The three candidates for Colorado’s seventh U.S. congressional district answered a host of questions from stopping gun violence to the U.S. economy during an online candidate forum on Sept. 28.
Republican Erik Aadland, Libertarian Ross Klopf and Democrat Brittany Pettersen, who answered 15 questions during the forum, hope to be elected to the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives vacated by Ed Perlmutter, who decided not to seek reelection. Members of the House serve two-year terms.
In addition, as part of redistricting, which takes place every 10 years, the far-reaching district now includes Broomfield, Jefferson, Lake, Park, Chaffee, Teller, Fremont and Custer counties.
This is the first election bid for Aadland, who is a West Point graduate, and served in Iraq and Afghanistan before working in the energy sector all over the world. Aadland called addressing out-of-control inflation by reining in government spending, curtailing crime including securing the country’s southern border and restoring sound energy policy that balances with protecting the environment his top three priorities.
Klopf, who unsuccessfully ran for election in Colorado House District 28 in 2018, is a civil engineer with experience in transportation and water resources engineering. Klopf emphasized throughout the forum that his focus was to empower the Congressional District 7 voters by asking for their input on issues before he voted. He wanted to end any voter fraud by implementing a system to give power back to voters.
Pettersen represents District 22 in the Colorado Senate, and she served in the Colorado House from 2013-2019. Pettersen called her top three priorities protecting the country’s democracy, helping the country recover from the pandemic and continuing to invest in the transition toward sustainable energy.
The forum, which was online to allow as many people as possible to attend virtually, was sponsored by the League of Women Voters in Chaffee and Jefferson counties. Watch the entire 90-minute forum at lwvchaffeecounty.org.
Accurate, fair elections
“There is the greatest level of distrust in our election system than ever before, and that must be rectified,” Aadland said. “I don’t believe this is a federal issue; it’s a state issue to manage. We need a system where it is impossible to cheat, and it is accessible to all.”
Klopf called election integrity the bedrock of his campaign platform, saying elections should be about the candidate, not the political party.
“If you elect the party, then you agree to an outside entity meddling into elections,” he said. “That opens the door for corruption and fraud because of out-of-state people getting involved in our elections. I don’t trust (the Democratic and Republican) parties. Both parties have questionable ethics.”
Pettersen explained that the public needed to elect representatives who would follow national rules for a free and fair presidential election, certifying the vote no matter who the winner is.
Aadland said taking guns away from good citizens while criminals roam the streets is not the answer to gun violence. He advocated for the nation to be tough on crime, having law enforcement present in schools and addressing the mental health component of the gun-violence problem.
Klopf explained that gun violence was not a political issue. Instead, it’s an issue the community must work together to solve, and he wants to form a coalition of advocates from all political parties, and from civic, religious, education and community organization to create solutions.
Pettersen advocated for common-sense gun-safety legislation nationally similar to what Colorado has such as the red-flag laws that allow guns to be taken from those who family or law enforcement feel are at risk to themselves or to others, closing background-check loopholes to purchase a gun and more.
Aadland said Congress should lead the effort to move toward more sustainable energy sources, including balancing nuclear energy with oil and natural gas.
To protect the environment and address climate change, Klopf advocated for a multifaceted approach including using cleaner forms of energy and electric cars.
Pettersen added: “What keeps me inspired is we can solve this with the right policies. What we need immediately is making sure we’re updating the energy grid, so we are preparing for when we have storage for solar- and wind-generated electricity.”
Women’s reproductive rights
Aadland called Colorado’s laws on women’s reproductive rights extreme, saying the state should find a middle ground. He said the topic should be a state decision and noted he would not support federal legislation on the issue.
Klopf said some abortions should be allowed and protected, and Congress should work on legislation that would not be challenged in the Supreme Court.
Pettersen noted: “If elected, I will fight for women across the country who don’t have a legislature like Colorado’s. I will fight to protect rights on individual choice, so women can decide when they would like to have a family.”
Representing urban, rural areas
Aadland said he hoped to spend less time in Washington D.C. and more time in his district, so he can talk to and help constituents. He noted that in the more rural areas of the district, agricultural interests must be protected.
Klopf said he would represent everyone in the congressional district, both rural and urban, hoping voters in all parts of the district would provide him with information about the issues they face and how he can help.
Pettersen noted that while voters throughout the district experience some of the same issues, for those in rural areas, the issues are more acute. She said she wanted to better understand the issues those in rural areas face and represent them in Congress.
Immigration on the southern border
Aadland advocated for finishing the border wall with border control agents to help stop people from sneaking in the United States. He said he didn’t want to stop the flow of immigrants but to control it, including clarifying the process for immigrants to become U.S. citizens.
Klopf said that since Colorado is not a state that borders another country, he would want others directly involved to come to a resolution. He said constituents should provide input into how the immigration issues should be solved.
Pettersen said having humane immigration policies and processes for immigrants to get into the United States and obtain work permits could help solve businesses’ problems with not finding enough workers.