6:00am

Wed September 26, 2012
A Word With The Candidates

Republican Candidate Lundberg Challenges 2nd CD Incumbent Polis

  • Grace Hood reporting for Morning Edition

The face of Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, Democratic Representative Jared Polis hasn’t changed, but the district itself has.

Once a liberal stronghold, redistricting shifted the boundaries to include more conservative parts of Jefferson County and all of Larimer County. That is part of what Republican challenger Kevin Lundberg is hoping will get him elected.

Compared to Polis, Lundberg is short on funds, running his campaign on a shoestring budget. In terms of cash on hand, he’s at an almost 25:1 disadvantage compared to Polis, who has $347,425 according to June 30 figures.

But that’s not stopping Lundberg from getting out his message as he works the crowd at a recent Larimer County GOP picnic.

The state senator from Berthoud is advocating for a “less is more” philosophy. “I don’t vote for taxes, I don’t vote for bigger government programs, I try to find those areas of efficiencies and those areas of freedom,” he says.

“Freedom” is a word that looms large in Lundberg mailers and stump speeches.

He says it comes from reducing bureaucratic red tape and the federal deficit. On a policy level it means repealing President Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act. While Lundberg supports Colorado’s alternative energy industry, he’s against renewing the Wind Energy Tax Credit set to expire at the end of the year.

“It’s a house of cards because as soon as those subsidies and those mandates go away that industry will go away,” he says, referring to tax credits that he says fueled a boom-and-bust cycle for renewable energy solutions in the '70s.

But incumbent Jared Polis says the tax credit provides valuable incentives to the burgeoning industry, which has seen recent cuts.

“I think that making sure that they can compete on a level playing field with oil and gas is critical,” he says.

The 2nd District now houses Vestas’ Windsor-based blade factory, which employs 42 percent of the company’s 1,600 Colorado employees. But extending the credit has been a tough sell for Polis.

“This Congress, it’s a pretty low bar,” he says. “Most of the time I was busy fighting against Tea Party efforts, whether it was abolish funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, get rid of Wall Street regulatory reform....”

Washington fatigue is a very real problem for Sally Hutchinson, who’s a registered Republican in Larimer County. She’s walking her granddaughter in a stroller in downtown Fort Collins.

“You and I live in households where we have to purchase based on what we have. And that’s not what the government’s doing,” she says. 

Larimer County, which ,comprises the largest percentage of the district’s electorate, has an unemployment rate that’s about 2 points less than the state’s 8.2 percent. Keeping it that way is important for 22-year-old Democrat Mikheil Moucharrafie.

“I’d like to see a focus on middle class, and getting away from tax cuts to the wealthy,” he says.

Democrats have a slight advantage in this newly drawn district, outnumbering registered Republicans by about 24,000 voters according to recent voter registration rolls.

Independents like Colorado State University Freshman Carmen Matthews make up the largest chunk of the electorate. “I feel like the women’s issues are really important to me. So I don’t know I guess I’m going to research a little more,” she says on making up her mind for November.

On the social issues, Jared Polis supports abortion rights while Kevin Lundberg is opposed. When it comes to the economy and jobs, Polis says that long-term fiscal stability is important – as is eliminating loopholes that encourage jobs going overseas.

“I think through our tax code now we actually make America less competitive, and we need to have a tax code both corporate and individual that makes America more competitive.”

Shorter on specifics, Lundberg says he plans to reign in Washington spending and borrowing.

When it comes to over regulation, he says the Environmental Protection Agency could benefit from changes.

“It seems that mission creep has gotten in the process,” he says, citing the original charge of the EPA.

Two other candidates are seeking to represent the 2nd Congressional District. Randy Luallin is the libertarian candidate. Susan Hall is representing the Green Party.

Polis and Lundberg will square off in a public debate on October 9 in Fort Collins.

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