Hickenlooper first telephone town hall

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper turns in his signatures to secure his spot in the 2020 U.S. Senate Democratic primary on Feb. 19, 2020.

Democratic primary candidate for the U.S. Senate John Hickenlooper held his first telephone town hall on Tuesday, addressing questions from residents on the Western Slope. The Hickenlooper campaign has shifted its approach due to COVID-19, choosing to engage with voters through Zoom calls and telephone Q and A’s.

On the call, the former Colorado governor took questions from residents in a number of counties on the Western Slope. Montrose and Mesa county were most prevalent, with residents from Grand Junction, Montrose, and Delta chiming in with their questions.

Hickenlooper is joined on the ballot by Democrat Andrew Romanoff, former state House speaker. The Senate hopefuls will face off for the Democratic nomination in next month's primary.

The winner is expected to challenge Republican incumbent Cory Gardner in November for the U.S. Senate seat in Colorado.

Gardner has hosted telephone town halls throughout the year, and held the latest event on Wednesday.

Both town halls had questions from citizens curious about the near future. The coronavirus has halted the economy with shut downs and safety measures, leaving those who run a business barely scraping by.

Tom, from Montrose, asked Hickenlooper what his plans were to revive the economy on the Western Slope.

“There’s no substitute for what we have to do,” Hickenlooper said on the call. “We have to go back to the building blocks, do just what we did in 2011 when the economy was on its back.”

Avoiding “red tape” is key— bureaucracy hindering or preventing action and decision making — said Hickenlooper. To revive the economy, it will take trust, capital, and “a level of training”.

Gardner spoke on the state of the economy when asked by a resident from Pueblo about the future of their business. Although the sales of face masks have helped their business, the restrictions have made it difficult and has left the future looking bleak.

“As far as businesses go, the economy has got to open back up,” Gardner said during his town hall. “We’ve got to get back to having these events. For now, it’s going to take some time as the governor mentioned. But I hope that in several months from now we can look back knowing people did the right thing.”

Alice in Delta asked Hickenlooper if there would be a bailout plan for those who are running small access to health care in rural communities.

“We need universal coverage,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s not going to cost an arm and leg. There’s ways we can do it. We get the pharmaceutical industry to allow our federal government to negotiate for bulk discounts. Were the only industrialized country that doesn’t allow that to happen.”

Hickenlooper estimates this decision could increase savings for individuals and the overall health care system. Those savings could then be translated and would allow for a public option to be available, allowing everyone to have some basic health care coverage.

Democratic Senator Kerry Donovan, who represents Senate District 5 in Colorado, was on the call with Hickenlooper. When the topic of public lands was brought up, Donovan mentioned it was worrying how the Trump administration has ignored the local voice, instead exchanging public lands to the highest bidder.

“We need strong voices in Washington D.C. to push against that narrative, and to make sure that the importance of how we view public lands and our culture of heritage and our quality of life is heard.

“I truly believe [Hickenlooper] will be able to do that,” she added.

John, also in Pueblo, said there has been a burden on the Trump administration in trying to respond to the pandemic, and inquired if Gardner and other officials would adopt a bill that would ease that burden.

In response, Gardner noted relying on supply chains outside of the United States hasn’t helped during the pandemic.

“We need to make sure our policies and our economic regulations, taxes are moving business production back to the United States,” Gardner said. “So when we need N95 masks, we’re making them here, and not relying on other people.

“It’s been said that up to 70% of our pharmaceuticals come from China. In time of a global pandemic, we shouldn’t be relying on somebody else to provide us with the lifesaving and medication, pharmaceutical tests that we need to address the health pandemic ourselves.”

Romanoff hosts virtual town halls on his website, www.andrewromanoff.com/live, on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. and at noon on Fridays.

Both candidates will surely reach voters in any capacity they can as the race continues heading into the Democratic primary on June 30.

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

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