SENTINEL ENDORSEMENTS: Considering integrity, transparency, health care, gun safety and education, our state House picks for 2018

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State Capitol

There’s no reason to remind voters these are difficult, unusual and highly polarized times for Colorado and the rest of the nation.

After years of a near crippling recession, the dire threat of global climate change, a president who is at best inept and at worst, corrupt, the job of electing leaders can seem overwhelming.

The race for Colorado governor and a representative for Congress has expectedly drawn all the air and hundreds of millions of dollars out of the room, but whom voters choose to represent them in the state Legislature will have more direct impact on their daily lives than almost any other decision this year.

It’s the lawmakers, not the governor, who decide which roads to build and how to pay for them. Legislators will decide whether we restrict the proliferation of guns, who must get vaccinations and how much the state pays for each student in public schools.

After a close look at candidates for state House representative for the Aurora area, we advise voters to send these representatives to the next two-year General Assembly.

Our suggestions are based on increased gun safety, candidate transparency and honesty, the pursuit of reducing the cost of and access to modern health care, and active support for the middle class.

 

House District 30: Dafna Michaelson Jenet — D

Incumbent Dafna Michaelson Jenet focused hard during her first term on issues that directly affect her northwest Aurora district. She delivered votes, support and legislation on issues surrounding children’s health, and importantly, reducing childhood suicide. She was a strong proponent of a badly needed common-sense red-flag gun safety bill, which enjoyed bi-partisan support but died in the state Senate. Her constituents will benefit from her getting a second term.

 

House District 34: Kyle Mullica – D

Both candidates for this district, Democrat Kyle Mullica and Republican Alex “Skinny” Winkler, are thoughtful moderates who would serve this mostly blue-collar community well.

Winkler is the incumbent only by a technicality. He was appointed to this Democrat seat due to a controversial stunt by disgraced state Rep. Steve Lebsock. Lebsock was ousted from the Democratic-held Legislature after a “#MeToo” scandal and handed the seat to Republicans during a last-minute act of revenge.

Both candidates agree on a variety of moderate stances.

But Northglenn City Councilman Mullica brings to the Legislature not only the badly needed views of a municipal leader, but also the views of a professional nurse.

The two are set apart on the issue of gun safety. Winkler scoffs at a failed red-flag gun bill as hasty and unclear. The measure was rock solid and killed as a GOP partisan maneuver.

Mullica offers a much more reasonable and non-partisan approach to this and other controversial issues, and warrants voter approval.

 

House District 36: Mike Weissman – D

Democratic Incumbent Mike Weissman has, from the get-go, offered thoughtful and measured approaches to legislating. He has a clear sense of the issues facing north-central Aurora and an equally clear sense of how to address them.

His pragmatic approach to problems such as transportation, housing and even then needs of rural Coloradans makes him a clear choice for this diverse House district.

GOP challenger Richard Bowman has for the second time run a cartoonish campaign, suggesting that he and his wife both represent the district, and making light of the sexual harassment scandals at the state Capitol this year.

Weissman offers a legislator who would bring civility and pragmatism to a body of lawmakers badly in need of those qualities.

 

House District 37: Tom Sullivan – D

Voters have a difficult decision to make in southeast Aurora. Incumbent Republican Cole Wist has proved to be a formidable and independent voice in a Republican Party rife with hyper-partisanship. He worked hard on issues that affect middle-class families, issues that are making it hard to get ahead.

He bucked his own party in sponsoring a reasonable red-flag gun control bill that garnered widespread support from across the state, even from conservative sheriffs and police chiefs.

Democratic Challenger Tom Sullivan is the father of a victim of the Aurora theater shooting, a tragedy that eventually drew him to politics. But the shooting and his fervor for finding ways legislatively to prevent further mass shootings doesn’t define him.

Sullivan is a staunch proponent of finding new ways to create a health care system for Colorado residents they can afford. While Wist has shown a great deal of flexibility toward compromise on several issues, he’s made it clear he’s drawn a line in the sand on allowing new government intervention and regulation of the industry to drive down prices. Colorado, and the nation, have learned the hard way that allowing free-market medicine leads to astounding profits for providers and unaffordable insurance and mediocre care for consumers. The community needs a leader like Sullivan to move Colorado ahead.

 

House District 38: Chris Kolker – D

Voters have a distinct and easy choice in House District 38. Incumbent Republican Susan Beckman has worked hard to vote against the interests of voters in her own district.

She supports the Libertarian Independence Institute’s ballot initiative 109. That measure would force billions of dollars of transportation costs on the state with no way to repay the loans, other than to cut them from existing state programs, such as education.

Beckman has toed a dangerous Republican Party line against common sense gun-control measures. She voted against a red-flag gun safety measure that had the support of a majority of members of the House, including Republican Arapahoe County sheriff Dave Walcher and neighboring GOP Rep. Cole Wist.

Beckman has been part of a far-right Republican effort to undermine gains made in Colorado under the Affordable Care Act. Her alliance with party extremists may be representative of voters in Colorado Springs, but not a diverse Arapahoe County and Aurora, where working families struggle with a bevy of issues she’s working against.

Democrat Chris Kolker, a former teacher and now a financial planner, brings a far more moderate and reasonable approach to lawmaking.

