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Gazette Premium Content Republican Senate hopefuls debate; Amy Stephens defends health exchange bill, takes jab at Ken Buck

By Megan Schrader Updated: February 26, 2014 at 8:07 am

Six Republicans vying for a place on the ballot opposing U.S. Sen. Mark Udall in 2014 agreed on much, threw only a few punches at each other and collectively despised Udall's record.

The debate, run by political reporters and an editor from the The Denver Post, pitted the three front-runners in the race against each other with sensitive questions about each candidate's background.

Ken Buck, Weld County district attorney, said he's a different candidate than he was in 2010 when he flubbed a debate against U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, on national television.

"I was unprepared for a question and I answered it in a short hand way and I shouldn't have answered it," Buck said. "I'm a better candidate now than I was four years ago."

Buck made a comparison between the genetics of alcoholism and the genetics of homosexuality.

He emphasized that he still nearly beat Bennet in a year that was dominated by Democrats.

State Rep. Amy Stephens, from Monument, said she watched the GOP rapidly lose ground after that debate.

"I actually do believe who is at the top of the ticket matters," Stephens said. "We watched a lot of things implode in 2010."

But when it was Stephens' turn for scrutiny, Buck said he hopes Republican voters are able to look beyond a single policy issue for any one candidate and look at the entire record.

Stephens was asked whether conservative voters could look past her support of Colorado's health care exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act.

"I heard from a lot of Republicans during 2011 when we ran the bill they support government closer to home," Stephens said who is former majority leader of the state House. "When you see a tsunami coming you have to make a decision. You either have a state health exchange or you have a federal health exchange. Government closer to home is the way to go."

State Sen. Owen Hill, from eastern Colorado Springs, said the defining issue of this campaign is going to be "Obamacare."

Hill was asked whether he shares the same isolationist foreign policy as libertarian Ron Paul who endorsed Hill's campaign.

Hill said the U.S. is stretched too thin and has a sense of "hubris" when it comes to being telling people what to do.

"Our service men and women are looking for opportunities to serve our country," said Hill, who is serving his second term in the Senate.

"Congress needs to be the one declaring war," he said.

Stephens said that we have to move away from the Cold War mentality now that we're dealing with terrorists.

"We cannot be the only superpower spending the way we are spending or we will suffer greatly at home," Buck said.

For the record every candidate except Buck and Hill said they have tried marijuana.

The other three candidates are considered long shots in the race because they don't have a traditional political background and are behind on fundraising.

Mark Aspiri a businessman from Glenwood Springs distinguished himself from the other said the most important issue with immigration is how it's impacting families.

"Families are being impacted by immigration," Aspiri said.

Floyd Trujillo said when it comes to immigration anything other than talk about securing the borders is useless.

"We have a path to citizenship right now it's called get in line and it's irrelevant to talk about anything else," Trujillo said.

Tom Janich, who has run for several state-level offices and U.S. Representative in 2008, said the U.S. needs to secure its borders.

"We approve three quarters of a million visas a year," Janich said. "I think we are a very generous country when it comes to immigration in the first place."

All six of the candidates were unforgiving of Udall's work when it comes to NSA surveillance.

Udall has been outspoken against the government's use of databases to monitor Americans.

But everyone trying to unseat him in November, said the congressman didn't do enough, soon enough.

"We didn't need an Edward Snowden to leave and go to Russia," Buck said. "We needed a Mark Udall to stand up for the American People. Too many innocent Americans have been spied on by our government."

Stephens concurred.

"The job of the Senate is oversight and this man has not done oversight," Stephens said. "You can call for hearings, you can call for people to come in and testify. You can do a host of things that will reveal to the American people what is going on."

Contact Megan Schrader

719-286-0644

Twitter: @CapitolSchrader

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