ALAMOSA — House District 62 candidates Carol Riggenbach (R), and Matthew Martinez (D) talked the 2020 election, Parents Bill of Rights and DACA at the Alamosa Chamber of Commerce and Valley Courier Candidates Forum Tuesday, Oct. 11, at Society Hall.
Forum moderator and Courier Publisher Keith R. Cerny asked the two candidates a series of questions submitted by voters.
An early question in the forum was how each candidate views an employer’s religious beliefs in relation to their employee's health care and customer service.
Martinez spoke first, saying he believes all employees should have the right to quality health care regardless of the employer's religious beliefs. The Democrat said that includes access to contraception and birth control, as well as reproductive rights.
Riggenbach said first and foremost one’s Constitutional rights should be protected. The Republican also said she believes government shouldn’t have oversight of small businesses and that employers should be able to refuse business to whomever they wish.
“If you don’t like how that business operates … that’s what’s cool about America … you can go to another business … you can go to the competitor,” she said. “That’s what makes America great, is that we do have competition and do drive excellence by that competition.”
The candidates also were asked how they would work in the house to represent the San Luis Valley’s Hispanic farming community.
Martinez said he would work together, listen to the Hispanic farming community and work across the aisle to help.
“I’m willing to work with whoever — legislator or person or business — that cares about rural Colorado,” he said. “That’s something I want to do because at the end of the day, we’re all going to benefit.”
Riggenbach criticized Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennett and the Democrats’ push to regulate farming for environmental health and conservation.
She said that farmers in the valley already work toward farming in an environmentally-friendly manner and that regulation and that proposed regulation would hurt farming in the region.
“You see a lot of innovative technology that is happening,” she said. “We are tied to our land; we love our land we love our farm and we love our San Luis Valley and Pueblo.”
HD6 candidates differ on Parents Bill of Rights
Riggenbach was asked a pointed question about what the Parents Bill of Rights is and if that legislation was aimed at erasing facets of American History.
Riggenbach has championed the Parents Bill of Rights which she said was aimed at allowing parents the ability to choose the right school for their children; protect children from schools selling their data, the ability to establish charter schools and other various privileges that would be guaranteed by parents.
Riggenbach said the bill ultimately allows parents to be more involved in their children’s education.
“I think it’s important that all of us parents can really understand, wrap our heads around and be involved in our child’s school and in the classroom,” she said. “We should be able to participate.”
Martinez responded by pointing out some of the reasons why the bill raised concerns.
He pointed to pieces of the legislation that he said would allow parents to opt out of any assignment they didn’t feel was indicative to their child’s learning.
Martinez also pointed to concern that he said the bill would make it mandatory for teachers to inform parents of potentially confidential information that teachers would glean from students.
“So, i.e., if a student confided in a teacher that they are LGBTQ+ and that teacher does not disclose that to the parents — whether it’s safe or not — that teacher can actually be charged with misdemeanor offenses.
“I don’t think that’s very equitable and it puts a lot of burden on our teachers and it doesn’t protect our students.”
Candidates asked about DACA, 2020 election
Both candidates were asked how they feel the government should address those who have benefited from considerations for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Riggenbach pointed to several employees who have worked for her throughout her career who have come from Canada or the Philippines.
She touted the American Dream and those who have come to America and been able to provide for their families in foreign countries.
“We are the freest, most magnificent country in the world,” she said. “And so much of what we’ve been able to do is from people who have come in with a green card. So those people that may have benefited, they’ve been able to work here and make money and send money home.
Martinez pointed to his experience in college administration.
He said that DACA students should be able to have in-state tuition whether they want to attend state schools or trade schools. In addition, he said he believes more apprenticeship programs and internships should be made available to Dreamers.
Martinez also said that while DACA is a good start, an easier path to citizenship is another key part of the conversation.
“The DACA program is a good first step,” he said. “But I think we really need to make sure we have an easier path to citizenship.”
The final question of the HD62 portion of the forum was if the candidate believes that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election.
Martinez emphatically said “yes.” He went on to laud Colorado as hosting safe elections and being a champion of mail-in voting.
Riggenbach never directly answered with a “yes” or “no,” but instead said that election security is an issue that needs to be addressed.
“I think there’s a lot of election issues,” she said. “It just becomes apparent that if you just look at what’s going on … I believe in quality assurance programs. I don’t think the election process has quality assurances in place.”
Riggenbach said these election safety concerns have played a role in dividing the country.
She also brought up the recent redistricting of HD62, stating that addresses in Pueblo County weren’t doubled checked.
After the question, several members of the audience asked Riggebach if she believed Biden won the election, however, audience questions were not allowed during the forum.