Up front about health care, he believes access to basic health care is a right not a privilege. He wants the state to balance Second Amendment rights with the rights of all Colorado residents to live free of the fear of mass shootings in schools and public places. He wants the state to put the interests of public health and safety above the interests of industry, when the two issues collide.

Kolker comes from working family roots and by far best represents the needs of working families and all voters in his district.

 

House District 40: Janet Buckner – D

Democratic State Rep. Janet Buckner is the logical choice for House District 40 voters.

Although her candidacy was the result of the tragic loss of her husband and House district predecessor, John Buckner, her appointment to the seat has been a boon for southeast Aurora area voters.

Buckner almost overnight became a staunch supporter of practical legislation to improve public education across the state. She’s become an inspiring force in civility and cooperation at a state Capitol desperately in need of it.

Buckner brings an important perspective to the Legislature, having lived in the area for almost 40 years and seeing first-hand how a good school system can make a difference in the lives of all students.

 

House District  41: Lynn Myers – R

Aurora state Rep. Jovan Melton is in the final process of destroying his political career as he mishandles a recent, 11th-hour scandal focusing on two domestic-violence-related charges from several years ago.

Melton is running for his fourth term in representing House District 41.

The cases themselves are complicated and could arguably have been the wrong and overblown actions of a young man who has since regretted the incidents, becoming remorseful and reformed.

But the way he handled the scandal after being outed by local media for two previously undisclosed police reports have justified calls from his Democratic peers and this newspaper to resign his post.

He refuses. At least that’s what voters can gather from Melton’s Facebook posts about the scandal, which is the only official word he’s released.

He won’t return calls to the Sentinel to explain what happened and why he thinks voters should overlook or disregard the serious allegations.

The state House contest is made all the more complicated because the Republican candidate originally running against Melton, Dahlia Weinstein, dropped out of the race last month, well after the ballots had been set and printed.

While confusing, voters have a far better choice than selecting Melton or doing nothing at all. Former Arapahoe County Commissioner Lynn Myers is the Republican now running for the state House District 41 seat, even though her name doesn’t appear on the ballot.

Myers is well-known community activist and strong Aurora proponent who could easily have given Melton serious competition for the seat had she been the candidate from last June.

Myers had been tabbed by a vacancy committee last week before the Melton scandal broke. Her campaign to get her name in front of voters is now in high gear.

Myers has long been respected by local Democrats and Republicans alike for being a Republican moderate faithful first to causes and principals, rather than party.

By her own admission, she’s a Republican in the style of former area GOP state lawmakers Elsie Lacy, Paul Schauer and Gary McPherson, a welcome respite from other partisan extremists making life difficult for everybody in Colorado.

A longtime Realtor and now economic developer for the southeast Aurora region, Myers says her commitment is to transparency and communication with constituents. It’s something she was provably faithful to as county commissioner for eight years.

She said her two terms on that board and deep knowledge of water policy and infrastructure needs would serve constituents and state residents well.

Like other true, Republican moderates, she wants to see state abortion rights laws left as they are, and she’s a strong proponent of shoring up public schools — ensuring money gets to the classrooms.

On issues of gun control, she says she appreciates what fellow local lawmakers like Arapahoe County Sheriff Dave Walcher and GOP south Aurora state Rep. Cole Wist have brought to the table in regards to that issue: common sense and compromise.

Myers was a strong, independent voice on the Arapahoe County commission, we have no doubt she would be the same independent proponent for Aurora as a House representative. Myers is the obvious choice for House District 41.

Because ballots were already printed, electors must choose Dahlia Weinstein, who Myers has succeeded via a vacancy committee. Don’t write Myers in on the ballot, just vote for Dahlia Weinstein from your ballot.

 

House District 42: Dominique Jackson – D

Democratic State Rep. Dominique Jackson has become a valiant force for people and families forgotten by a steaming economy or pushed around by government or big-business interests.

Jackson pushed for legislation that would reach from outside the Regional Transportation District to make mass transit attainable for families struggling to make ends meet, even while working full-time jobs.

Jackson is a realistic and practical lawmaker who has her finger on the pulse on the needs and issues of real families, who often don’t even have time to make their voice heard.

She was part of an effort to force the state’s vast petroleum industry to map out its myriad wells and transmission lines to help local governments ensure the safety of residents.

Jackson is a valuable asset in a Legislature that too often listens to influential lobbyists rather than overwhelmed voters.

 

House District 56: Dave Rose – D

Republican Adams County Commissioner Rod Bockenfeld is clearly out of touch with his rapidly changing  rural and urban district.

He’s running his far-right campaign for state House on a platform of being pro-Second Amendment and pro-life.

He overlooks a district has become a virtual suburb of the metro area and is home to a wide variety of rural farmers and residents who are keenly interested in affordable health care, a safe and sustainable environment and a government that does not invade the medical privacy of women’s reproductive rights.

Longtime Brighton resident, teacher, principal and RTD board member Dave Rose much better represents the needs and values of Colorado working families. Rose is far more adept at looking for compromise and civility at the Capitol, while Bockenfeld touts a knee-jerk mentality on GOP hot-button issues that gets Colorado nothing but gridlock.

The state House needs Rose and more lawmakers like him.