Senate candidates defend their policies in spirited debate

Mark Udall holds up a wood product with a bark bettle in it.

Bob Schaffer holds up a prop (handbook about forest managment

The two candidates for Colorado’s open Senate seat sparred Saturday night over whose policies are best-suited to fuel all the people all the time.

Republican Bob Schaffer and Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., battled over everything from drilling for oil off Cuba to drafting rules for oil shale in western Colorado.

Udall, who represents the 2nd Congressional District, and Schaffer, who represented Colorado’s 4th District for three terms, debated Saturday night before approximately 500 people in Two Rivers Convention Center at the close of the Club 20 fall meeting.

In the traditional start of the Colorado campaign season, Schaffer and Udall traded shots over the votes they had cast, and in some cases complained that no votes had been cast at all.

“We need to throw in the kitchen sink” to resolve the nation’s energy woes, Udall said, citing his support for what is now known as the Gang of 16 senators from both sides of the aisle who are seeking ways to allow offshore drilling and increase spending on renewable-energy projects, among other options.

Republicans haven’t always been so eager to allow drilling, Udall said, noting the GOP in the previous Congress had stymied his bill to allow drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

That bill, though, was for drilling in Cuban waters, Schaffer said.

“Why is Cuba of more interest to you than the people of the United States?” Schaffer asked during a contentious cross-examination portion of the debate.

To drive down the cost of oil, “We need to crack down on speculators and release oil from the strategic reserve,” Udall said.

The candidates scrapped for position in the debate over western Colorado’s significant oil shale deposits.

Udall supports a moratorium on the development of regulations governing commercial leasing of oil shale that was sponsored in the Senate by Ken Salazar, D-Colo. That ban will remain in place for at least the rest of this month and could remain in a continuing resolution intended to allow the government to continue operations until a new Congress is seated.

“We’re doing our part for energy security,” Udall said, calling for the moratorium to stand until more is known about the water and energy demands of oil shale production.

“We’re not going to turn northwest Colorado into a sacrifice zone,” Udall said.

Failing to move forward on rules and regulations is counterproductive, Schaffer said. Without regulations, companies don’t know the size of leases they can get for federal lands overlaying shale or the cost of royalties, he said.

“Udall and Salazar have done nothing to answer these kinds of questions,” Schaffer said. “They have done everything to stop them from being asked and answered in the first place.”

Udall and Schaffer anticipated the sharp debate, with Udall at one point predicting Schaffer would interrupt him to say a point wasn’t true “even if it is.”

“Told you so,” Udall said minutes later when Schaffer interrupted him.

Schaffer and Udall also split on how they would differ from Republican Wayne Allard, who is leaving the Senate after two terms.

Allard has “done a heroic job” in the Senate, Schaffer said.

Udall, however, criticized Allard’s votes against the S-Chip program, which is aimed at increasing federal spending on the states’ health-insurance programs for children. Udall voted for expansion of the program.


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