by Nelson Holmes
WALSENBURG- Tuesday night’s Candidate’s Forum was as successful a display of rural American democracy as one could wish for. Sixty or so attendees gathered in the Washington School auditorium to hear the candidates answer questions, scrawled on note cards, and read by the moderator, Dan Thomas. This format, while not allowing for much surprise or drama, created an air of seriousness which was reflected by the respectful and attentive focus of the audience.
The evening began with a solo performance by Republican Congressional candidate Wayne Wolf, whose incumbent Democratic opponent, John Salazar, found himself mired in Washington D.C. with the current banking crisis. Wolfe spoke of his experience as a county commissioner, teacher and city councilman and his desire to see rural communities receive a fair share of federal monies. He also voiced concern over food imports and trade practices that hurt ranching and farming families.
The main event, providing the evening’s most entertaining moments, was the forum for the Huerfano County Commissioner candidates in Districts 1 and 2. Just to refresh your campaign weary minds the candidates are, for the Dist. 1 seat; Charlie Montoya, Democrat and Roger Cain, incumbent Republican and in Dist. 2; Martie Henderson, Republican, Steve Perkins, Unaffiliated and the incumbent Democrat, Scott King. And the stars of the event were the voters, who offered up thoughtful, pertinent and insightful questions focused on the real issues impacting our community. Everything from the question of trash and landfills to concerns over cellular towers and oil and gas drilling were touched upon. On issues such as revisiting and updating the Huerfano County Land Use Guide, and repealing term limits for the sheriff, the candidates were unanimous in support. The biggest laugh of the night went to Charlie Montoya who, when asked if he favored a community garden replied “it all depends on what they’re growin’.” All in all, the differences between the candidates reflected variations in style and temperament rather than glaring ideological contrasts.
The last act of the evening showcased the candidates for the Colorado House seats in Districts 62 (Incumbent Democrat Wes McKinley and Republican Ken Torres) and 64 (Incumbent Democrat Rafael Gallegos and Republican Randy Jackson). The only odd question of the event was; “Do you favor off-shore drilling.” For those running for seats in a land-locked state’s house… germane it was not.