Vance calls Holtorf ‘ineffective’, ‘failure’; Holtorf strikes back on lobby funding, Eckley tax increase

From the Journal-Advocate
Cattle-punching on his Akron ranch may have well-prepared Rep. Richard Holtorf for a Republican Party debate Tuesday with his opponent, former Eckley Mayor Jessie Vance.

Holtorf, presently serving in State House District 64, often appeared to desire discussion on experience he has gained and results he has delivered in the state legislature, and the leadership he has developed through a life of military service and personal business interests, while Vance delivered a barrage of criticism of Holtorf in the debate that often seemed more like a sparring match during a candidate-to-candidate question session.

The candidates are seeking the Republican nomination for the Colorado House District 63 seat and presumptive election to the office with no Democrat challenger in the field. Mailing of ballots will begin June 6 and Election Day is June 28.

Another debate featuring candidates for Morgan County clerk followed by coroner will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday at Brush High school.

Vance criticized the results of a rural water bill Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, authored which died in a House committee. It is a committee, Holtorf said, in which Republicans are in the minority and in which members are from areas with other water priorities in their home districts. Sonnenberg has endorsed Holtorf in the race. Former Sen. Greg Brophy has endorsed Vance.

Vance also termed Holtorf a failure in the Colorado House.

“You’ve been beating this horse for a while now,” Holtorf countered. “If I’m such an ineffective legislator, we should look at the legislation I passed.”

Holtorf noted five bills, two joint resolutions and a tribute item that was passed in the session, providing bill numbers for those in attendance at Brush High School to research.

“I call that legislative success,” Holtorf said.

Vance remained on the offensive, citing a vote Holtorf had cast related to fentanyl in his next question directed to Holtorf. A bill he supported reduced legal possession from four grams to one gram.

“We were looking for solutions,” Holtorf said. “If I would have voted against it, you would still have four grams on the street [legally] that could kill 2,000. I lobbied for 0.0 grams. The compromise was it is better to have one gram than four grams.”

Holtorf has pledged to return to work on a bill next session, should he be elected, to completely restrict the drug.

“I work for the people. You are my employer,” Holtorf said. “I will always have an open door for my constituents.”

That was his partial response to a question posed to the candidates related to balancing relations with constituents, lobbyists, the media and other legislators in the best interest of the district. Vance used the question to throw the first uppercut of the night.

“I will not be offensive [to other legislators],” he said. “You have to work with them, not use racial slurs like ‘buckwheat’ and you can’t say to the father of an Aurora theater shooting victim to ‘get over it.’”

The term was not a racial slur, Holtorf said, aimed toward another member of the legislature. Many others have agreed it is a colloquial term.

“If you’re from the country you know what it means; it is a term of endearment,” Holtorf said. A video of the moment on the House floor shows the other legislator [off camera] first interrupting Holtorf’s speech, but that legislator’s comment is inaudible.

Vance criticized the moment as an example of a “good ol’ boy style.”

While Vance had suggested he could treat everyone with respect, should he be elected, Holtorf said it wasn’t the case from his experience during the campaign and in the Tuesday debate. He claimed to have never disparaged Vance, but in return to have received “salacious comments” and “dispersions” from Vance.

“You have attacked me,” Vance said. “You’ve said someone can’t be a great legislator and a family man at the same time.”

It may be an observation others would share. A former state representative serving Morgan County had resigned his seat a few years back specific to family responsibilities, saying at the time balancing family and serving in the state legislature is a challenge. Sonnenberg has also previously shared the time commitment at the state legislature is a difficult balance with family.

Holtorf additionally noted he had sworn off lobby donations in his election, and wondered why Vance had not done the same. Vance retorted that he would not have been able to raise the funding for the election without larger donors, throwing another barb at Holtorf.

“I wasn’t fortunate enough to have a $1 million cattle operation given to me,” Vance said. “[Lobbyists] need someone effective at the capitol. Just because they give you money doesn’t mean you’re going to vote their way all the time.”

Vance closed May with a campaign fund balance of $9,317.21. The most recent contributors include the Colorado Chamber PAC, Committee for the American Dream and Homes for All Coloradans Committee at a total of $1,400, but most donations are derived from individuals, including Morgan County Commissioner Gordon Westhoff and Morgan County Sheriff Dave Martin. The secretary of state has not posted Holtorf’s campaign finance information through the election, but his reports have been submitted on time.

Holtorf questioned Eckley growing by 1.5 percent at a time in which taxes rose “14 to 16 percent” under Vance’s leadership. It is an unfair criticism, Vance said.

“The only business in town wanted a sales tax, and the citizens voted to have a sales tax,” Vance said, distancing from his involvement in the issue.

The early moments of the debate featured a robust conversation regarding positions and accomplishments.

Vance noted his attendance at governmental meetings while still in high school, and his actions to increase his involvement since. He claimed to have helped Eckley solve a water concern, oppose marijuana and told Republicans he supported the 2nd Amendment, life and would value a focus on traditional education.

Life, inflation and “runaway spending” are areas Holtorf is seeking a return to the legislature in order to address, he said. The Democrat majority has chipped away at individual rights in favor of a progressive agenda, Holtorf added.

The candidates each addressed the rural-urban divide, with similar stances on the issue.

“It is real. It is not new to Colorado, and is pervasive in Colorado,” Holtorf said. “As much effort as we give toward the divide, the other side needs to give back to us.”

He has planned a June 17 tour of a Washington County ranch he operates and Global Harvest Foods with urban legislators.

“There are people that don’t understand where our food comes from, where our energy comes from,” Vance said.

Candidates were asked about the government’s return to a focus on serving people. Holtorf termed government a self-licking ice cream cone.

“I always ask, aren’t we supposed to represent the people and represent their interests,” he said. “Are we taking care of ‘We The People’ or extorting ‘We The People’ for more money to support government programs.”

Vance countered with a common complaint of those in rural Colorado.

“Roads get fixed in the Front Range, but not out here,” he said. “That goes for everything.”

Each candidate was asked to define their priorities for schools and education. Vance called for more opportunities and less indoctrination, adding criticism toward the forced removal of Native American school mascots such as at Arickaree.

“We were always proud to be the Indians,” Vance said.

School safety is the utmost priority, Holtorf said, adding his support for funding science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“We need to control entry into schools,” he said. “We need to fund school protection officers who can protect students.”

He provided an example of Fleming, where staff is provided the opportunity to conceal carry firearms.

“We know what happened in Texas,” Holtorf said. “It was 77 minutes before police entered the building.”

Published by the Journal-Advocate

Brian Porter | Publisher

Brian Porter has 24 years experience in newspapering. He has published The Fort Morgan Times since 2017 and the Brush News-Tribune since 2016. In 2019, he was named the publisher of the Sterling-Journal-Advocate. At Brush, Porter conceptually created the Brush Beet Express. Porter was prevously the general manager of newspapers based in Texas. In his free time, Porter enjoys his Labradors named Bonnie & Clyde and horses named Cowboy and Ranger.



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