Members of the Four Corners 9/12 Tea Party brewed up tough questions during a forum Monday for candidates running for the open seat on the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners.
About 80 people attended the forum at the Baymont Inn.
Republican Jim Candelaria, unaffiliated Steve Chappell, Democrat MB McAfee and unaffiliated Jesse James Sattley struggled with or sidestepped some of the technical constitutional questions, and mostly reiterated their campaign positions.
“The commissioners actually have more constitutional and legal authority that affects people’s day-to-day lives in the county than the Supreme Court of the United States,” Dexter Gill, of the Four Corners 9/12 group, said in the introduction. “We are in interesting times, with interesting challenges ahead.”
9-12er Bud Garner asked the candidates how foundational U.S. documents, including the Federalist Papers, Declaration of Independence and Anti-Federalist Papers, would inform their decisions as commissioners.
All the candidates said they would uphold Colorado and U.S. constitutions.
Candelaria added that he would not overstep private property rights and would ensure his decisions were legal. Chappell responded that America is a great country and a force of good, and said he would bring that mindset to the commission. Chappell added that Montezuma County was threatened by “California values.” Sattley said he was not politically well-informed but would work hard to learn and would represent interests of the working class. McAfee said she was “in awe” of the authors of the U.S. and Colorado constitutions, is familiar with foundational documents of the U.S. and has attended local 9/12 meetings for its perspective.
Gill asked the candidates whether they understood the roles of commissioners and were familiar with Title 30, which outlines the powers, polices and duties of county commissioners by Colorado statute.
Chappell said he had not read Title 30, but said commissioners were responsible for balancing the county budget and working with county departments to provide the best public services. Sattley also said he was unfamiliar with Title 30 and that his role as commissioner would be to oversee the budget and attract more well-paying jobs. McAfee said commissioners have legislative, executive and judicial roles, and she brought copies of state laws outlining county commissioner responsibilities. Candelaria said commissioners oversee many departments, and he singled out the county Sheriff’s Office as one department that especially needs commissioners’ support in order to improve public safety.
A woman who quoted Founding Father John Adams’ thoughts about liberty and property rights asked whether the candidates would stand up for her if government tried “to regulate my barn, greenhouse or garden.”
The candidates all said they supported property rights, including those of neighbors.
McAfee said rules protect private property but noted that if action on one property “infringes in a very bad way” on someone else’s property, there should be a discussion. Candelaria said he would fight an EPA proposal to redefine Waters of the U.S., which he said would negatively affect property rights and agriculture. He said he was against additional “codes and regulations in the county.”
Chappell said he was against government overreach, supported the current land use code and did not want to add building codes. “As long as you’re not affecting health safety and welfare of neighbors, then you are good,” he said.
Sattley said discussion would be needed if a property owner’s action was “crossing the fenceline” in a problematic way.
One man asked candidates how they would fulfill citizens’ “exclusive right to govern ourselves as a free sovereign state.”
Candelaria mentioned that the passage of state Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana and industrial hemp, was an example of how Colorado has governed itself even though federal government considers pot and hemp to be illegal. Candelaria is an advocate of growing hemp to boost the local economy and has been cultivating test plots under a permit with Colorado Department of Agriculture.
Chappell said he would implement the “rule of nullification” if a federal law was contrary to a Colorado law. He supports a 2014 county commissioner resolution that prohibits introducing federally threatened or endangered species like the Gunnison sage grouse to the county “because that would impact property and grazing rights.”
Other highlightsCandelaria supported right of way claims that commissioners have made in the U.S. National Forest under Revised Statute 2477. But he promised he would not “break the bank” fighting the federal government in court over the issue. He also supports the proposed Paths to Mesa Verde project, wants more affordable housing in the county and does not feel the county should get into the broadband business.Chappell also supported county RS2477 jurisdiction claims on some national forest routes because they were there before the forest was created in 1905. Chappell supports the county’s ban on commercial marijuana and said he would advocate for ranchers to access public grazing areas earlier in the season.McAfee said she did not believe the state has the authority to take over federal public lands. She said she supported the federal lands system because it provides access and for all Americans and helps local economies. As commissioner, she said she would work more on long-term planning for the county and wanted to organize an regional economic summit to brainstorm ideas and promote economic growth.Sattley said he would advocate for more campsites in the forest and felt that wilderness areas restrictions unfairly locked people out of their public lands. He opposed a county sales tax but said he was OK with accepting federal grants because it was a way to get those tax dollars back to the community. To improve the economy, Sattley said he would investigate the possibility of starting a railroad firstname.lastname@example.org