Matt Solomon, the Republican candidate for Senate District 8, promised a boring discussion before the start of Thursday night’s debate hosted by Moving Mountains Eagle County, but he managed to keep it lively while squaring off against Democrat Dylan Roberts.
The event took place inside the Eagle County building in Eagle, a fitting venue as both candidates for the sprawling 10-county district live in Eagle County.
Roberts, from Avon, is currently the elected representative for House District 26, and Solomon, a Republican from Eagle, is a former town board member. Both men are seeking a four-year term in Colorado Senate District 8, which was redrawn in 2021 to include Eagle County. The newly redrawn senate map takes effect in January 2023.
The district itself was among the topics of discussion; Roberts described it as a district that’s “at a tipping point” when it comes to issues related to housing and climate change, and Solomon said as the third-largest district in the state, “we have almost every source of revenue and every industry available in the state of Colorado within this one district, which means there’s a lot to balance, there’s a lot of responsibility and there’s a lot of concerns, and there’s a lot of good people that need and want to be represented.”
On housing, Roberts touted legislation recently passed to provide one-time funds to help local governments and nonprofits build more attainable housing.
“We made amendments to prioritize teachers, police officers, nurses and our tourism work force,” Roberts said. “We also put an amendment into that bill that says at least 50 percent of the $178 million dollars has to come to rural and resort communities.”
Solomon said the effort doesn’t go far enough, describing the bill as “a band aid on an arterial wound.”
“One-time funding, one-time growth is one time, it’s singular,” Solomon said. “We need to look longterm for economically sustainable solutions.”
On the environment, Solomon referenced former United States Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in illustrating his views on the situation.
“As General Mattis says, we should spend 95 percent of our time identifying what the problem is, and then we can spend 5 percent working on the solution,” Solomon said. “We haven’t spent the 95 percent of the time addressing how to address it yet.”
Roberts said when it comes to climate change, the problem is clear.
“Climate change is an existential threat to our way of life here in the Colorado mountains and it’s an existential threat to our economy,” he said. “We do need to take action at the state level, more action, to combat the impacts of climate change and to protect our communities from those threats.”
The candidates discussed a wide range of other issues in the hour-long event, touching on topics like economic vitality, firearm legislation, fiscal responsibility, transportation, abortion, private sector experience and education.
Roberts touted his experience in the legislature, calling himself “one of the most bipartisan legislators at the Capitol” while Solomon criticized the size of the government in Colorado, saying the growth of the state budget troubles him.
“That’s going to be a common theme tonight,” Solomon said. “This is going to be one of the most boring debates that you will watch.”
Questions from the audience were also allowed; one person in attendance brought up criticisms of SB 21-260, a transportation bill that passed the state legislature in 2021, saying the bill created a new retail delivery fee that “puts an additional compliance burden on retailers and increases costs for consumers at a time when both are suffering from inflation, supply chain issues and high fuel costs.”
Solomon said he agreed with the opinions expressed in the question.
“The cost of doing business is rising, and that cost of doing business, whether it’s a recycling fee on a manufacturer, or a delivery fee that retailers were opted into, which they can’t just pay when they pay their sales tax, it’s a separate form that they have to fill out or complete, which adds time and bookkeeping expenses to doing business, which makes the cost of doing business more expensive,” Solomon said.
Roberts said the bill received bipartisan support and was supported by the Colorado business community.
“The retail delivery fee is 27 cents, it is assessed on things like Amazon deliveries and other types of deliveries, because those trucks use our roads significantly to make their deliveries and to keep those businesses going,” he said. “That has wear and tear on our roads, and so that’s the thought there, that those types of funds will improve our infrastructure and also recognize that our economy and our way of life is changing, with more electric vehicles that don’t pay gas tax, and people using delivery services more.”
A final question from the audience revealed a point that Roberts and Solomon agreed upon.
“Wolf reintroduction, should it be continued or terminated?” the audience member asked.
Roberts said he doesn’t support wolf reintroduction.
“I was never supportive of that effort, and I don’t think it was the right way to make that decision by having it voted on by the public,” Roberts said. “We have a very liberal system in Colorado when it comes to ballot issue access, where anybody can gather signatures and get almost any question put on the ballot.”
Solomon said he doesn’t support wolf reintroduction either, and pointed out that he and Roberts were in agreement on the issue.
“My dog has to be on a leash in Boulder, but the people in Boulder voted to unleash wild dogs in the area of our ranches,” Solomon said.
The moderator, former Eagle Town Board member Kevin Brubeck, used the opportunity to ask a follow-up question.
“We talk about defunding the police, we talk about defunding the FBI, have we ever thought about defunding wolves?” Brubeck asked.