Statehouse candidates not far apart on issues

It usually isn't difficult to tell the difference between major party candidates for legislative seats, especially coming into a general election.

This year, at least for House District 54, the lines aren't so clear.

That race pits Republican Matt Soper of Delta against independent Thea Chase, a member of the Palisade Board of Trustees.

Though Chase isn't a conservative, she's not a liberal either. She said she agrees more with conservative issues, particularly when it comes to financial and business matters, than she does with those of Democrats.


Soper, on the other hand, is more like your father's Republican, someone who believes government has a role, but a limited one. 


Chase calls herself a businesswoman, someone who has spent much of her adult career helping others form their own businesses.


"I am much more of a limited government conservative with respect to the financial management of government," Chase said. "The lines between what is a Democrat and what is a Republican, I just see that so many of us are kind of in the center on a lot of things."


Soper calls himself an "Eisenhower Republican," someone who believes that the proper role of government is in such things as building infrastructure to help people, for such things as public safety, transportation, economic development and education.


"Eisenhower looked at public infrastructure as being critical," he said. "There are certain things that government has a role to do. When you talk about roads, broadband, towers or easements to be able to get cellular connectivity, schools, fire departments, police departments, the military. Those are things that only the government can do."


Both believe that jobs and economic development and lowering the cost of health care are crucial issues for the Western Slope in general and the House district they want to represent specifically, which includes most of Mesa County outside of Grand Junction and the western half of Delta County.


On economic development, both support doing more to build out the region's broadband system, saying that's probably the most important thing that the state can help do to boost jobs and the economy in rural parts of the state.


On the two transportation measures pending before voters this fall — Proposition 110 that would raise sales taxes to fund transportation projects, and Proposition 109 that would issue $3.5 billion in bonds without a dedicated stream of money to pay them off — neither candidate has come out in support of either of the two.


"I'm concerned about the amount of tax increases for transportation," Chase said.


"I don't like the idea of new taxes when I believe there is money in the general fund to be able to fund transportation by bonding," Soper added. "I don't like (Proposition 109) because they use unrealistic numbers."


Instead, Soper said he favors a measure the Legislature approved during this year's session, SB1, to issue up to $2.34 billion in transportation bonds. That measure will only be placed before voters during the 2019 general election if neither transportation measure passes this year.


On health care, both believe the state can't fix the rising cost of health care in rural parts of the state by reducing the number of people on government-subsidized programs, as some legislators have suggested.


"The Medicaid expansion, it meant that our commercial rates didn't go up as high or as fast as other states because we did have the expansion. It's not popular to say that," Soper said. 


"We can find ways of making it more affordable by looking at things that are working, like in health centers like Marillac or the Appleton Clinic," Chase added. "Oftentimes the private sector will engage in these innovations, and we can look at that and see how we can support it."


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  • Charles Ashby