ALAMOSA — Democrat Matthew Martinez and Republican Carol Riggenbach spoke on a number of topics during the San Luis Valey and Pueblo League of Women Voter’s candidate forum held virtually on Monday.
Martinez and Riggenbach are vying to represent House District 62, which is currently represented by Don Valdez. Valdez sought to run for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District and lost in the Democratic Primary.
Each candidate was asked and answered the same questions without rebuttal. The 30-minute forum allowed candidates to present their stances on key issues in the district.
Candidates gave their perspectives on affordable housing, gun rights, education, abortion rights and working across the aisle to get things done.
Candidates speak on affordable housing
Out of the gate, each candidate was asked what their recommendations were to alleviate the lack of affordable housing in the district.
Martinez, who spoke first, pointed to increasing wages as one facet of making housing more affordable.
“We need to make sure we have a true living wage that’s associated with their working and being able to have them afford to live where they’re at,” he said.
He said also that housing prices were a concern. He commented that if wages go up, housing prices can’t be gouged along with it.
Riggenbach pointed to proposed legislation dealing with rental reimbursement as well as legislation put forth now that she said will “actually really harm the housing situation we have now.”
Riggenbach said the legislation will make it more costly to build homes and pay rent.
Candidates talk Second Amendment rights
Riggenbach took a firm stance on her beliefs on government regulation of firearms.
“I will not bend the knee on gun rights,” she said. “I will not.”
Riggenbach said that the people who fought for this country did so for our right to defend ourselves.
She said there are other ways to fight gun violence, in particular gun violence in schools. Riggenbach pointed to a bill she said was killed by Democrats that would have given more money to security officers and school resource officers.
She held firm her belief that the government should not restrict a citizen’s right to own firearms.
“I do not support gun legislation or gun restrictions,” she said.
Martinez said he believes Colorado already has many “common sense” laws.
“I think reinforcing background checks and making sure that people that should not have firearms can’t just walk into the store and purchase them the same day,” he said. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
Candidates agree keeping water in HD62 an important issue
Both candidates agreed that water — and more importantly, keeping water in the valley — is a key issue.
They also both agreed that urban areas should not be able to take water from rural areas as metro areas continue to develop and grow.
“(Water) is the lifeblood of the San Luis Valley and Pueblo,” Martinez said. “We have to make sure we’re doing right by them.”
Martinez said that while everyone must be conscientious of water usage and be willing to make sacrifices, it was equally important that outside sources don’t “take our water away.”
Riggenbach echoed most of those sentiments.
She, too, pointed to development and how it shouldn’t be permitted for developers to gain water rights from places like the San Luis Valley.
“Just because you’re going to develop into some area that doesn’t have water, you don’t get to take ours,” Riggenbach said.
Martinez pointed to a growing divide between rural and urban Colorado as part of the issue.
While Denver and metro areas grow, he said, they’re taking resources from rural Colorado. He said there’s no justification for doing so.
“If they have a residence or a shopping mall that they didn’t have a plan for and don’t have water, that’s not our problem,” he said. “Our problem is making sure we’re preserving our water and making sure nobody can take it.”
Both said they oppose the Renewable Water Resources plan. The plan would take roughly 20,000 acre-feet of water from the San Luis Valley to Douglas County each year via a pipeline.
“I absolutely oppose the RWR plan,” Martinez said. “I don’t believe in diverting water. I don’t believe in taking it from one area and putting it into another.
“That’s not right and doesn’t bode well for all of Colorado.”
Martinez, Riggenbach disagree on the overturning of Roe V. Wade
While both candidates were seemingly on the same page with water rights, they disagreed on the recent overturning of Roe Versus Wade by the Supreme Court.
Martinez said it was a “loss of Constitutional rights,” while Riggenbach said the ruling simply returned the right to decide to the states and individuals.
“When you look at abortion, that’s something that should be between a physician and his or her patient,” Riggenbach said.
Martinez lauded Colorado’s legislation protecting a woman’s right to choose.
He said Colorado is on “a bit of an island,” when it comes to protecting abortion rights. He said he believes firmly in protecting abortion rights and access.
