A face-off between Democrat Lorna Idol and Republican Cheri Gerou, two candidates in state House District 25, inadvertently turned out to be the featured event at the League of Women Voters’ candidates forum on Oct. 11 at St. Philip Lutheran Church in Columbine Hills.
Mary Parker, a Democrat, also made her case to be the state representative from House District 22, which covers most of the unincorporated South Jeffco/Columbine area. However, Parker’s chief opponent, Republican Justin Everett, was at a family wedding.
Other no-shows included the two candidates in state Senate District 25, Republican Ken Summers and Democrat Andy Kerr.
About 30 people showed up for the event; league member Gwen Lipkie served as the moderator. The forum consisted of opening and closing statements and questions from both the league and the audience. Answers were limited to one minute.
Topics of league questions included funding for the Public Employees’ Retirement Association; changing or repealing the tax-limiting TABOR Amendment; whether voter fraud is a threat; and funding for higher education. Audience members asked about priorities, issue identification, immigration and citizenship, and the role of the secretary of state.
House District 25 was redrawn last year to include an area east of C-470 and bounded by Quincy Avenue, Simms Street and the Meadows Golf Club.
Mary Parker, Democrat, House District 22
In her first bid for elected office, Parker said she wants to preserve the U.S. political system and make sure her children have the same opportunities she did.
The Littleton resident is worried about the cost to operate public schools and the “astronomical cost” of higher education. The state legislature has a fix in the works for PERA, but she is not sure it will help to make it more like the private sector.
As a former computer programmer, Parker thinks voter fraud is an issue, but not as important as voter disenchantment. “I am disheartened when I hear people say their vote doesn’t count,” she said.
She said the cost of higher education is now “out of control” but also “incredibly important for the future of the state.” She wouldn’t rule out asking voters for a tax to provide more for education.
Parker also favors a path to citizenship for immigrants and is not opposed to discounted tuition for undocumented students who grew up here.
Lynn Weitzel, Libertarian, HD 22
As a Libertarian, Weitzel’s top priorities are reducing the size of government, minimizing government control, and maximizing the rights of citizens and personal liberty. She believes that, as an individual, she acts in her own best interest and accepts responsibility for her choices.
Government should let people solve more problems on their own, she said. “The two-party system is not working,” Weitzel said.
She has owned two businesses and also worked in the public sector. The problem with PERA is “promises that can’t be kept.” She said taxpayers should not be charged extra to fund PERA.
Having worked on a few elections, she believes fraud is minimal and election officials have “a pretty airtight system. People who run it sincerely want it to be tamper-proof.”
Weitzel thinks the federal government needs to do more about regulating immigration but is not opposed to the Dream Act as a way to help people on the road to citizenship.
Cheri Gerou, Republican, HD 25
Gerou, of Evergreen, has four years experience as a state legislator, is an authority on the state budget and chairs the Joint Budget Committee. She asked for a show of hands to see how many in the audience would vote for Mitt Romney (no hands went up).
Gerou said she has a lot in common with fiscally conservative Democrats as well as fellow Republicans. She said the main constraint on state budget revenue is not the TABOR Amendment, but a combination of Amendment 23 and the Gallagher Amendment, which limits the amount of residential property taxation.
“Gallagher gave us the problem. Are we messed up? Yes. But it’s (because of) all three (amendments),” Gerou said.
Gerou said Secretary of State Scott Gessler proved that voter fraud is not a big issue. “He only found 400 suspicious cases. That’s pretty great,” she said.
She pointed out that higher education gets $600 million from the state compared to $3 billion for K-12 and $4 billion for Medicaid. “It used to be the state and federal government paid two-thirds of the cost of tuition. Now the citizens pay two-thirds,” she said. “Federal health-care mandates are eating our K-12 dollars and all our higher-ed dollars,” Gerou said.
Lorna Idol, Democrat, HD 25
A Colorado native with a long career as a professor of education, Idol said she made her way through academia and earned her Ph.D. mainly with the help of government grants.
“It’s time for me to give back,” she said. “My father was a Democratic Party chair in Meeker, and my mother was a powerhouse in the League of Women Voters.”
Idol, of Evergreen, hopes to bring her expertise as the creator of a model of collaborative decision-making to help bridge the gap between the opponents in the state legislature and get things done.
“I have experience in data analysis and using facts to make decisions,” she said.
The reason for PERA underperforming has more to do with the downturn in the stock market than unrealistic expectations, Idol said.
She also suggested that the TABOR Amendment be subjected to another vote of Coloradans.
She believes there should be more control over election spending.
Idol is concerned about a lack of sufficient funding for education. “We are robbing higher ed to pay for K-12,” she said. The huge variability in tuition rates among colleges across the state is also a concern.
Idol objects to the practice of hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and gas because the water can’t be re-used.
Finally, she said the fact that one-third of Colorado residents have no health insurance is one of the top issues confronting the legislature.
Jack Woehr, Libertarian, HD 25
A resident of Apple Meadows in Golden and a self-taught computer programmer, Woehr described himself as “a perennial nuisance and a former Democrat, now running as a Libertarian.”
Woehr also ran for election in 2008. His premise is that the two-party system as we know it is “dysfunctional.”
“It has brought us endless wars, the recession, the Patriot Act and a pointless war on drugs,” he said.
While in favor of smaller government, Woehr believes in public education, and urged support for ballot issues 3A and 3B to help fund Jeffco Public Schools.
Woehr is worried about whether the county’s electronic-voting computer system is secure enough.
He said his daughter went to college for two years online through the CSU Global program, proving that to a large extent the physical university campus can be substantially reduced to save on cost.
Woehr was the only candidate in the room who came out in favor of Amendment 64, the legalization of marijuana.
He enthusiastically supports citizenship for illegal immigrants. “There’s plenty of room. The more, the merrier,” Woehr said.
Contact Vicky Gits at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 22. Follow her at Twitter.com/newsbyvicky.