MONTE VISTA — Two Colorado House District 62 candidates both from Monte Vista — Democrat Mathew Martinez and Republican Carol Riggenbach — participated in an hour-long virtual forum Monday night, Sept. 26, hosted by the League of Women Voters of the San Luis Valley and Pueblo.
Martinez was unopposed in the state primary. Riggenbach defeated Ryan Williams with 60.7 percent of the vote in the primary. Democrat Donald Valdez did not run for reelection.
District 62 covers portions of Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Huerfano, Mineral, Pueblo, Rio Grande and Saguache counties.
The structure of the forum was typical. The candidates were asked the same questions and had one minute to answer. They had two minutes for an opening remark and two minutes for a closing statement. Candidates alternated giving their answers throughout the evening.
Wanda Hawman, president of the San Luis Valley League Unit of Women Voters, opened the forum that was livestreamed on Facebook.
“The purpose of tonight’s forum is to inform voters,” Hawman said. “Neither candidate that is here this evening received the questions ahead of time. We did this on purpose so that you the viewers have a chance to evaluate the candidates' grasp of any of the important issues that face house district 62. We hope that your time with us this evening will help you make an informed decision when you go to the polls on election day Nov. 8.”
The moderator for the evening was Courtney Hocking. The first question was, “What recommendations do you have to alleviate the lack of affordable housing?”
Martinez answered first, “That’s a great question, I think this is something that has been in Colorado and Southern Colorado specifically for a number of years. The housing market, I think prices have been exponentially increased over the last few years. I think at least part of solving that issue is increasing wages for workers. Second of all is looking at housing prices too, so that, that means that when they have increased wages, they are not being overpriced outside of the market.”
Riggenbach answered second, “There was actually legislation done in the Senate and in the House last legislative session, that would have helped alleviate some of the crunch that is on our housing situation, and part of it was rental costs that you could actually get reimbursed in your house, for some rent, that would have helped in the COVID situation. There has been some legislation put forth that will actually harm the housing situation that we have right now, just making it much more costly to even build houses and even with tiny homes, there was new legislation that was put in on tiny homes that will make even that tiny home situation more costly for the Coloradans.”
The next question was, “Should the state play a role in regulating firearms, if yes what role should be played, and if no why not?”
Riggenbach responded first, “Nope. I always tell people right off the bat, I will not bend a knee on gun rights. I will not. I do not believe that our second amendment should be infringed upon. I believe in the people that fought for this country, and they fought very hard for us to be able to defend ourselves. If you look at our history and when we first became a country, and why we are very fortunate to have gun rights. I think there are other ways to help control gun violence; violence in the schools in particularly is where this always comes up, there was a bill that was also killed by the democrats last year to give more money to security officers within the school system, that was not even supported. I do not support gun legislation and restrictions.”
Martinez responded, “I believe first and foremost being able to protect our citizens and being able to make sure that our children are protected is the most paramount priority. Colorado already has restrictions on some gun regulations, and I think that for the most part some of those are common sense. I think that reinforcing background checks and making sure that people that should not have firearms, that they can’t just walk into the store and purchase them on the same day, I don’t think that that is a bad thing. I think being able to continue to reinforce those, I think that is something that is paramount.”
The candidates were also asked about drought issues in Colorado, the water crisis in Colorado, abortion in Colorado, high quality and affordable childcare, lack of mental health services in Colorado, higher education, the importance of kindergarten through high school education, and state’s finances.
The final question of the night was, “Is there an issue that you feel is so important that you would cross the aisle to see it at least partially resolved?”
Riggenbach responded, “There are so many issues. What I totally believe is first you must understand before you can be totally understood. I believe in that. I think that is the way I have operated my teams and all the people I have worked with and hired and the committees and the boards that I have been on. First you must understand before you can be understood. So, I think that it’s important that we as legislators that we do that. Of course, some things, some fundamental things that we are not going to want to negotiate on. Again, we have got to understand each other, and we have got to believe in each other, and have faith in each other. We have to represent the people, not a party. We have to represent the people.”
Martinez answered, “Making sure that we are not taking water out of any place in Colorado and putting that somewhere else. I believe that too much we have seen in the last 10-20 years where collaboration has been looked at as a bad thing. We have to be able to work across the aisle. We have to be able to let legislation pass because at the end of the day, who is impacted is the people. We have to really make sure that identifying issues that are nonpartisan to start off with and being able to start finding solutions to those issues and being able to work together to benefit our citizens. If we don’t work together and we don’t work collaborate, we don’t get legislation passed, then we are not doing our jobs, and that doesn’t benefit anybody.”
Martinez was first to speak during the closing remarks.
“Four issues that I want to focus on for this election are fighting for our water, making sure that we are supporting our community health centers and their networks and local hospitals, passing a rural Colorado incentive package, and making sure that we are passing and implementing a statewide veterans mental health initiative. I think that those issues are something that have plagued rural Colorado for some time, and something I want to fight for. Today I ask for your support,” Martinez said.
Riggenbach then said, “Legislation needs to be written to protect us from government overreach especially in the health care sector. Legislation needs to be written to protect our children from the onslaught of governmental dictating curriculum. Legislation needs to be written so as to protect our tax dollars for schools and protect our children. We will not choose money over our children’s future. Legislation needs to be written to protect small businesses who are especially getting hit hard. Legislators need to work together to solve crime issues. Legislators need to pray for wisdom. I appreciate your vote and all of your support.”