On Thursday, October 19, the Pueblo West High School IB program invited four Pueblo County Commissioner candidates and the two State House District 47 candidates to the school’s main gym. What the audience learned is that these candidates may not disagree as much as one would think.
The debate started off with introductions. Chuck Rodosevich, the Democratic candidate for the House race, gave his introduction and brief policy statement first, as his opponent was unable to make it. Introductions followed for Democrat “Buffie” McFayden and Republican Debbie Rose, both running for the District 2 County Commissioner seat, along with Republican candidate Dan Centa and Democrat Terry Hart for the District 1 seat.
Following the introductions, Centa and Hart were asked to state their positions on energy and the environment. Both men began by emphasizing the value of water rights in the Southeastern region of Colorado, mentioning the importance of agricultural water rights and keeping Arkansas valley water from going north to growing population centers like Denver and Colorado Springs. However, when their rebuttal periods came, rather than allotting any time to focus on their opponent’s plan, they merely expanded upon their own platform, both mentioning the importance of an “all of the above” energy policy for Pueblo.
This became the rule, rather than the exception, for the rest of the “debate,” which spanned over an hour and covered various issues. From discussion on the economy and jobs to education and energy, the candidates continued to use their rebuttal periods for expanding on their own platforms or agreeing with their opponents on how to move forward in the coming years.
This pattern was cemented at the end of the debate, when all the candidates resolutely announced their support for the District 70 ballot question 3A, a bond issue for improving local schools. The candidates also condemned the proposal to put a nuclear power plant in Pueblo when asked about it by student Jeff Runyon.
The only clash in the entire debate came on a minor disagreement within the nuclear question, when candidate Hart opposed Centa’s early support of the proposal. He claimed it was unprofessional for a candidate to have expressed support one way or another on a matter that, as a future commissioner, Mr. Centa might possibly be asked to take judicial review on at some point.
Ultimately, however, the “debate” was anything but. The candidates gave several mini-speeches for their own platforms, often agreeing with each other, and used would-be rebuttal periods to fit in more talking points.
While still an excellent, innovative, and worthwhile opportunity for young voters to hear local candidates’ positions on important issues for Pueblo, this debate was surprising in its lack of—well, debate.