Candidates stake their ground

The format for Tuesday night’s League of Women Voters debate didn’t exactly engender much back-and-forth among the candidates for county commissioner.

But most took the opportunity to distinguish themselves during their brief opportunities to speak.

In the District 1 race, Republican John Justman used his scripted opening statement to describe his Lower Valley farming background, his raising of successful children, and a promise to make decisions as a commissioner while guided by the Constitution.

He’s facing two unaffiliated candidates, who stressed their independence in their opening remarks.

“We don’t have to have business as usual. I’m running to offer a choice based on ideas, on real solutions — not slogans,” John Leane said.

“It’s your vision that I want to hear, so that I can serve you better when I get to office,” Jana Bingham Gerow said.

Candidates in the race for District 3 also appeared at the event, and Republican Rose Pugliese’s opening remarks were clearly aimed at drawing some definite distinctions between herself and Democrat challenger Dave Edwards.

“What I find amusing is that he believes that we are too dependent on the energy industry, but he wants to bring plastic manufacturing here that is dependent on the energy industry,” Pugliese said. “We need realistic solutions.”

She added: “He believes in the failed economic policies of stimulus money and supposed shovel-ready jobs. And I believe we need to just get government out of the way of business.”

Edwards, in a reserved but contemplative way, wondered who we are as a community, and what solutions are needed to solve difficult societal problems.

“I’d like to talk about who we are in Mesa County — we’re hardworking, we’re independent, we’re self-reliant, and we’re generous,” Edwards said.

He continued: “What we need are jobs, respect, creativity, new businesses and new industries.”

An audience-submitted question about whether the candidates would support local emission controls and new air-quality regulations drew sharp distinctions among the panelists as well.

Edwards hoped that people in Mesa County would gravitate toward clean-emissions vehicles that run on electricity or compressed natural gas. He believed that voluntary momentum could go a long way in alleviating the notable inversions in the Grand Valley.

Justman — folksy and off-script — said he had seen old photographs where the inversion was obvious, well before the valley was flooded with gas-burning vehicles.

Both Pugliese and Gerow stressed innovation and incentives, over more regulation or taxes, in their answers to the question.


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