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CD8 candidates face off on economy, abortion, housing in 9NEWS debate

Democrat Yadira Caraveo and Republican Barbara Kirkmeyer are in a hotly contested race for Colorado's newest congressional district.

COLORADO, USA — Candidates for Colorado's new 8th Congressional District tackled issues of affordability, inflation, jobs, health care and abortion on Thursday night in the first of six election season debates hosted by 9NEWS.

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State representative and pediatrician Yadira Caraveo (D) and state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer (R), a former Weld County commissioner, are in a close race in the state's newest congressional district. CD8 was created after the 2020 U.S. Census and includes parts of Adams, Larimer and Weld counties.

> Watch the full debate in the video player above.

Caraveo is a pediatrician in Adams County and has been state representative for District 31 since 2019. She ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. She's been accused, without evidence, of being an "abortionist" by Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine.

Caraveo was the primary sponsor of a 2019 bill that changed how oil and gas would be regulated in Colorado and focused on public safety, health and welfare.

Kirkmeyer represents Colorado's District 23 and serves on the Senate's Education, Health and Human Services and Local Government committees.

She previously served as a Weld County commissioner. During her time on the board, she was involved in the county declaring it was a "Second Amendment sanctuary" that would not honor new state gun laws. She beat out three other Republican nominees in the primary.

Below are some of the questions from 9NEWS anchor Kyle Clark and how the candidates responded during the debate:

Abortion access

Q to Caraveo: You passed a bill that preserved abortion access in Colorado with no restrictions, even on third trimester abortions. According to Pew Research, that's not where most Americans are on the issue of abortion. Pew's research shows 29% of Americans support abortion without restrictions, as Colorado now has. Would you be looking to pass a similar "no restrictions on abortion" law nationwide?

Caraveo: "I think what we need to do in Congress is codify Roe v. Wade. That is a right that's been taken away from women after 50 years. That is what I think we need to do now. These are discussions that have to happen between a doctor and ... a woman, not something the government needs to be interfering with. ... I trust women, I trust people to make their own medical decisions. I've done that as a doctor, I will continue to do that as a legislator because this is something where Sen. Kirkmeyer does not need to be in your exam room."

Q to Kirkmeyer: You previously said a few years ago that you oppose all abortions, no exceptions. You've now said in this race that you support an exception for the life of the mother. Who should determine when the life of the mother is at risk, and should the government be providing any specific support to victims of rape and incest if the government is going to force them to carry their pregnancy to term?

Kirkmeyer: "Who should make that decision? Again, I think that's the woman ... and her doctor, looking at it and determining what they need to do. That's what doctors do, that's what moms do, and the patient needs to do so. It needs to be between them. ... In this state we have a constitutional requirement that says we don't pay for any public funding of abortions, so I think that would be pretty difficult. Otherwise, we'd be going against the constitution. ... Women's health care is extremely important to me. ... As a commissioner, I've funded the Weld County Health Department, funded health clinics."

Follow to Kirkmeyer: Your opponent said that you're interested in a national abortion ban. Are you?

Kirkmeyer: "I don't believe I've ever stated that. ... At this point, no. ... Again, I'm pro-life. I've always said I was pro-life. ... I looked at it, and my position did evolve to the life of the mother ... so we need to make that exception. ... And I'm going to support whatever saves lives. It's not an all-or-nothing thing to me. If there's a way to save some lives, I'm going to work to save some lives."

Small businesses

Q to Kirkmeyer: What would you say to small business owners in the 8th about what the federal government could and should be doing to help them?

Kirkmeyer: "Being a former small business owner myself, government needs to get out of the way of how they run their businesses. The additional mandates, the additional rules and regulations increases the cost of services, increases the cost of goods, makes it more difficult to be able to run a business. Back to the inflation, it's a problem. ... Small businesses are bearing the brunt of those inflationary costs. It's making it more difficult for them to hire workers. We have a worker shortage going on. Again, this is because of poor policies we have at the federal government level."

Caraveo: "I have consistently made sure that we are voting to support small businesses in Colorado. We cut taxes for small businesses, we made sure the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit ... were continued in Colorado. I have really focused on making sure that we are cutting costs for working families across the board. Importantly, we're looking at health care costs. That is something a lot of small businesses I know struggle with. And in Colorado I made sure to support the public-option bill. That is something that will create pressure on insurance companies in Colorado to lower costs for families."

