For the first time in the history of Colorado’s fifth congressional district, Republican candidates seeking to represent Colorado took part in a public debate ahead of the primary.
Darryl Glenn, Owen Hill, Bill Rhea and Tyler Stevens all took the stage at Woodland Park High School for Thursday’s debate. It was hosted and moderated by the high school’s award-winning speech and debate team.
In opening statements, each of the candidates took a shot at Congress, saying the elected body isn’t doing enough for the American people. The explanation of why, though, varied between the candidates, including different opinions on the Republican-held White House and Congress.
Glenn, who currently serves as president of the El Paso County Board of Commissioners, said he is all in with President Donald Trump’s agenda.
"You know, this country elected a wrecking ball," Glenn said, when asked how he would work with the current administration if elected. "And I’m proud to elect him. I voted for that wrecking ball. I support his agenda, and I’m tired of Congress not putting a bill on his desk and actually implementing the agenda."
Meanwhile, Rhea, a former Texas judge, offered a very different approach. He said he doesn’t support what he called the president’s "divisive actions" in our nation’s capital.
"We will not stand if we continue the political wars that we regularly engage in," Rhea said. "We even vilify one another."
The candidates also fielded questions on what rights they think the LGBT community should have, what changes should be made to the education system, and what solutions they propose to stop school shootings.
Stevens, who serves as a firefighter in addition to previously serving as mayor of Green Mountain Falls, said he has an interesting perspective on school shootings. A strong advocate of the second amendment, he said the issue is not about guns.
"It is about violence. It is about mental health, and what we can get done to support people who are having crises," Stevens said. "As a first responder, often times we are responding to situations where people are not just quite right."
Hill, who currently serves as a state senator for District 10, said he has received emotionally-charged mail in an attempt to change his pro-second amendment stance. He said the nation must not make a decision with emotion that would strip the rights of law-abiding citizens and shift the decision-making power to school districts and teachers.
"The different communities can say, ‘This is what we need. Or, we need metal detectors here, or we need to seal up some of our exits over here, or alarm some of the other ones,’" Hill said. "Others want to hire school resource officers. Whatever that is, we need to make those resources available."
There was also a lot of talk about accountability and limiting so-called "career politicians" in Washington. Those points appeared to be jabs at the fifth candidate in this race, incumbent Doug Lamborn, who has held the seat consecutively since 2007.
Lamborn was invited to participate in the debate, but he declined to do so.