voters and is also “politically homeless.” He accused both parties of being “broken” and said he is not “rooted in party politics” and “will not pledge fealty to either Donald Trump or Joe Biden.”
Candidates were asked what they would do to assure election integrity. Both Coram and Frisch praised Colorado’s voting system as an example of excellence. Frisch cited Colorado’s second highest voter participation nationwide and Coram, who said that “some voter fraud has always happened”, described the state’s system as the “gold standard.”
Sandoval said she stands for “checks and balances” and would have voted for HR-1, the federal bill addressing voter access, election integrity and campaign finance.
Walker described the voter system as antiquated and advocated for “getting big tech out of elections”.
Boebert supports voter ID cards, signature checks, proof of citizenship, observers and transparent elections that guarantee the right for anyone to audit the results. She also said elections should be run by the state and voted against HR-1, describing it as a “federal takeover by Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats.”
All five candidates are “strong supporters” of the Second Amendment, with Coram and, Frisch advocating for common sense regulations and Walker opposing “selling military weapons to civilians.” Boebert focused on the Constitution states the right to bear arms “shall not be infringed.”
The themes, commonalities and differences among the candidates first presented in introductions were also present in closing statements. Walker promised to energize young voters and a new generation of leaders, and it was time to “push back on extremism. Frisch advocated for important, respectful conversations and cited a report that ranked Boebert 433 out of 435 in bipartisanship. Coram said he ran because he saw significant challenges and “the current member of Congress had accomplished nothing,” citing Boebert taking credit for the RWR proposal when she had “done nothing” and claiming to support veterans when a video showed her saying “health care for vets is not her problem.” Sandoval reminded voters she had been working on the campaign for 1.5 years and had the “ganas” to win. Boebert said she is fighting against “liberals and drug traffickers” and working so her children don’t have to grow up in a “socialist nation.”
An on-demand video of the 90 minute forum is available on the League of Women Voters Colorado Facebook page where viewers can listen to candidates’ responses in their entirety on these issues plus others including the role of elected officials in creating civil discourse, the government negotiating drug prices for Medicare, expanded use of public lands, the impact of the drought and water management plus “defunding” the police to pay for more community based programs.
That video is available at (20+) League of Women Voters of Colorado | Facebook