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Vote signs are seen outside the Voter Services and Polling Center at the Boulder County St. Vrain Community Hub in Longmont on Feb. 24, 2020.
Vote signs are seen outside the Voter Services and Polling Center at the Boulder County St. Vrain Community Hub in Longmont on Feb. 24, 2020.

Inside Twin Peak Charter Academy in Longmont on Saturday night, Republican candidates who hope for a shot at opposing and defeating Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet this fall got to know Boulder County residents in a forum. They talked about immigration policy, how to improve the education system, their strategies to combat inflation and the Republican position on climate change.

Candidates who took part in the forum were Peter Yu, Deborah Flora, Ron Hanks, Gino Campana, Gregory Moore and Eli Bremer. The in-person forum was hosted by the Longmont Republican Women, in partnership with the Boulder County Republicans and the Boulder Republican Women.

Joe O’Dea, who also is a contender in the 2022 Republican primary, was not able to attend Saturday.

The forum was moderated by radio broadcaster Kim Monson and Marshall Dawson, one of the vice chairmen of the Boulder County Republicans. In addition to their questions, members of the crowd of roughly 200 were allowed to submit questions to candidates. Of those in attendance, roughly five wore masks, despite a Boulder County public health order to wear masks in indoor public spaces.

Monson said the consumer price index, which measures the cost of household items, had risen by 7% — the highest price increase since 1991. She also noted inflation is expected to continue for six more months and asked candidates to answer how they would fix the issue.

Hanks, who is a retired U.S. Air Force veteran and current state representative for District 60, said he believes the inflation rate is likely even higher.

“How do you fix?” Hanks said. “The first thing you do is have an energy policy where energy is everywhere. It’s prominent. And, we did that. We were energy independent. I had the chance to frack in North Dakota. I hammered iron with blue-collar America. We restored energy independence, we can do it again, but we have to get the Biden regime out of power.”

Hanks added the country needs to “open up the supply chain” and manufacture in America again.

Campana, a businessman and former Fort Collins city councilman who was appointed by former President Donald Trump to serve with Trump’s administration, said inflation was “crushing the American dream.”

“I don’t need a minute and a half to answer this question, I can answer it quickly: That’s why Trump appointed me to his administration; he knew I was a businessman,” Campana said. “Three things: Stop paying people to stay home and not go to work. Two, stop spending so much money. I see a lot of the younger generation in this room tonight, maybe they’re a little upset with the fact we’re leaving them with over $30 trillion dollars in debt. Three, stop trying to control our lives.”

Campana referenced a convoy of truckers at the U.S. and Canada border protesting coronavirus vaccine mandates this week. His reference garnered applause and cheers from the audience.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic creating educational challenges for students, Monson asked what candidates would do to fix the education system.

Flora, who won Miss Colorado and was second runner-up in the Miss America pageant in 1990, talked about her work as founder and president of Parents United America. The nonprofit is a bipartisan group seeking to restore parental authority.

“One of the things people need to understand is there is a link between what goes on in D.C. and what goes on in our schools,” Flora said. “We need to cut our Department of Education down to almost nothing. In addition, we need to look at executive orders that are politicizing our children’s education. There’s indoctrination, not education, right now.”

Monson said there has been criticism of “Republicans’ failure to address climate change.” She asked candidates how they might address “similar accusations.”

Moore, a professor of global studies and politics at Colorado Christian University, said, “Republicans get a bad rap on the environment.”

“I love camping. I love hiking. I love skiing. We have to do a better job of marketing. I don’t think we’re anti-environment; that’s not our position at all,” Moore said. “We just want good science. Show me the connection between all this science data and a fire in Boulder. I teach research methods, and there’s no way to prove this hypothesis that climate change caused that fire. We don’t know why it started.”

Leading up to the state’s most destructive wildfire in history, unseasonably warm and dry weather plagued the Front Range. The Denver Post reported in a Dec. 31 article about the conditions, with scientists saying “a warming climate laid the foundation for wildfires to happen year-round.”

Moderator Dawson read a question from the audience, asking what candidates would do to fix the immigration system if elected and if they would support a policy to return illegal immigrants to their home countries.

Bremer, a former U.S. Olympian and U.S. Air Force veteran, said he thinks “every town is becoming a border town.”

“It’s hitting the middle-class families,” Bremer said. “We’re seeing increased crime. We’re seeing all these problems. It’s hitting our local governments, because the governments have to administer the services that the federal government is now mandating on those local governments.”

Bremer criticized Bennet and the Biden administration for not addressing the issue. He said the solution is to “build a wall, remain in Mexico and enforce the law.”

But Yu, who earned a business degree from Fort Lewis College and is a first-generation immigrant, pointed out that some elements of the immigration system are broken.

“We need to make sure we have immigration policy that protects our sovereignty and actually helps those trying to come here,” Yu said. “The biggest reason we’re having trouble now is our immigration courts. They’re really backed up, where it takes six months to a year before your visa or your assignment request is even reviewed.”

Candidates wrapped up the evening with closing statements, bringing the forum, which lasted more than two hours, to an end. The Colorado primary election is scheduled for June 28, with the general election following Nov. 8.