Although monsoonal wind and rain kicked up right at the moment it began, nearly 50 people came out to the Buena Vista Event Cooperative’s new stage at the Roastery for a Fourth of July forum of candidates who will be on Chaffee County ballots in November.
All three candidates for the District 1 County Commissioners race spoke at the event, as did the two candidates in the races for House of Representatives District 60 and 11th District Attorney.
Each candidate was given 5 minutes to speak.
“Since there were no opportunities for candidates to meet inside and speak to the public, we thought that we could offer them a chance to express their views and visions in an outdoor setting on the BVEC stage at the Roastery. About 48 people showed up to listen to the candidates in spite of the wind and rain,” said BVEC chairman Tom Rollings. “That shows how interested people are in their elected officials in Buena Vista.”
Bea Harnish, the BVEC member who organized the event, said at the start of the event “Remember, democracy depends on an educated populace.”
Candidates in the race for House District 60 spoke first: Lori Boydston, a Bernie Sanders-inspired progressive Democrat from Salida, and Ron Hanks, a Fremont County Republican who called Sanders “anti-American, pro-communist and an enemy of our freedoms,” in campaign materials on his website.
“(Sanders) stands for the people, because he doesn’t take any money, because he stands for a future with healthcare for all and an environment that will be sustainable for our children, and I’m standing for that,” Boydston said. “I’ve been part of the democratic party, but I consider myself the very far left wing.”
“I could not sit around and watch what’s going on with the left wing of this country,” Hanks said. A veteran, Hanks called running for public service “an extension of military service.”
“I’m certainly pro-gun, certainly pro-family, certainly pro-energy,” he said.
Next up were the candidates for District Attorney of the 11th Judicial District, which covers Chaffee, Custer, Park and Fremont counties.
Facing off in November for the seat are Democrat Kaitlin Turner, who was appointed to the position in 2019 by Gov. Jared Polis after the resignation of D.A.’s Molly Chilson, and Republican Linda Stanley, a former municipal prosecutor for the City of Pueblo and deputy District Attorney in the 10th Judicial District, which covers Pueblo County.
“This is an incredibly important election for your top law enforcement officer, which is your District Attorney,” Stanley said, “My opponent, Kaitlin Turner, has one year of experience prosecuting cases that are violations of Colorado Law … My entire professional career has been in criminal law, including as a police officer.”
“I was hearing that the D.A. was refusing to file charges and refusing to prosecute cases. I’ve been hearing from your law enforcement leaders that the D.A.’s office wasn’t communicating with them, wasn’t working with them, wasn’t a partner to them. And I was also hearing from victim advocacy groups in your community saying that the D.A.’s office doesn’t respect victims and isn’t representing the victims’ voices in court,” Turner said of the D.A.’s office she inherited last year. “As you can imagine, all of those things present a problem, and the problem is that the community isn’t safe when the D.A.’s office isn’t working with everyone, isn’t invested in the community and isn’t compatible and responsive … We’ve done the work, and there’s a lot of work left to do.”
Finally, attendees heard from each candidate in the race for District 1 on the Chaffee County Commission, which represents the northern part of the county, including Buena Vista. Republican Hannah Hannah and Libertarian Bonnie Davis will face the incumbent commissioner, Democrat Keith Baker.
“The reason I’m running is I want to solidify a lot of the the gains we’ve made over the past 3-and-a-half years and to continue to instill in the county the collaborative and cooperative spirit that we’ve established with the municipalities. That’s the kind of spirit that allows us to do things like develop the Chaffee County Community Foundation, develop Chaffee Common Ground, which helps preserve agricultural lands, which helps to preserve our forests. Someday we’ll be working on a comprehensive watershed health program. And it also helps us work on Recreation in Balance to keep our trailheads and some of these other things clean,” Baker said.
“Keith spoke to the comprehensive plan, but attached to that is not really a mission or a value statement or a community brand,” said Davis, a transportation analyst. “when I moved here 3-and-a-half years ago, they were trying to decide if they were a rafting community or a biking community. What was the community? I think a mission statement and a values statement would bring us all together. I’ve had a lot of experience doing that at my job, so I know how to engage people through interviews, focus groups, things like that, so we can agree and come together as a community about what kind of a brand we want to be, and how we want to go forward in the future.”
“I believe even commissioners need to be in a place, whether you’re democrat or independent or republican or libertarian, that you can come to the commissioners and the commissioners are here to do the job for the people. To make the rightest decision for the people, for the county,” Hannah said. She spoke about her background growing up “on the back of a horse” on a ranch in the San Luis Valley and said, “The fact that I already understand the farmers and the ranchers, I understand land and water use, I understand the heart of these individuals and the need to have the power and the ability to trust us commissioners to make the rightest decision for their well-being, because it’s not an easy life to be a farmer and a rancher in this day and age.”