EDITORIAL: 2016 Aurora Sentinel picks for Colorado House and Senate — move past economic brinkmanship

Far too much is at stake in Colorado to permit such irresponsible brinkmanship. We offer these endorsements to make progress a reality in the next two years

Colorado lawmakers have never shied away from difficult issues. Unfortunately, they’ve lately been unable to solve them collectively.

The state budget is facing a fiscal conundrum even though much of Colorado is experiencing an economic boom. In addition, economic good times in bigger cities is hardly the case in rural Colorado, and the needs of outstate residents need to be addressed. That’s going to take money. Because of convoluted, self-imposed budgeting restraints, Colorado faces a long list of shortfalls where money is needed most: roads, education and health care.

READ OUR EDITORIAL ABOUT THE HOSPITAL FEE CONTROVERSY

The next class of lawmakers must be willing to forsake past partisan antics and work for the good of a needy state. We were shocked at the party stronghold state Republican leaders inflicted on their own members to prevent changes in the hospital provider fee program, distinctly created to keep increasing Medicaid expenses from eating into money for schools and roads. Because of the state’s odd TABOR and other amendments, commonsense changes depended on commonsense housekeeping legislation. There was only partisan rancor and a willingness by state Senate GOP leaders to withhold desperately needed state funding for squishy political principles and a debunked argument. Far too much is at stake in Colorado to permit such irresponsible brinkmanship.  We offer these endorsements to make progress a reality in the next two years:

Matt Snider is the clear choice for Aurora’s northern House District 56. Snider is a deep-thinking firebrand that is serious about finding ways to fix complex problems. He’s a model legislator in that he’s an avid gun enthusiast — Endowment Life Member of the NRA — and he’s determined to find ways to reduce gun violence. He brings an open mind and welcome determination to the state Capitol.

In House District 30, newcomer Dafna Michaelson Jenet brings serious business creds and a deep understanding of the big picture and the big problems facing Colorado. She promises to be an attentive lawmaker who’ll look for better answers instead of just easy ones, which there never are. Her incumbent opponent Republican Joann Windholz is out of place in her district. A conservative extremist with hard-line views on abortion and gun rights, she doesn’t reflect the moderate opinions of her Commerce City and Aurora neighbors. Windholz showed poor judgment after the horrific Colorado Springs Planed Parenthood shooting last year, suggesting that the clinic brought on the attack because is provides abortion services. Jenet, a Democrat, is a much more level-headed choice.

The choice is clear in House District 36, opening up to newcomers since state Rep. Su Ryden is term limited. Democrat Mike Weissman offers a moderate and highly principled approach to legislating. A lawyer, Weissman offers a well-considered, go-slow philosophy to state problems. Weissman says he wants to focus hard on what so many have noticed lately: Much of Colorado has outgrown its infrastructure. Without a solid plan, metro overcrowding could work against residents in many ways. Weissman also brings a strong sense of analysis and debate on issues such as health care, gun control and civil rights.

Voters in Senate District 28 have two strong choices for state senator, but incumbent Democrat Nancy Todd brings with her deep experience in school finance and education issues and serious clout on those areas. Todd, a former teacher, has built a reputation of helping many others understand the important nuance of exasperatingly complicated school finance law. With hopes of making real change this year to streamline the process and deliver more cash to schools, her presence at the Capitol is more important than ever. First-time GOP challenger James Woodley, an Army vet, brings a long-missed obliging and moderate conservative view on issues, a talent that would serve Aurora and the rest of the state well. But there’s too much at stake this year to bypass the need to have Todd watching for schools in Aurora and all over the state.

Voters in House District 41 have no reason to change representatives. Incumbent Democrat Jovan Melton has a strong sense of central Aurora’s pulse and works hard to find solutions to what matters most to his constituents. Melton has had an important hand in education and law enforcement issues during his first two terms, and now he wants to make good on a synergy among local school districts to develop a new generation of career schools and programs being developed. In addition, Melton has delved into community policing issues, working to find ways to ensure the civil rights of all residents, especially in regards to interactions with police. Melton has earned your vote for a third term.

State Rep. Janet Buckner hit the ground running just over a year ago, and she hasn’t stopped. Voters in Aurora’s House District 40 need this high-energy lawmaker to keep working for them. Buckner was appointed to the seat her husband held when he died just over a year ago. She quickly has filled the void left in the legislature created by the death of her husband and former educator, John Buckner. A fast study and passionate representative, Janet has created her own reputation of being a legislator eager to get things done to improve education and to ensure civil rights. Southeast Aurora will be well served by her second term in the state House.

