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SD8 race analysis: Nothing boring about insurrection, alternate electors or ‘selling drugs on the side’

August 21, 2022, 8:04 am

“This is going to be one of the most boring debates that you will watch,” Republican state Senate candidate Matt Solomon promised Thursday during his Moving Mountains Eagle County matchup with Democratic state Rep. Dylan Roberts in Eagle.

Based on the Vail Daily’s coverage of the evening (Real Vail was not there), Solomon wasn’t kidding. The debate is supposed to air on High Five Access Media, so those of us who couldn’t attend can judge for ourselves in the coming days.

Matt Solomon

However, maybe it was the quality of the questions. Below, RealVail.com has posted a Senate District 8 Q&A conducted via email with Roberts and Solomon last spring dealing with a wide range of issues such as the very viability of our democratic republic in the wake of Jan. 6.

But before we get to that, let’s talk about the “debate” itself. It was presented by a well-intentioned group called Moving Mountains Eagle County, whose founder, Seth Levy, told the Vail Daily that former Eagle County Republican Party Chair Kaye Ferry asked him to help her “create a group for those of us who aren’t so extreme …”.

This is like Donald Trump calling for more civilized discourse in today’s politics … or better archiving of top-secret documents. Ferry calling for moderation? LOL.

As I’ve previously written, Ferry, for years, chased away moderates in the local party, raising money for the likes of extremist gun-enthusiast Lauren Boebert and failing to decry the authoritarian shift in the state and national GOP, which is akin to endorsing the dangerous extremism of the last five years.

I’ve long argued the local party needs to moderate if it ever hopes to win local elections again (Eagle County has just one elected Republican in FOX News fan Sheriff James van Beek), but Ferry never listened to my advice.

In fact, she backed the crazies during last year’s local school board election, going after yours truly in the paper of record. And now she’s dismayed that the lunatics booted her out of the party leadership and are now running the asylum?

State Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle
Dylan Roberts

Long before her ouster was reported, I wrote about the redder-on-red rift that led to Ferry’s dismissal from yet another local position of prominence (remember riff-raff-gate?). And it had to do with a “shocking” no-show at Thursday’s debate, Oak Creek mom Savannah Wolfson. Democrat Meghan Lukens reportedly was there, facing questions from potential voters.

Seems Ferry backed a more moderate House District 26 candidate in Eagle’s Glenn Lowe, who never answered a single email question from Real Vail (likely on the advice of Ferry) and wound up being drubbed by Wolfson in the primary.

That’s the MO of most Republicans these days: Dodge the local press and any real questions at all costs. Wolfson, after initially answering some email questions from me, has since ceased all communications with RealVail.com.

Most likely because I unearthed this little gem from her on a Facebook group: “I want to start by introducing legislation to require burial for aborted children, to make a point. …I want to start with requiring burial of aborted children in Colorado, in recognition of their humanity.”

Yeah, that’s going to get you a lot of votes in an abortion-rights state like Colorado.

So these are the kinds of candidates Ferry flirted with for years here in increasingly blue Eagle County rather than chasing them back into the shadows. And look how well that’s gone around the country, with Trump unleashing the kraken of white nationalist, bigoted, homophobic hate from coast to coast.

Dance with the devil long enough and you’ll wind up in hell. Alternately, hang with insurrectionists long enough and don’t be surprised when you’re insurrected.

Now back to the head-to-head Real Vail Q&A from this past spring with Solomon, a former Eagle Town Board member and owner of the Alpine Arms gun store, and Roberts, a two-term state representative and former prosecutor who lives in Avon.

Solomon, a former paramedic, says he spent the last two years “providing protocol development and security for corporations and individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic.” He’s also an adjunct instructor at Colorado Mountain College for Paramedic and EMT courses.

And he’s always answered most of my questions, including some tough ones on his admission of drug dealing during his college years in his book, “Fortunate Accidents”.

