Oct 132008
 
Authors: Trevor Simonton

Incumbent congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colorado, defended herself Monday night against Democratic opponent Betsy Markey’s accusations that she has done nothing to solve immigration and labor problems as a representative for Colorado’s Fourth District.

“As a ranking Republican, I have worked hard to get guest workers working legally, so please be correct in your statements,” she said.

Markey then countered the defense.

“But nothing has passed,” she said.

Without hesitation, a Musgrave rebuttal: “Ken Salazar is in the Senate, Betsy. I can only control the House,” she said, referring to the Democratic Colorado senator, for whom Markey acted as regional director for in recent campaigns.

The Fort Morgan audience responded with applause and cheers for their hometown candidate, Musgrave.

The two women are battling for the Fourth Congressional District seat of Colorado, which, after 30 years of Republican control, has become one of the most intensely competitive seats in the House of Representatives, some political analysts say.The debate Monday focused on Colorado agriculture and “rural America.”

“In looking at our dependence on foreign oil, we need to make sure that we never have a foreign dependence for food,” Musgrave said.

Both candidates talked about their respective histories as small business owners, and both vocalized the importance of agriculture to the national economy, stressing the importance of the 2008 Farm Bill, for which Musgrave was a “lead negotiator.”

“Farmers need a safety net,” she said. “That means they need direct payments and loan programs.”

Musgrave also told stories about her days growing up on a sugar beet farm and how she has learned through personal struggle the importance of water conservation.

“It breaks my heart when farmland dries up,” she said.

Both candidates agreed that water storage is an important issue for Colorado farmers.

“When you touch water you touch everything,” Markey said, quoting the last Democrat to hold office in Colorado’s Fourth District back in the early 1970s, Wayne Aspinall.

They also agreed on the importance but impermanence of corn-oil ethanol and the need for further development and diversification of renewable energy.

Markey specifically cited the need to upgrade the electrical grids in Colorado.

“Studies show that up to 20 percent of our electricity can come from wind power,” she said. “It will cost billions to convert, but when you compare the $700 billion we spend annually on foreign oil, it becomes very worthwhile.”

Musgrave closed with thanks to her home audience and a reiteration of the importance of supporting agriculture.

Markey closed with a pledge to work hard and attend town hall meetings in all 18 counties in the Fourth District if she were elected.

“I will be looking people in the eye,” she said. “You have to listen to the people.”

Elections Beat Reporter Trevor Simonton can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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