Grand County Democrats welcome new candidates

Four candidates take questions from Grand County Democrats at their State Legislative Roundup Session on June 22. From Left to right, Steve Skinner is running for Grand County Commissioner, Rep. Dylan Roberts is running for state senate, Rep. Julie McCluskie is running for state house and Abby Loberg is running for Grand County Clerk and Recorder.
Kyle McCabe/Sky-Hi News

People on their lunch breaks, or otherwise free on a Wednesday afternoon, filled the lower dining section of Deno’s Mountain Bistro on June 22 for the Grand County Democrats’ State Legislative Roundup Session. Three candidates spoke, although Grand County residents will only be able to vote for two of them.

Colorado’s redistricting moved Grand County’s elected officials out of its state house and senate districts. The current District 13 representative in the Colorado House of Representatives, Rep. Judy Amabile, will run in District 49 as a Boulder County resident. Sen. Bob Rankin, the current District 8 senator, will represent District 5

Summit and Eagle County democrats will run for the state house and senate seats that include Grand County. Rep. Julie McCluskie first won election in District 61 in 2018, but living in Summit County means she is now running in District 13. Rep. Dylan Roberts lives in Eagle County and represents District 26. He is running for the senate seat in District 8.

County candidates Abby Loberg, running for Clerk and Recorder, and Steve Skinner, running for Commissioner, also spoke at the event.

John Riedel, co-chair of Grand County Democrats, introduced the candidates. Amabile spoke first, saying she learned about water, fire, droughts, floods and housing issues from representing Grand County. 

“I’m still going to be paying attention to those things as a legislator,” Amabile said. “You’ve lost me as your exact elected leader, but you haven’t lost my heart.”

Amabile said the other candidates will represent the county well. She praised McCluskie for her work as vice chair on the Joint Budget Committee and said, although she likes Rankin, she sees Roberts as a “huge upgrade.”

Before passing the spotlight to Roberts, Amabile talked about legislation she worked on this past legislative session. She sponsored HB22-1111, which established new requirements for insurance companies regarding fire coverage in Colorado, and SB22-206, which put $15 million into grants for people who lost their homes in fires. She also mentioned mental health bills she helped pass.

Roberts spoke next, saying he felt at home in Grand County because he spent time ski racing in Winter Park growing up. He talked about issues he focused on in the 2021-22 legislative session, including affordable housing.

“I know all of our mountain communities, and across the western slope, are facing the housing crisis,” Roberts said. “If we don’t do something transformational and big in these next few years, we’re going to lose the workforce that makes these communities run and makes these communities so special.”

Roberts highlighted his sponsorship of HB22-1304 and HB22-1117, which invested in affordable housing and created a way for towns to use lodging tax revenue to fund housing, child care and other workforce-supporting projects.

Protecting natural resources also interests Roberts, and he said he wants to promote water conservation as a state senator. He finished by talking about affordability, pointing out his sponsorship of the Colorado Option, which created a standardized health benefit plan and received federal funding June 23.

Following Roberts, McCluskie talked about her three priorities — saving people money during an economic downturn, supporting education and conserving natural resources. She talked about the difficulty of decreasing the state’s budget during the pandemic as a Joint Budget Committee chair, but celebrated the current budget surplus that will return $750 to single filers and $1,500 to joint filers this year.

McCluskie sponsored SB21-268, which she said put $250 million toward public schools. She said she understands the importance of climate issues because she lives in Summit County, which has dealt with wildfires and water issues.

“I now live in an elevated level of fear that tomorrow my house may be gone,” McCluskie said about wildfires. “That is a challenging prospect for all of us.”

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