Newell, Kerber debate jobs and more jobs

Republican challenger Dave Kerber makes a point as his opponent, state Sen. Linda Newell, listens. The candidates debated Oct. 4 at the Englewood Civic Center. The two are vying to represent the reconfigured District 26, which includes Littleton, Englewood, Greenwood Village and Sheridan, among other areas. Photo by Peter Jones

Candidates vying for District 26 Senate seat

By Peter Jones

Jobs and the economy were the main engines of discussion at a debate on Oct. 4 between the candidates in state Senate District 26. Like many political discussions, the question of whether Colorado is heading in the right direction was a recurring theme between the two hopefuls.

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Linda Newell sounded the more optimistic tone, noting the successes of past jobs bills and Colorado’s place as a relative job creator in some national comparisons with other states.

“There’s more work to be done,” she told the audience at the Englewood Civic Center. “But as anyone can see from any of [those comparisons], we’re doing really, truly well in Colorado. So we’re doing things right.”

Republican challenger Dave Kerber, a former Greenwood Village City Council member, was less sanguine, saying his door-to-door visits with local constituents tell a different story.

He mentioned a 58-year-old man who he said had recently lost both his business and his house.

“He says he’s in the same financial situation he was when he was 18,” Kerber recounted. “… We have people who are discouraged who have gotten off the roll and aren’t even counted in the unemployment rate. We’re not doing well.”

In contrast, Newell pledged to stay the course that has placed Colorado among the top five states in recent job creation, promising further bipartisan collaborations designed to build the state’s economy and encourage employers.

She cited her Film Production Activities in Colorado Act, which creates a loan guarantee and incentive program for production companies. To qualify, an in-state production company’s local expenditures must be at least $100,000 and an out-of-state company must spend at least $1 million. In addition, Colorado residents must fill 50 percent of the resulting jobs.

“Over the last decade, we started to lose those jobs. We started to lose the infrastructure to other states,” Newell said, noting Colorado’s long history as a backdrop for Hollywood movie productions.

Kerber said he opposes such incentive programs because they effectively amount to the state legislature selecting its own economic winners and losers.

“Giving $3 million to the film industry is great for the film industry’s quality of life, but it’s not so hot for the other people who have to give up that money,” he said. “I have workers in my warehouse who’d love to get part of that $3 million.”

Instead, according to the business owner and nonpracticing attorney, the state government should take the opposite approach of noninterference.

“I know how to create jobs. I know how to get the government out of the way,” Kerber said. “… Every [government] form that I fill out in my business is time taken away that I could be thinking about how to do something better for my customers and create jobs.”

Newell emphasized her own history of working across party lines to create solutions that she says work for virtually everyone concerned.

“When I work on a bill, I bring in all the stakeholders ahead of time,” she said. “… I have crossed the aisle many times. I’ve bucked my own caucus. I have crossed the aisle to support legislation.”

According to Newell, 97 percent of her bills have had broad bipartisan support and that is why many Republicans are backing her run for re-election.

“I’ve had Republicans come to me and say you’re representing a purple district in a purple way and you should be there,” Newell said.

Kerber dismissed Newell’s claims of exceptional bipartisanship, noting the make-up of the sharply divided Colorado General Assembly.

“Most bills are bipartisan,” he said. “In fact, since we have a Republican House and a Democrat Senate, all the bills are bipartisan that pass. She says 97 percent. It should be 100 percent.”

In 2008, Newell narrowly defeated Republican Lauri Clapp in one of the tightest elections in the state that year. The “purple” District 26 boasts a virtually even split among Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters.

The League of Women Voters of Arapahoe County presented the debate.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

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