Bradford, Buescher spar over tactics

New law a flash point in race for District 55 seat

Laura Bradford, left, answers a question from the audience as moderator Ashley Beeson, center, and State Rep. Bernie Buescher listen during a forum in the hearing room at the old Mesa County Courthouse Monday.

State Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, accused Collbran Republican Laura Bradford of taking their contest into the bathroom by making Senate Bill 200, a bill aimed at ending discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, “one of the cornerstones of her campaign.”

Buescher, who is running to keep his District 55 seat in the Legislature, told the League of Women Voters and Kids Voting forum Tuesday the bill “doesn’t change who can use a bathroom.”

Senate Bill 200, signed into law in May, bars Colorado businesses from refusing to serve a customer because of his or her sexual orientation.

Since its passage, Focus on the Family has attacked the legislation, which Buescher supported, as allowing sexual predators to enter women’s bathrooms to find victims.

Gov. Bill Ritter and other Colorado leaders have derided such accusations as fear mongering.

“I frankly regret that my opponent has chosen to use Senate Bill 200 as one of the cornerstones of her campaign,” Buescher said, calling her use of the issue “the low point of the campaign.”

“Bernie, I have not once brought up Senate Bill 200. Not once,” Bradford fired back. “So for you to say I have used it as the cornerstone of my campaign is inaccurate at the very least.”

Bradford has raised the issue before, for example, remarking at a public forum in June: “One thing I hope we can agree on is that transgender bathrooms are just not a good idea.”

Bradford’s campaign, however, has not necessarily made Senate Bill 200 the “cornerstone” of her campaign. In debates and speeches, she has focused primarily on tax issues.

The candidates’ exchange stopped when one of the debate’s moderators said it was time to move on.

Buescher has found unlikely allies in his fight against Senate Bill 200’s critics, including Republican Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger, who said the law in no way allows sexual predators to find new victims.

“I don’t think it’s any kind of free pass to break existing law,” Hautzinger said in June.

In the event you missed Tuesday’s debate, the Grand Valley Young Professionals and the Rotaract Club of Grand Junction will host a forum today for all of the county’s political candidates from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Garden Room at the Commons, 625 27 1/4 Road.


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