Meet the Candidates
By Kathleen Goddeyne
The Cavalcade, located at 201 East Aspen Avenue, hosted a candidate forum on Aug. 14 from 7 to 9 p.m. The Fruita Chamber of Commerce and Cullen Purser, Fruita City Council member and part owner of the Cavalcade, worked together to coordinate the event.
Republican candidate John Justman, Independent candidate John Leane, and the unaffiliated candidate Jana Bingham-Gerow, all running for the Mesa County Commissioner District 1 position, were all able to participate in the forum.
Dan Robinson, a Democratic candidate for the State Representative position for District 55, also participated in the forum, but his opposition, Ray Scott, the Republican, incumbent candidate for the State Representative position for District 55, was unable to attend the forum. Scott sent longtime friend Kevin McCarney to represent him. Mesa County Commissioner District 3 Democratic candidate, Dave Edwards, also sent a representative, Robyn Parker, in his place, as he was unable to attend.
Rose Pugliese, the Republican candidate for Mesa County Commissioner District 3, and Tim Menger, a Libertarian candidate for the State Representative position for District 54, were also forum participants.
Purser facilitated the forum by asking broad questions that could be answered by the variety of candidates. He wanted to get to know the candidates and he wanted to give the audience the opportunity to ask specific questions.
“I’m more interested in how you think than what you think,” said Purser. “If I know how you think, I can know how you will make decisions when they come to you.”
Each candidate was allowed two minutes to respond to the question and/or to each other.
Purser opened the forum by asking the candidates if they were more like their mother or their father. Gerow considers herself to be a combination of her parents. Her father died when she was only 17, but she remembers him as a gentle soul and her mother was a preacher who was very outspoken.
Justman compared himself to his father who was also a farmer and Leane credits his work ethic to his father and his kindness to his mother.
Later in the discussion, Purser asked the candidates, “Do you all agree that kids are in jeopardy now of not learning responsible ways of behavior and interactions in society? What is the status of kids and how they grow up these days?”
Gerow responded with, “I believe it takes a community to educate a child. It’s easy for kids to get lost in a computer, but there have always been things that separate kids from parents. It is important to look at all different levels that we can use to help educate children.”
When candidates were asked about whom their favorite historical figure was and why, Leane responded with “Abe Lincoln because of his standard of moral courage at the time that few have even come close to matching.”
The candidates also discussed several qualities that “make America work.” Justman believes that the freedom of choice and the opportunity to succeed are what make America work.
“You have the right to fail and you have the right to pick yourself back up again. That’s what makes America great,” said Justman.
After fielding discussion questions from Purser, the floor opened up to the audience questions for the candidates. All audience questions were submitted in writing during the forum and were drawn from a hat for fairness.
One question asked by an audience member was whether or not the candidates favor the elimination of the public trustee position in Mesa County.
The candidates for Mesa County Commissioner District 1 were split on this issue. Leane is in favor of eliminating the position as long as the job became part of the treasurer’s responsibility. Gerow, who worked in the same building as the public trustee for several years, believes the position is valid as the responsibilities that come with it are vast. Justman stated that he believes the real issue is jobs in Mesa County, not the public trustee position.
All candidates were allowed two minutes to make their closing statement for the evening.
Justman highlighted the fact that he is a regular person trying to make a difference. “I’m not a politician or even a business insider. I’m a farmer and I want America to be the same land of opportunity for my sons and grandchildren as it was for me,” said Justman. “As County Commissioner, I promise to continue to serve Mesa County as a true conservative.
Gerow reminded the audience of her 30 years of experience in business construction management and the fact that she took time off for her campaign.
“I spent my time learning the job and getting a deep look at what involves representing people,” said Gerow.
Leane brought his experience to the table for his closing statement.
“The job is 55 hours a week. I have been in office before, so I bring experience. I can go to work for the voters on day one,” said Leane.
All of the District 1 candidates for Mesa County Commissioner have something unique to offer voters. The voter registration deadline is Oct. 9 and general election day is Nov. 6.
For more information on how to vote in Mesa County, visit www.clerk.mesacounty.us/elections/current-election.aspx