Secession and TABOR

Q to Kirkmeyer: You were one of the leaders of an effort in 2013 to secede, to have northern Colorado break away and create a new state over political differences. Secession attempt did not pass, your own county Weld voted it down. Would you take that same problem-solving approach to Congress?

Kirkmeyer: "We put on the ballot at the request of our citizens, after we had several forums around our county to talk about it, after the issues that were occurring, where basically there was a war on rural Colorado. ... There was a lot that was going on. People were very upset. They asked the county board of commissioners to put on the ballot a discussion about whether or not, should we go through the process. ... Would I go through that process again? Yes, I would because even Gov. Hickenlooper said after this effort that it made the state stronger, that it made him listen more to rural Colorado."

Q to Caraveo: You tried to end the taxpayer refunds under TABOR, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, and voters in Colorado strongly rejected your attempt to do that. And then this year, you personally tried to take credit for the fact that Coloradans got a TABOR tax refund. Is that being straight with people?

Cavaveo: "I have seen the effects from TABOR in my clinic every single day. I have conversations with families about schools that are not properly funded, and they can't provide services, especially for kids with special needs. That comes from TABOR, but at the end of the day, voters have voted to continue to have TABOR be the law of the land. So what we did at the state legislature, that I'm very proud about, is to make sure we make decisions to make that refund fair, to give money back to the working families that really need it in their pockets, not to the wealthy."

Cost of living

Q: Robin Martinez’s family has lived in the Thornton area for five generations. The sixth generation is thinking about leaving... 

"My son just recently graduated college and is looking for his first home. Unfortunately, due to the high cost of rent and limited options for first time home buyers, he’s having to consider moving out of state."

Q to Caraveo: What can Congress do to bring down the cost of living and encourage affordable housing in Colorado? 

Caraveo: "I think the prime thing that Congress can do and that I will fight for if I am elected...i8s to really focus on affordable housing by funding it. At the state level we can do a lot more things hands-on, I have done those as a state legislator by making sure that we're looking at exorbitant fees that renters are being charged, by making sure that we're looking at the cost around evictions, and by lowering costs for families across the board."

Q: So federal funding for affordable housing, by raising more revenue from some source or cutting from elsewhere? 

Caraveo: "I think it's important at the federal government level and everywhere to...make sure that government is spending responsibly, that where we're spending it is going to the people that need it most, to working class families, and that we're making sure that our government is efficient. I think that there are probably a lot of things that we can look at to make sure that money is going to places that it needs to like healthcare and housing."

Q to Kirkmeyer: Ms. Kirkmeyer, same question to you. What can Congress do about the cost of living in Colorado and possibly affordable housing? 

Kirkmeyer: "First thing they can do is stop the spending. Stop the reckless spending, cut taxes, and really go in and look at how do we get our deficit spending under control. We have, basically, in this state the highest inflation rate across the United States, it just went up to 16%. Highest inflation rate ever...and all we can do in congress is just keep spending. We don't have a balanced budget; we need to balance the budget. We need to stop spending so much. We don't have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem. Basically, what's going on because of the cost of living and the increasing inflation is on average Coloradans are spending $11,783 dollars more this year than they did two years ago...so we need to stop spending, and what we can also do is unleash American energy production...Get those jobs back, let's get good paying jobs."

Q: Could you explain the connection between lowering government spending and affordable housing in Colorado? How do we increase affordable housing stock, or is there nothing that the federal government can do on that?

Kirkmeyer: "What the federal government has done with their increase in inflation is again, increase mortgage rates. We just had a huge increase, in fact, we have double interest rates just in the last year, It's up to what, 6.75? So, because of inflation, what's going on, and entering a recession, we've got the federal government that's increased rates by what, just 0.75? That's even in the last week or so, and they're talking about another 0.75 by the end of the year. So we've more than doubled interest rates. That's making it unaffordable for people to buy a home, or even quite frankly to pay for rent at this point. So, federal government needs to stop spending. We need to cut inflation."

Oil and gas

Q for Kirkmeyer: Ms. Kirkmeyer – You claim that Ms. Carvaeo’s vote on state oil and gas regulations threatened thousands of jobs. Since March 2019 – Colorado has lost 37% of its oil and gas jobs, but it’s not clear how much is COVID-related, state regulation or otherwise. In the same timeframe, oil and gas friendly states: Wyoming, Alaska and Texas have reduced oil and gas jobs. Why are you blaming Ms. Caraveo for something happening nationwide? 