Residents in House District 37 south of Aurora have two good choices. Attorney Cole Wist was appointed to the seat at the end of the last legislative session. A Colorado native from Paonia, he offers voters a Colorado-libertarian mentality coupled with Republican goals. He offers a no-nonsense approach to legislation that keeps the end in mind. His Democratic challenger, Carol Barrett, is a pharmacist who worked for decades to ensure quality medical care for residents in California. She brings a rich understanding of health care issues to the table and profound sensibility for serving people who are often unable to watch out for themselves. Both candidates are solid, but Wist has repeatedly noted that a conservative U.S. Supreme Court appointment was worth the risk of a Trump presidency. There is nothing worth the risk of electing a man president so clearly unqualified for the office. Barrett offers better all-around sensibilities.

Political newcomer Dominique Jackson makes the decision for House District 42 an easy one. Jackson brings a passion for helping unravel the area’s complex homeless issue and problems that continue to make affordable housing for everyone an increasing challenge. Jackson has been involved in Denver urban issues for years, and she now brings that expertise to Aurora. A regular name in Aurora community development circles, she offers a great deal of knowledge and experience on how the state legislation helps and hampers ways to make life better for everyone in the metro area. Hoping to replace state Rep. Rhonda Fields, who’s seeking a state Senate seat, Jackson will easily hit the ground running at the Capitol in January, already familiar with the issues and players important to her district.

One of the city’s most unlikely politicians is likely to make an even bigger name for herself if voters in her district make the smart choice and send her back to the Capitol in January, this time to Colorado’s upper house to represent Senate District 29Rhonda Fields entered state politics in 2010 after years of dealing publicly with the shooting death of her son, Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe. The two were gunned down in 2005 after exposing shooters to police. Fields went from being outspoken on victim rights and justice reform to the state House as a representative. She’s since become a leading lawmaker on criminal justice issues, and her passion now extends into protecting rights for all kinds of people and groups marginalized by big government or often just by accident. Fields is a studious and involved lawmaker. A rare legislator known for frequently reaching out to constituents in all kinds of places and ways, she brings a firm grasp of the real world to the often insular environs of state lawmaking. We’re confident she’ll be even more valuable to her constituents and Aurora as one of the city’s newest state senators.

Residents in southeast Aurora  and beyond have a tougher choice in Senate District 26, but Democrat Daniel Kagan’s frankness, transparency, experience and passion for reforms make him the sound choice for voters. The empty state Senate seat brings two popular and effective politicians to the table. Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Doty has been a strong advocate for sound and prudent government in the county, first as county clerk and then as county commissioner. Her tenure there has given her a front-row seat to the downstream effects of state government. Having long been known as approachable and eager to discuss any and all aspects of her work and her goals, we’re taken aback and disappointed that she’s refused to say publicly whether she continues to support her party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump. “I consider my vote private…” Doty told Aurora Sentinel reporter Brandon Johansson. She’s long been on record supporting Trump, and given recent developments, the question is important for many voters on both sides of Trump’s denigrating dividing line. The misstep bodes ill for someone who must be forthright about a vast range of votes and issues at the Capitol. She also has taken a partisan side to critical issues before even joining their ranks, saying publicly she would vote against allowing the state to use hospital provider fee funds as they were intended. Such a move, held up by a one-vote GOP majority in the state Senate last year, would permit hundreds of millions of dollars to be used in schools and on state roads. Democrat Daniel Kagan has a strong reputation for his above-board style and frank demeanor. He’s openly backing Hillary Clinton, and he’s on the right side of issues such as the hospital provider fee controversy, common sense gun control and ways to make the state budget work under the constraints of conflicting constitutional amendments. Kagan is the better choice for state Senate.

One of the country’s worst tragedies has given rise to a strong candidate for state Senate in District 27. Democrat Tom Sullivan’s son, Alex, was one of 12 people gunned down July 20, 2012 during the Aurora theater shooting. But from that monstrous tragedy has come a passion to not only help prevent further gun violence tragedies, but create a better state all around. After years of working through the exasperating theater shooting trial and legislative exploration of the massacre, Sullivan has emerged a sound student of the legislative process, and its failures in Colorado. Despite his personal tragedy, he’s a moderate crusader for answers that pass the common sense test. He’s a strong advocate for measures that make it difficult to obtain high-powered and extraordinarily lethal weapons and ammunition, but he doesn’t believe rash gun-control measures are practical or even possible. He addresses a wide range of state issues with the same objective approach, a signal that he’s open for compromise, something the state Senate has been sorely missing. Jack Tate was appointed to the seat last year and brings his House tenure experience with him. Unfortunately, he brings with him a history of troubling votes against a solution for the hospital provider fee, gun control, and women’s reproductive rights. Sullivan is the sound choice for SD 27.