His answer below on special electors is alarming in the wake of the Jan. 6 probe and former Trump lawyer John Eastman’s efforts (while working for the University of Colorado) to get former Vice President Mike Pence to throw out slates of electors in key swing states that went for President Joe Biden.

Eastman, a favorite of CU Regent Heidi Ganahl, who’s running for governor, is being investigated by the Justice Department for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection after floating his coup plan to Trump and chatting up supporters right here at the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek in 2020.

The correct answer to my special electors question below is that state law mandates we send a slate of Electoral College electors for the presidential candidate who wins the most popular votes in the state. Period. Roberts got it right; Solomon did not.

Roberts, a former ADA in Eagle County, is one of the most prolific legislators of the last several years, working across the aisle on issues from housing to drug pricing to climate change. He also happens to be the most responsive politician I’ve ever covered – always answering questions within a day or two.

After last year’s redistricting, state Senate District 8 in 2023 will include the vast majority of Eagle County (excluding the southwestern corner in the Roaring Fork River Valley), most of Garfield County, and all of Clear Creek, Gilpin, Summit, Grand, Jackson, Routt, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.

Here’s the SD8 Real Vail Q&A with Dylan Roberts (DR) and Matt Solomon (MS):

RV: What is the greatest threat to the health, economic wellbeing and safety of the residents of SD8?

DR: Ensuring that SD8 remains an affordable and safe place to live is the biggest challenge facing the district. From our mountain resort communities to our small rural towns, and everywhere in between, our residents face the significant concerns of a rising cost-of-living and continuous wildfire and drought that endanger our economy and way of life.

MS: Health, economic wellbeing, and safety are intertwined, not separate topics, and governments do not hold the keys to that kingdom. The people do. Henry David Thoreau was spot on when he said, “That government is best which governs least.” Anything that any government can do, the private sector can do more effectively and efficiently. We need to find the connective tissue so we can work on innovative and long-lasting solutions that allow for public-private partnerships or for the government to step back and let the private sector shoulder the burden.

RV: What have you done as an elected official and what will you continue to do in the state Senate to counteract that threat?

DR: During my two terms in the State House, I have been one of the most bipartisan and effective legislators and only work on issues that reflect concerns I have heard from residents of my district. Holding over fifty town hall meetings since I was elected, I have been constantly focused on the unique needs facing our rural and mountain communities. I have led legislative efforts to lower the cost of health care, cap the cost of prescription drugs, and promote small business in rural Colorado. And this year, I am the Chair of the Affordable Housing Task Force which will be leading the largest investment in affordable housing in our state’s history. 

For example, I was the lead sponsor of the bill that created the Colorado Option, a new, more affordable, health insurance option that is available in every county of the state for individuals and small businesses. I also wrote the first-in-the-nation bill that capped insulin prices for people with diabetes and was a co-sponsor of the establishment of the reinsurance program which has lowered health insurance prices by over 30% in Western Colorado. 

As Chair of the House Business & Labor Committee, I have also led efforts to assist businesses and workers recover from the pandemic, expand the Rural Jump-Start business incentive program, and passed laws to support energy jobs in transitioning communities like Hayden and Craig. 

Finally, as a member of the Agriculture & Water Committee, I have dedicated a significant amount of my legislative work to protecting and conserving our Colorado water and leading efforts to combat drought and promote agriculture. 

Should I have the opportunity to serve in the State Senate, I will continue to focus on our district’s most important needs and use my experience as one of the most bipartisan and productive legislators at the Capitol. We need to do more to invest in affordable housing for our teachers, our nurses, our police officers, and our entire workforce; we must continue to prioritize the protection of our water and natural resources so that our tourism and agricultural economies stay strong; and we can find ways to ensure that rural Colorado remains a viable place to live, work, and raise a family.

MS: As a twice-elected member of the Eagle Town Council, people stopped me constantly with ideas – some great, some not so much. I have been told that through that, my most important assets as a Council Member were honesty, my ability to listen, and paying attention to the details and language before making decisions that affected the lives of thousands of people. My philosophy of “TCP” (Transparency, Consistency, and Predictability) will apply to the state legislature as much as it applies at the local level. I will carry those attributes, that philosophy, and more to my new role as your senator.