Kirkmeyer: "Thank you for the question, because specifically, Senate bill 181, which Ms. Caraveo was the prime sponsor on...within five months we passed a bill, well we didn't, Ms. Caraveo did...that essentially did put a ban, a de facto ban, on oil and gas and decreased the number of permits. We from 5,100 permits approved in 2018 down to about 22, 22 permits this year, something approximately in that area. So, it did kill thousands of jobs. It killed thousands and thousands of jobs in this district. This district sits on top of the most productive oil and gas field in the nation. She killed those jobs with that bill."

Q: She didn't kill the jobs in Alaska, Wyoming or Texas, though, which also lost jobs in the same timeframe in the same industry.

Kirkmeyer: "I have no idea what other laws or what other kind of regulations or what was going on within those states. I just know what's going on here in Colorado. Jobs were lost."

Q: So, I guess it comes down to causality, because it was at a time when the jobs were kind of coming down throughout the industry.

Kirkmeyer: "Actually, that's not correct. That is not correct. not in this state. We were at a time where we had over 232,000 jobs in the state that were related to the oil and gas industry. So that's not correct. and we were on an up track. We were doing very well, our economy was doing very well, and with that bill, the passage of that bill, and the drop-off in the number of permits, no more oil and gas activity drilling permits going on in the state. That killed a number of jobs. over 12,000 jobs were killed."

Q: But you're not disputing that in the same time frame, in oil and gas friendly states, they also lost jobs.

Kirkmeyer: "I'm not disputing that, but I'm also saying that we don't know all the circumstances that were occurring in that state to understand why they may have lost jobs."

Q for Caraveo: Ms. Caraveo: You have said that you are proud of state legislation that encourages a transition to clean energy while looking out for workers whose jobs are impacted by that legislation. How are those not two competing statements? How does limiting oil and gas opportunities look out for workers whose jobs could be at risk? 

Caraveo: "They are not opposing statements. I made that sure that in what was actually a very moderate bill that we worked with the oil and gas industry on, which was Senate bill 181, that we looked not just at what the oil and gas industry needed to continue in Colorado...that has continued, which provides great jobs with great benefits...but that doesn't preclude us from investing in future renewable energy sources. They're going to make us independent, they're going to create more jobs in Colorado, and we can do both. We can...make sure that we're investing in energy jobs such as solar and wind, which importantly Sen. Kirkmeyer voted to place further regulations on...when she was a commissioner."


Q to Kirkmeyer: One of Colorado’s largest polluters is in the 8th Congressional District: the Suncor oil refinery. Ms. Kirkmeyer, what impact do you think Suncor has on Coloradans who live nearby, primarily Coloradans of color, and what if anything should be done about that?

Kirkmeyer: "With regard to Suncor, I think they need to go through their permitting process, and I think the state health department needs to step up and get them through that process and make sure that they are following the rules and regulations. We have some of the most robust rules and regulations when it comes to air quality and water quality, environmental regulations, in this state in the nation. And I think that if the Department of Health were to step up and show that they are following those rules as they go through the permitting process, then the impact would be lessened if at all with regard to the neighbors and the surrounding neighborhood."

Q to Caraveo: Ms Caraveo, as Ms. Kirkmeyer points out, a lot of the enforcement falls to State agencies. But the federal government and the EPA have a role. What would you like to see done?  

Caraveo: "We need to make sure that we are watching the emissions that are coming from Suncor and a lot of other polluters out there...As a pediatrician I have seen the effects that bad air quality days have on children, I can look out and see the haze that is over Denver, and I know that that day I am going to be sending kids to the hospital because they're going to have trouble breathing. Suncor needs to be regulated appropriately. The EPA has a huge role in that, and I should point out that my opponent has said that the EPA just needs to go away. There's going to be difficulty enforcing the laws that she just talked about if we get rid of the federal agency that is in charge of enforcing those laws. We need to make sure we're creating a living community for our kids in the future, and that includes regulating emissions."


Defunding ICE

Closing statements

Fact checks

9NEWS political debates 

9NEWS is hosting six candidate debates ahead of the 2022 general election on Nov. 8. The full slate includes four statewide races and the two most competitive congressional races. 

All of the debates will be livestreamed on 9NEWS.com, 9NEWS+ and the 9NEWS YouTube channel and will be available to watch afterward on those platforms. 

The full lineup of debates is below: 

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