September 29, 2022

Pueblo political candidates debate politics; absentee senate candidate

Candidates for Pueblo County Sheriff and District 3 Commissioner faced off in the second night of political debates at Pueblo Community College on Wednesday. The incumbent in the local Colorado Senate race, Democrat Nick Hinrichsen, was the lone candidate for his debate — his opponent Stephen Varela canceled two days before the scheduled debate.

The Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce coordinated the proceedings, and former Chieftain editor Steve Henson moderated.

State Sen. Nick Hinrichsen, a Democrat who represents the 3rd District, listens as moderator Steve Henson asks a question at Pueblo Community College on September 7, 2022. Hinrichsen's opponent Stephen Varela said he would not go not in the debate two days before it was planned.

D3 State Senate: Nick Hinrichsen and Stephen Varela

Republican contender Varela announced on social media on Monday that he was canceling his participation in the debate due to a scheduling conflict.

Varela was at a Pueblo West church on Wednesday evening, according to a Facebook post by Randy Linnen, local party treasurer and Varela campaign treasurer. Linnen’s post said it was a “campaign meeting,” but Varela said it was a pre-scheduled visit with a church group.

On his Facebook campaign page, Varela compared his cancellation to Hinrichsen’s withdrawal from a planned “debate” with Action 22.

Sara Blackhurst, CEO of Action 22, said it was not a planned “debate”, but a “conversation” between the two candidates, herself and Brian McCain, the COO of Action 22.

Hinrichsen had previously sat down and done an interview with Action 22, posted on a YouTube page and aired on podcasting platforms. He said he canceled the scheduled meeting with Action 22 and Varela because he wanted to wait until after the live debate.

Varela also recorded an individual interview with Action 22.

Hinrichsen said he would always be open to discussing Varela in a live audience format, which Varela also told the Chieftain he would be open to.

“It’s okay, but it’s open for them to have a discussion,” Blackhurst said. “We’re not going to do a public debate,” she said, but they would tape the conversation.

Hinrichsen told the Chieftain that most of the candidates have participated in these debates over the past decade and said it was “unfortunate” that Varela had to cancel.

“I think Pueblo County voters deserve to hear from the candidates, they deserve to hear from them in an organized format where we have an opportunity to respond to each other and we have a response to call out inconsistencies or correct misrepresentations from each other. others. statements,” Hinrichsen said.

In Varela’s absence Wednesday night, Henson asked Hinrichsen questions similar to those he asked Colorado House candidates Tuesday night regarding their positions on policy positions affecting southern Colorado and relevant national issues. such as access to abortion and the integrity of elections.

Hinrichsen touted some of the laws he sponsored and helped pass during his time in the legislature this spring — he was named to replace Leroy Garcia in February after Garcia was named to a Pentagon post — as the acceleration of TABOR reimbursements.

Hinrichsen said during the debate that Varela was unclear about his position on abortion. Varela declined to share his opinion on the matter when contacted by the chef on Wednesday afternoon.

Pueblo Political Debates:Colorado House candidates face off in debate at Pueblo Community College

Joey Musso speaks during a debate as the Republican candidate to become the Pueblo County Sheriff at Pueblo Community College on Tuesday, September 6, 2022.

Sheriff: Joey Musso and David Lucero

Kirk Taylor, the current Pueblo County Sheriff, has served since his first election in November 2006. He was recently named a United States Marshal.

Undersheriff David Lucero, the Democratic nominee in the race, has held his current position since July 1 this year and has worked for the sheriff’s office since 2004.

Republican Joey Musso works as an assistant at the Pueblo County Jail and has been with the department for nearly a decade. He alleged that a recent demotion from his three-year position as school resource officer was politically motivated. Chieftain media partner KRDO reported that Musso had been disciplined nine times during his career, but had also received several letters of recommendation from school officials.

A staff shortage that has affected many businesses across the country is also hitting law enforcement departments. Musso claimed morale was “dead” among senior-level MPs.

Lucero said morale is intangible and beyond the sheriff’s control, but he added that it will bring motivation to the offices. He also said he was already working to strengthen recruitment and retention.

Both candidates agreed that the community must come together and work together to address endemic public safety issues, such as homelessness and substance abuse.

Learn more about Pueblo policy:Should Pueblo County commissioners be able to run for a third term? Voters decide

BOCC D3: Zach Swearingen and Roxy Pignanelli

Zach Swearingen, who ran uncontested in the Republican primary, is a former Navy SEAL and small business owner. Roxanne “Roxy” Pignanelli faced an opponent in the Democratic primary – she works for Pueblo County School District 70 and has experience in arts management and labor leadership.

The race has already been controversial: At Swearingen’s campaign launch party in early July, two Democratic commissioners backed Swearingen. The endorsement was condemned by the local Democratic party.

Both candidates agreed on the need for increased transparency, fighting crime and making the community safe for families.

Pignanelli said she was the “only candidate” who has experience building community coalitions. Swearingen argued he had the necessary experience and “wouldn’t be an expensive trainee”, he said, referring to previous comments Pignanelli had made to the Chieftain.

Outgoing District 3 Commissioner Chris Wiseman has decided not to seek a second term to spend more time with his family. He supported Pignanelli.

Anna Lynn Winfrey covers Pueblo Chieftain politics. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @annalynnfrey.