PLATTEVILLE — Jeff Wilder never got involved in politics until this year. When six Colorado gubernatorial candidates in the Republican primary came to his neighborhood to talk about issues Thursday night at the Double Tree Restaurant, Wilder couldn’t stay away.
Sponsored by Women of Weld, former Congressman and 2006 Republican nominee for governor Bob Beauprez, state Sen. Greg Brophy, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, businessman Steve House, former state Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp and LaSalle resident Roni Bell Sylvester gathered for dinner and answered questions from the audience during the three-hour event. The only candidate not in attendance was Tom Tancredo.
“I really enjoyed this event. This is the first time I’ve ever gotten involved in politics,” said Wilder, a Platteville resident who attended the dinner with his wife, Jenny. “I’m tired of our government. I’m tired of where it’s at. I’m tired of where it’s going. If I don’t stand up to make a difference, nobody will.”
Wilder was impressed with House, who worked in the healthcare industry for three decades and emphasized that he is not a career politician.
“Steve House was the guy that really spoke to me, and the things that were important to me,” said Wilder, who asked the candidates to explain what makes them different than their opponents. “Bob Beauprez was kind of more of the same. Mike Kopp is a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment, which is important to me and my family. Steve House was the gentleman that really spoke out.”
The candidates didn’t go into the attack mode on one another, but they didn’t pull any punches when it came to Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Questions ranging from addressing K-12 school financing, fracking and oil and gas to marijuana, property rights and unfunded mandates were asked by the audience.
The candidates took it to Hickenlooper on gun rights and protecting the 2nd Amendment, the governor not using his pen to veto any bills, the decline of household income since he took over office and the unhappiness of 11 counties, led by Weld County, trying to secede from the state.
Joyce Falconer of Greeley said she was impressed with the caliber of each candidate and what they feel like they could bring to the state.
“I really haven’t decided at this point who my choice will be,” Falconer said. “I think this (event) is very important. I think you have to know what your candidate stands for and what they’re willing to do for the state. If you don’t hear them, you don’t know how to vote.”
Brett Abernathy, who lives northeast of Greeley, said he’s excited to see a quality group of candidates after the previous governor’s race.
“There is representation from the rural and ag areas who truly understand the importance of oil and gas to the state, not just Weld County, and the importance of making sure that all those property rights are taken care of,” Abernathy said. “It was exciting to see and hear Congressman Beauprez speak. I think Greg Brophy definitely has a good grip of what we’re looking at. Steve House is a businessman who definitely can take the reins from a business standpoint which the state should need. It’s real difficult for me to choose at this moment, but as a delegate over the next couple of weeks I’ll be able to think a lot clearer and I’m narrowing it down to one or two candidates now. I think the business aspect is an important thing for me as well as experience, and I think there’s two or three candidates that really fit that bill.”
Beauprez, who won the governor’s straw poll in the Weld County Republican caucus on March 4 after announcing his candidacy just 12 hours earlier, praised Weld as the place that’s right about Colorado from job creation to its ideas on water storage.
“I think it’s the model for our whole state to get this economy moving again,” Beauprez said after the event. “You’re creating jobs, you’re using resources wisely and you’re putting people to work and they’re good, high-paying jobs. If it weren’t for Weld County, we’d be in a world of hurt not only what you’re doing with the energy industry, but the related jobs. We ought to be looking at Weld County for all things that are good in my opinion right now.”