RV: Is Joe Biden the freely and fairly elected president of the United States, or do you agree with former President Donald Trump that there was widespread voter fraud in 2020?

DR: Joe Biden is the freely and fairly elected President.

MS: Joe Biden was sworn into office as our President in January 2020. Until and unless the courts show otherwise, he is our president.

RV: Do you agree with the Republican National Committee resolution censuring Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger and declaring Jan. 6 “legitimate political discourse”?

DR: No.

MS: The political environment in our country has been so divisive and negative, it is no wonder the majority of people in our Senate District 8 are unaffiliated or claim independence. January 6 is one more example of this negative divisiveness that we must overcome.

RV: Should Colorado pass laws and take actions aimed at election security up to and including sending alternate presidential electors in the 2024 presidential election?

DR: Our Colorado Constitution and election laws set forth a clear and reliable way to elect the President and all other elected offices. Colorado also has a secure, reliable, and consistently-audited election system that works well. I am always open to changes to law that make our elections more reliable and secure but do not see a reason to consider alternate electors or any reforms along those lines.

MS: While none of us in Senate District 8 want to be micro managed by an overbearing government and we all want to have the utmost faith in the process, election security is a very important issue. It could include everything from alternate presidential electors, to mandatory identifications for voters, to special paper on which ballots would be printed. Before agreeing that Colorado “should pass laws and take actions,” though, we must first read and understand the language of said proposals so we can ensure the long-term goals of fair, free, and secure elections are actually met.

RV: Are you vaccinated against COVID-19 and how would you characterize Colorado’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic? What would you change about it?

DR: Yes, I am vaccinated and boosted. As a legislator, we did not have any direct decision-making powers regarding public health decisions as those were left to the Governor and individual counties.

MS: I spent 2020 and 2021 traveling the country providing protocol development and security for corporations and individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through that experience, those travels, and many interactions, I would say that Colorado falls in the middle as far as a public health response to the pandemic. From after action reports and discussions, we have identified several areas for improvement in all of the states we worked. I think the bigger questions we should be focused on are: What is our exit strategy? How to we plan to recover and move forward as a State and a District? What can I do as a senator to help ensure your needs are met, your questions answered, and confusion clarified?

RV: Is climate change causing extreme weather events such as wildfires, mudslides and extreme drought, and, if so, is it caused by the ongoing burning of fossil fuels?

DR: Yes. While the burning of fossil fuels is a contributor to climate change, I recognize that energy production has been, and should continue to be a major part of SD8’s character and a driver of its economy. 

In the Colorado Legislature, I stand as a champion for the workers and economies of Northwest Colorado and intend to continue creating bipartisan legislative outcomes which help prevent and mitigate forest fires, dry rivers, and droughts, all the while promoting local economic development. That is why I have consistently supported an “all of the above” energy strategy for our state and region, and I strongly believe that innovative energy production can be a crucial tool in the transition and diversification of our region’s economy. 

For example, I worked across the aisle last year on HB21-1324 which will allow the Town of Hayden to keep energy jobs in its community and continue to supply the region with efficient, clean, and reliable power.”

MS: Climate change is caused by many factors, not just the ongoing burning of fossil fuels. I have real-world experience in helping to combat climate change. During my time on Eagle Town Council, after rejecting Eagle County’s Climate Action Plan, we had several spirited discussions and presentations. I made the motion to pass the Town’s Resolution addressing our Climate Action Plan and it became the most aggressive plan in Eagle County. I am proud of two things we did: 1. The Town is working as a leader by example, meaning it is not forcing new practices on its community or developers without proving viability, and, 2. The Town will only take steps that are economically sustainable. 

RV: In a 2020 interview, U.S. Rep Lauren Boebert told me the Second Amendment “is a protection against a tyrannical government. It’s not for hunting. It’s not for target shooting or for sport.” Do you agree?