“I really believe that in Colorado we’re guaranteeing that right for our women to choose,” he said.
Riggenbach mentioned hearing anecdotes about instances of rape and incest in which a victim becomes pregnant.
She then said she didn’t understand why the six-month term for those types of abortions had to be pushed to full-term.
She also mentioned that there is currently a bill on California Governor Gavin Newsome’s desk that would allow an abortion seven days, or “possibly 28 days” after birth.
“You can look that up,” she said.
Candidates talk combatting mental health crisis
When asked about tackling a growing mental health crisis in Colorado, both candidates offered differing viewpoints.
Riggenbach spoke to drugs, crime, COVID-19 executive orders and stress that children face as all factors that need to be addressed to help combat mental health issues.
Martinez, a Marine during Operation Iraqi Freedom, specifically spoke to getting more mental health access to veterans, as well as others.
He said that the Department of Veterans Affairs is currently allowing veterans who are not in crisis four mental health visits per year.
“That’s absolutely absurd,” he said.
He mentioned the expanding telehealth options and Colorado’s ability to start a mental health initiative as ways to provide mental health care at affordable or free costs for veterans and citizens alike.
Martinez, Riggenbach discuss stances on education
When asked about higher education costs and funding, Riggenbach instead spoke to the lack of pay for public education teachers.
Meanwhile, Martinez (an administrator at Adams State) mentioned capping tuition costs and providing funding for institutions that need it more than those that don’t (ASU as opposed to Colorado University or Colorado State University).
Martinez touted being endorsed by the Colorado Education Association as well as the American Federation of Teachers.
He, too, mentioned that teachers are not receiving adequate pay.
“Some teachers even have master’s degrees and are living below the poverty line,” he said. “That is unacceptable. If you pay teachers better, you’ll have a better product.”
Riggenbach said she believes that legislators need to respect parents and grandparents more.
She pointed to the Parents Bill of Rights, which she said also was killed by Democrats.
“What happened to parents’ rights in the first place?” she asked. “That’s something that puzzles me.”
She also pointed to children’s behaviors in school, and how teachers are leaving the profession due to dealing with such behaviors.
“There are classroom behaviors that are out of control,” she said. “Really good teachers are leaving the field. We’ve got to do something to make the working environment in a classroom better.”
On the topic of free lunch in schools, Riggenbach said that students need help. However, she said, taxpayers must be weary of how much is being spent.
“I think there should definitely be help,” she said. “We have to remember, though, that for every dollar we spend it comes from somewhere. Money doesn’t grow on trees. We have to take care of people within our budget. We can’t tax the people to dearth.”
Martinez said he believes any student should be able to have free lunch.
“I firmly believe that no child should go to school and be hungry,” he said.
Martinez and Riggenbach say they’re willing to cross the aisle, put HD62 first
Both candidates said that they planned on working across the aisle to do what was in the best interest of their constituents.
Riggenbach said that she believes in understanding the other side’s perspective and listening to that perspective.
“I would so cross the aisle on so many issues,” she said. “What I totally believe is that first, you must understand before you can be understood.”
She said that while there are certain fundamental differences that aren’t negotiable, the constituents of the district come first.
“We have to understand each other and believe in each other,” she said. “Number one, we have to represent the people — not a party.”
Martinez said that specifically, he would work across the aisle to oppose the RWR plan and keep water in the San Luis Valley and Pueblo.
He, too, said he would put party politics aside for the sake of the people he represents.
“We have to be able to work across the aisle,” he said. “We have to get legislation passed. At the end of the day, who’s impacted? The people.
“We have to find solutions and work together to benefit our citizens.”
Martinez and Riggenbach will participate in the Alamosa Chamber of Commerce and Valley Courier-sponsored candidate forum at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 11 at Society Hall, 400 Ross Ave.
Twelfth Judicial District Attorney candidates Republican Anne Kelly and Democrat Bob Willett are also scheduled to participate.
The election is Nov. 8.
Luke Lyons is the managing editor of the Valley Courier. He can be reached via email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter by searching @luke_lyons14.