Colorado’s oil and gas industry was well represented Jan. 6 as five Republicans seeking their party’s nomination for Colorado governor met in Fort Lupton.
“(Gov. Jared) Polis killed the oil and gas industry. It’s one of the biggest industries in the state of Colorado,” candidate Greg Lopez said at the forum hosted by the Republican Women of Weld County. “Not only does it create over 80,000 jobs, both upstream and downstream, it pays well for families. You should remember that in his first legislative session after we voted to tell him to leave oil and gas alone, he decided to go ahead and pass legislation to put in setbacks.”
Nine Republican Colorado gubernatorial candidates were invited to the candidate forum at the Fort Lupton Recreation Center, but only five candidates attended. They were Greg Lopez, the former mayor of Parker; Morrison’s Jason Lopez; Elbert County Realtor Danielle Neuschwanger; Jeffrey Fry of Hayden and Frisco’s Jon Gray-Ginsberg.
Veteran political strategist and former Colorado state Republican chair Dick Wadhams moderated the forum, asking questions focusing on oil and gas, protecting rural areas, crime, transportation, the pandemic, and the 2020 election.
The primary will occur June 28. The general election is Nov. 8.
Greg Lopez, who lives in Elizabeth currently, said Polis does not care about Weld County or Colorado families.
“His goal is to make sure that when and solar replace fossil fuels, he doesn’t care about Weld County, he doesn’t care about the families that work hard,” he said. “We are going to make him a one-term governor so he doesn’t make Coloradans suffer.”
Morrison’s Jason Lopez, CEO at NANO Rx, a pharmaceutical ingredient maker, said he has seen firsthand how oil and gas benefits the country.
“I come from an oil and gas background and protect the oil and gas sites all over the world being in the military. Seeing the prosperity does bring in economic value,” he said.
He argued against over-regulation.
“One of the things that I do not agree with is over-regulation of industries,” he said. “We need to put new policies in place that can thrive industries, air quality control, ERP systems, quality management, along with the environment that needs to be protected. We have the technology to do it. We just need to implement it in the right situations — right places and in the right times — Gov. Polis is not doing that.”
Neuschwanger said it should not come as a surprise to oil and gas workers and their families.
“Gov. Polis told you exactly what he’s going to do when he ran for office back in 2017 when he said that in the next 40 years Colorado would be a 100 percent green efficient state,” Neuschwanger said. “Just recently in Senate Bill 260, the transportation initiative, he said that there’d be a push for 940,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030. “
She promised to focus on preserving that rural industry.
“For Weld County, I will stand up for every single rancher and farmer across our state, I will make sure to reduce stagflation,” she said. “We bring back our oil and gas industry in Colorado and focus on natural resources such as the advanced nuclear power plants and Platteville.” Fort St. Vrain, the former nuclear plant that generates electricity by burning coal, is a quarter-mile northeast of the Weld County town.
Fry, the general manager at Littleton’s DC Power Industrial, said the current push towards green energy policies actually hurts lower-income Coloradans.
“Current energy policy right now is all green energy by 2040. So think about it, if you have a gas stove and you have to pay,” Fry said. “So from a gas stove to electric, you have to run the right line which is 220. Then you’ve got to upgrade your gas furnace to electric. How many people do you think in the low-income bracket can do that with fixed incomes?”
The Republican candidates also had criticism for Polis’ handling of the COVID-19 response. Fry said it actually allowed the most vulnerable to die.
“The elderly are more susceptible to death than younger kids,” Fry said. “The elderly are the ones we take care of first and, second, take care of the children and the mothers. The damage has been done to our society. It’s enormous right now.”
He said he would do things differently, but was not specific.
“We heard enough of masks, social distancing, face shields, and double masks,” Fry said. “We are going to do the right thing and take care of it.”
Frisco’s Gray-Ginsberg said he favors masks, but had a darker theory about the disease, which he tied into the New Year’s Eve fires in Lousiville.
“It is by a bio war against us Americans, especially us as a demographic and it’s in the newspaper,” he said. “The Christian sect is being accused of starting the fires. I’m Christian, but I’m not part of the sect. I think it’s a bio war and we’re the targets. If I was governor, there would be a massive mask mandate.”
Elizabeth’s Greg Lopez called the state’s COVID response incompetent.
“The governor has misguided policies has hurt Colorado beyond comparison,” he said. “I don’t think Gov. Polis is a bad person. But he has shown us his incompetence. He has no idea what emotional intelligence is all about, with the mental health damage that he’s done to our kids.”
He noted that Colorado’s pandemic shutdown forced people to be alone when they died.
“I want to remind people that people died alone, because of his policies,” Greg Lopez said. “People couldn’t go to funerals, because of what he did. We had kids that couldn’t even graduate across the stage because of his misguided policies. We don’t even know what he is going to do to the rest of our state, our economy, and our kids. How dare he do this to us? It is time to make sure Gov. Polis realizes that he’s going be held accountable for his mistakes.”
Morrison’s Jason Lopez said the reaction was overblown.
“We should not live in fear due to this pandemic. Our bodies are an amazing operating system biologically,” he said.
Neuschwanger said leaders should have begun preparing for COVID-19 even before 2019 was over.
“I used to run a lot of mass casualty incidents, and here’s how I would run COVID differently,” she said. “Back in December of 2019 when we first knew that the China virus escaped the Wuhan lab, I would have started looking at PPE right then. And also talked to my local hospitals about the possibility of it hitting the United States.”
Moderator Wadhams asked what priorities they had for improving the state’s transportation infrastructure. Gray-Ginsberg, the Frisco software developer, said he is for trains.
“I would implement a train system immediately probably zooming through South Park,” he said. “And a train system and all through Colorado like a Metroplex train, and bring in Siemens technologies, who I’ve worked for before.”
Elizabeth’s Greg Lopez said he sat on the board of directors of E-470 and understands transportation. His focus would be alternate routes.
“What we must do is think about how are we going to create alternative routes, he said. “I sat on the board for E-470. Think about this for a minute; What if the state of Colorado bought E-470 and took off all the tolls because it is owned by five jurisdictions in three counties?”
Doing that could alleviate pressure on Interstate 25, he said.
“It’s not privately owned. It is owned by municipalities,” he said. “We could take all kinds of traffic off the I-25 by making E-470 a public road. These are the types of ideas that you need from a governor to think outside the box because it’s important.”
Morrison’s Jason Lopez called for distributing the state’s transportation budget more fairly around the state.
“I feel that our budgeting, and doing a restructuring of how things are allocated, could be managed where the infrastructure is built for a futuristic-looking viewpoint,” he said. “People have moved here from all over the country, from California. When we legalized cannabis our population grew quite a bit.
“But now we do not tackle these infrastructure needs with roads and bridges. I understand about bikes and certain other types of transportation within Denver metropolitan areas, but we need to be able to connect to our rural communities as well so people have infrastructure even further out, to come in or travel out.”
Neuschwanger noted that the state has already increased spending on transportation. It just needs to be spent wisely.
“Where does this money go? Because it’s not going to infrastructure. It’s not going to transportation,” Neuschwanger said. “Senate Bill 260 was just proposed in May and passed, which is a $5.85 billion spending bill to increase transportation by making 940,000 electric cars available by 2030 (with) charging stations across the United States.”
Fry said he would aim to eliminate government commissions, especially the state’s transportation commission.
“I know this mess at the state level. It’s the biggest slush fund waste of money you can imagine in transportation. This is a simple way to save money when you get a job with the state.”