DR: As a native of SD8, I know well how many of us exercise the 2nd Amendment as sportsmen and sportswomen. It’s a part of our rural way of life that I’m proud to defend at the State House while also supporting evidence-based, common sense gun violence legislation that will help prevent senseless gun violence in our state.

MS: The first gun control law in the history of the world was passed in 1661 in England, which authorized the seizing of arms from “any person judged dangerous to the Peace of the Kingdom.” This law was passed, and then expanded upon in 1671, because the State wanted more control over the population and was fearful of an uprising. When the United States of America’s Founders were drafting the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment was the least debated amendment of the original ten. Our Founders had fresh in their memory the struggle they endured and the oppression placed upon the colonies by government and military control. The Second Amendment does not identify any reason specifically — protection against tyrannical government, hunting, personal protection, or otherwise; it is what it is – a right that shall not be infringed.

RV: Are there any gun safety measures that you would support in the state Senate?

DR: As a former Eagle County Deputy District Attorney, I’ve seen the toll gun violence can take on a community. I’ve been proud to support a number of common-sense gun safety and gun violence prevention measures in my time in the State House. 

Common sense measures like Extreme Risk Protection Orders are proven to save lives, while respecting our Constitutional rights as defined by the 2nd Amendment. 

If I have the honor of serving as State Senator for SD8, I’d continue to partner with my colleagues to create legislative outcomes which promote our rural way of life while protecting the wellbeing of Coloradans all across the state.

MS: I cannot answer this question without seeing the measures to which you are referring. However, I remain open to reading and considering all that is presented.

RV: Colorado has a large Latin American immigration population and an ongoing labor shortage in industries from outdoor recreation to construction to agriculture. What is your stance on immigration in the current economic climate?

DR: As chair of the Business Affairs & Labor Committee in the Colorado House, solving our state’s ongoing labor shortage — especially in the Western Slope’s hospitality, tourism, and agricultural industries — is top of mind. 

Given this, it is imperative that Colorado continues to foster an accepting environment for immigrants, including pathways to citizenship and worker visas. 

Our Latin American and immigrant communities in Senate District 8 are an integral part of the region and have helped the district run during the challenges presented throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and long before that.

If given the opportunity to serve as the district’s next State Senator, I would look forward to working with fellow legislators, our business leaders, and immigrant communities to address not only the complex questions surrounding immigration in our state, but also workforce development, and expanding our local economies.

MS: As a third-generation American, I myself come from immigrant roots. Immigration is a critical issue we must address. Nations must be clear when they deal with people moving into their territories who are not citizens by birth. For example, Japan allows almost no immigration. Other nations have opened their borders for long periods of time to extensive immigration. Many policies work, but our current open border policy is not working. Instead, we should expand the categories of legal immigration with a mindful respect for the time, effort, and passion offered by those legal immigrants that already make up our citizenship. Let’s not detract from the value of our citizenship or economic climate by devaluing that citizenship with a diminishing return of entitlements.

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is the editor and co-founder of RealVail.com and has had his awarding-winning work (see About Us) published in more than 75 newspapers and magazines around the world, including 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), the Anchorage Daily Press (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Casper Star Tribune (Wyoming), the Chicago Tribune, Colorado Central Magazine, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), Colorado Newsline, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Colorado Times Recorder, the Cortez Journal, the Craig Daily Press, the Curry Coastal Pilot (Oregon), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Del Norte Triplicate (California), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Gazette, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, Explore Big Sky (Mont.), the Fort Morgan Times (Colorado), the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), the Kingman Daily Miner (Arizona), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the Las Vegas Sun, the Leadville Herald-Democrat, the London Daily Mirror, the Moab Times Independent (Utah), the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), the Montrose Daily Press, The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, the Rio Blanco Herald Times (Colorado), Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), the Salt Lake Tribune, SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Sky-Hi News, the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Sterling Journal Advocate (Colorado), the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Health Magazine, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail, Westword (Denver), Writers on the Range and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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