Major candidates square off in Club 20 debates

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT)-- The official 2016 election season kicked off this weekend, with a big night of debates Saturday in Grand Junction.

Two major debates took place at the Two Rivers Convention Center featuring the main candidates in two of the most important races in Colorado. Republican Senate nominee Darryl Glenn and Libertarian nominee Lily Tang Williams took on the incumbent Sen. Michael Bennett. In the other major debate, former State Sen. Gail Schwarz squared off with incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton.

Questions to Tipton and Schwartz ranged from how they would work to secure social security for our aging population to environmental concerns with public lands.

“You have to find ways to develop that resource and we do it in the right place, with the right oversight, and allow for a balanced use of our public lands,” said Tipton.

Much of Schwartz’s conversation centered on improving school systems in rural communities, while Tipton’s focus was on creating jobs.

“This is an opportunity for us to secure our future. To be able to build revenue, to create government programs that are necessary and to put our people back to work,” said Schwartz.

The senate debate between Bennet, Glenn, and Williams got off to a quick start with a discussion on long-term Social Security challenges.

“People who work hard all their lives and count on Social Security for retirement for their income are going to face this harsh reality, for one dollar you put in you get less out,” said Wang.

As well as a lack of jobs…

“Right here on the Western slope, we have people in Washington DC that are shutting down jobs,” said Glenn, “Twelve hundred jobs are going to be lost because of excessive regulations through the EPA.”

“These low energy prices have given us a great opportunity to find new markets, and I’ve been working on that,” said Bennet, “That's why we've lifted the ban on crude oil exports, that's why I’ve worked to speed up LNG export facilities all over the country, that's why we're working together on Jordan Cove.”

On health care, candidates discussed changes in the system that would improve the quality of care and decrease costs. They also debated the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, created after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Amendment 69 was also debated on Saturday night. The amendment proposes to create a statewide system to finance health care services for residents by creating new taxes on income and redirecting current health funding to pay for services.

Those for the amendment said it creates a more equitable health care payment system, which allows coverage for all residents.

“When they get sick their doctor’s office is the emergency room. That is the most expensive place to provide care, and since they aren’t insured their bills are sent to you and me,” said T.R. Reid of ColoradoCare.

Those against the amendment argued that the new taxes it creates will hurt small businesses, burden taxpayers, and eliminate jobs.

“If you aren't able to attract and keep job creators then you can’t keep the payroll taxes, and we are going to see maybe damage to our economy at a time here in western Colorado where we can’t take another blow,” said Diane Schwenke of Coloradoans for Coloradoans.

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