As candidates prepare for the June 30 primary election, many are hoping to cast Rep. Scott Tipton as an out-of-touch millionaire more concerned with President Donald Trump than his constituents.
In a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of La Plata County, upstart Republican candidate Lauren Boebert was given speaking time, but Tipton, her competitor, declined to participate or submit a statement by the deadline. A spokesperson for Tipton later told The Durango Herald that he had a COVID-19 telephone town hall scheduled at the same time.
“Scott Tipton chose not to be here today,” Boebert said. “I’ve spent my time standing up for our Constitution and standing up for freedom.”
Democratic candidates Diane Mitsch Bush and James Iacino squared off in a back and forth as they vied for the Democratic nomination, while Boebert attempted to cast herself as a defender of personal liberties.
The two Democratic candidates in the running to challenge Tipton focused on their progressive policies while touting their experience in the private and public sector. Mitsch Bush, a career public servant who unsuccessfully tried to unseat Tipton in 2018, touted the support she’s received from the AFL-CIO and Planned Parenthood while excoriating Tipton’s record of supporting Trump.
“Scott Tipton and the other multi-millionaires in Congress work effectively for the top 1%, but not for the rest of us,” Mitsch Bush said.
Tipton’s net worth is over $6 million, according to OpenSecrets.
Iacino, the CEO of family business Seattle Fish Co., emphasized the work he had done making his business more sustainable through responsible sourcing and his entrepreneurial background.
“I grew up working the business and working the docks,” Iacino said. “We’ve grown a proud Colorado company ... by investing first and foremost in our workers.”
The district is considered solidly Republican by pollsters, and Tipton maintains a lead in fundraising with about $600,000 cash on hand. Mitsch Bush trails by about $200,000, with Iacino close behind. Boebert, who faces a tough challenge in unseating the incumbent during the primary, has $25,552 cash on hand, according to OpenSecrets.
All three candidates addressed the death of George Floyd and recent protests over discriminatory policing. Iacino said he was supportive of removing qualified immunity, which protects individual officers from lawsuits, and “demilitarizing” police.
Mitsch Bush, meanwhile, mentioned her first husband was a police officer and argued better training would encourage officers to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations. Both Democrats endorsed the Justice in Policing Act, which was introduced in Congress on Monday.
“That’s what the bill focuses on, de-escalating the use of force, because once you start escalating, it continues to escalate,” Mitsch Bush said.
Both Democrats also endorsed universal background checks for gun buyers, with Iacino saying he is a gun owner in favor of responsible gun ownership and red flag laws.
“I am a gun owner, and I absolutely support every person’s right to own a gun,” Iacino said, but “people that shouldn’t have guns shouldn’t have guns.”
Boebert, who made a name for herself by confronting former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke at a rally about his proposal to ban and confiscate assault weapons, said during the forum that “assault is a behavior and a weapon is a thing.”
“The left has gone from saying only police have guns to saying police should be disbanded,” Boebert said. “Americans either will be protected either by the police or by themselves.”
Candidates were also asked to discuss election security preparedness and efforts to ensure access to voting for the upcoming primary and general elections. While Boebert said she was not concerned about using mail-in ballots in November, both Iacino and Mitsch Bush pushed for universal mail-in ballots to ensure everyone could vote amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is a system that works, and it allows people to vote in a safe environment to vote securely,” Iacino said.
Iacino agreed with Mitsch Bush, who argued that elections were a critical part of ensuring a fair democracy.
“Having secure elections is critical,” Mitsch Bush said.
In closing statements, Mitsch Bush said as the Democratic candidate, she would ask Tipton whether he was for Trump or for America.
“I’ll go on the offense every day and call Tipton out on his shameful record of not representing us,” Mitsch Bush said. “We need an experienced, tested, trusted leader who has a proven record of delivering.”
Iacino called the election an “opportunity for real change,” saying that it was time for a new leader who would focus on protecting public lands and invest in clean jobs.
“This is our moment. No matter what, what’s most important is that we win, and I am the candidate that can win against Scott Tipton,” Iacino said.
Boebert said she agreed the election was pivotal, casting it as a choice between freedom and socialism. In her closing statement, she noted Tipton’s vote for a bill that would grant amnesty for undocumented migrant workers as not the sort of policy that voters elected Tipton to enact.
“Your vote for me is a vote for freedom,” Boebert said. “I am for term limits, and I am term-limiting Scott Tipton.”
Primaries for both parties are scheduled for June 30. Mail-in ballots were sent to voters on Tuesday, La Plata County Clerk & Recorder Tiffany Parker said, and voters should contact the election commission if they have not received their ballot by Monday.
Jacob Wallace is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C.