Challengers differ with incumbent congressman on local, federal issues

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By Ian Neligh

Incumbent Democrat Jared Polis is being challenged in the 2nd Congressional District by Republican Nic Morse and Libertarian Richard Longstreth in the Nov. 8 election.

The district includes Clear Creek County as well as Jefferson, Grand, Summit, Boulder and Larimer counties, as well as a significant portion of the Front Range.

The Courant sent questions to the three candidates covering a variety of topics, including what makes each the best candidate and what they see as major issues in the district, specifically in Clear Creek County.

Polis said that because of his background as an entrepreneur and as founder of several high-tech businesses, he wants to continue to bring his sometimes “unorthodox approach” to Congress.

“Our economy is changing, We need leaders who understand the economy of the future and how it can work for the people and reward hard work, not just benefit the special interests who can afford to lobby and influence policy,” Polis said. “That’s why my priorities are unrigging the political system to improve our democracy, expanding access to a quality and affordable education, and protecting and preserving our environment for the next generation.”

Morse said he decided to challenge Polis because the incumbent isn’t serving the district as well as he should.

“As someone who sits on the Natural Resources Committee, he has moved to expand federal powers over the control of land and water in our district, along with severely harming our energy sector,” Morse said. “These are some of the factors that contributed toward my entry into this race.”

Longstreth said he’s running to show voters there are other viable candidates outside of the two major political parties.

“Libertarians are very liberty oriented and want to end the corporate cronyism plaguing Washington as quickly as possible,” Longstreth said. “If elected, I hope to help the people of Colorado by getting the government out of their business and letting them lead their lives as they, their families and those in their communities see fit.”

Candidates’ backgrounds

Polis has been a congressman since 2008 and is seeking a fifth term. He previously served as chairman and vice chairman for the State Board of Education. Polis founded the company American Information Systems while attending Princeton University. He also launched the companies bluemountain.com and Proflowers.com. He has been named an Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young.

“My office and I get things done, results for the people of Congressional District 2,” Polis said. “I have passed several pieces of common-sense legislation during this ‘do nothing’ Congress and will continue to get the job done with the constant gridlock in Washington.”

Morse attended high school in Colorado Springs, earned a degree from Colorado State University and received his master’s degree in business administration from Grand Canyon University. Morse works as a marketing executive with Madwire Media in Loveland and Fort Collins.

“Jared has voted with Democrat Party lines 87 percent of the time; that is not bipartisanship,” Morse said. “(Polis) brags in town halls that he doesn’t pretend to represent the entire district, only those who vote for him. We need a better candidate than that.”

Longstreth works in management for Lowe’s Home Improvement and received his bachelor’s in political science from Austin Peay State University in Tennessee.

“I believe I am best for the district because I intend to be a statesman,” Longstreth said. “I want to go to Washington and represent (the district), not to make money off of lobbyists. … I am in this to bring liberty and true freedom back to the people of Colorado and end the government’s monopoly on nearly every aspect of our lives.”

Major issues

Polis said Congress no longer works for the people because special interests have spent “unlimited amounts of money” in campaigns, making it so the government serves only the powerful.

“I am working hard to reduce big money’s influence on our politics so that Congress can make progress on the big issues facing my constituents,” Polis said, adding those issues included the cost of higher education, combating climate change and investment in infrastructure.

Morse agreed with Polis that the cost of education is a major issue and must be addressed.

“We have two major universities in our district and hundreds of thousands of graduates who are trying to earn means that allow them to live comfortably and pay off their student loans,” Morse said.

Morse added that he wants to tackle student debt by providing an alternative funding source for post-secondary education for craftsmen or tradesmen.

“Anyone attending trade school should have the same opportunity for financial aid as those attending a four-year college,” Morse said. “We will also support legislation that provides employee-match tax credits to employers who match payments for recent college graduates should they stay employed at the same employer for five years or greater.”

Longstreth said the district must continue to protect its forests, but without government deciding how that is done or which programs should be funded.

“Colorado is a beautiful state, and some of our most breathtaking areas are in the mountains,” Longstreth said. “We need to find a way to both keep these areas beautiful through more voluntary and local efforts and get the government out of micromanaging our backyards.”

Clear Creek County issues

Polis said he led an effort to designate I-70 west from Denver to Utah as a “high-priority corridor.”

“This was an important first step toward getting federal funds to fix the congestion on I-70 that is affecting commerce and quality of life for not just Clear Creek County but all of our communities that depend on this main artery,” Polis said. “I was also able to secure the fund for a fire-suppression system for the Eisenhower Tunnel that will save lives in the future.”

Polis said he wants to continue to represent Clear Creek’s priorities in Congress.

Morse said he support increased funding for the county’s protected lands.

“We need to continue to increase funding to our national parks, so we can have appropriate staff and resources to keep our tourist attractions as desirable and safe to visit as possible,” Morse said.

According to Longstreth, the proposed health service district on the Nov. 8 ballot is a mistake the county’s residents should avoid.

“The (proposed health) system is poorly planned and would not supply the people of the county with the medical services they need, while increasing taxes for those citizens,” Longstreth said. “… I think a better alternative is to continue to grow Clear Creek’s tourism industry, which will attract private businesses.”

Longstreth added that as the local economy grows, more businesses, including medical professionals, will be drawn to the county.