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Udall talks shop with builders association

Reid Williams

FRISCO – Each time U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., visits Summit County, he finds the people have more and more in common with those in Boulder.

Udall visited Frisco Tuesday, continuing his campaign tour with a talk to the Summit County Builders Association (SCBA). The group’s president, Dan Pins, said the trade organization invited Udall to speak in an attempt to stay on top of the elections coming in November.

“We like to be a semi-political group,” Pins said. “This is just one way of getting to know the candidates before we look at their name on a ballot.”

SCBA board members said that, although the race for Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District hasn’t gotten down to specifics on issues yet, there are a number of concerns among builders. The most obvious concerns are growth and transportation, said SCBA board member Brian Platte.

Udall said he didn’t come to the monthly builders’ gathering with any preconception that he’s the group’s candidate. He came to listen, he said.

“People have said they’re concerned if a guy from Boulder can represent the Western Slope,” Udall said to the group. “But the more I listen, the more I think we have in common.”

Distilling it, Udall said he wants to work for people concerned about their schools, about health care and medical insurance and, noting he’d driven Interstate 70 on many a Sunday, transportation. The builders at the meeting asked several questions about their own worries.

Resort communities need immigrants, but this also puts pressure on schools, one member pointed out. Udall responded, saying he knows how important the immigrant labor pool is to resort economies – which he sees as different from the typical urban-suburban-rural categories.

“We need to do all we can so that immigrants here are actually legal and we support them, as far as their families and their rights,” Udall said. “And we need to support the employers that depend on them.”

A member asked Udall about his position on terrorism, a question that prompted the longest reply of the short speech. Udall said he generally embraces the proposals made by leaders since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, including reorganizing agencies such as the Immigration and Naturalization Service and investing in the country.

“But we also need to bring up the standard of living around the world,” Udall said. “That’s part of the solution, I think. It’s an enormous challenge, but it’s an enormous opportunity to build on that feeling that we don’t ever want this to happen again.”

Builders affected by the North American Free Trade Agreement and related surcharges on imported lumber gave Udall a homework assignment. Udall admitted he wasn’t informed on the issue but took the opportunity to learn from local experts. Udall said he would try to learn more about it after hearing about how the extra expense was passed on to homebuyers.

Udall spoke about affordable housing, saying he wants to figure out how to have a greater impact at the federal level. “There has to be a public-private partnership,” he said. “Maybe we need to look at tax breaks and other creative strategies.”

Congressional redistricting spurred by the 2000 Census moved Summit County from Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District to the 2nd. Until the election in November, Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., will represent Summit voters. Udall hopes to succeed McInnis.

If elected, Udall will represent Boulder, Gilpin, Clear Creek, Grand, Eagle and parts of Jefferson, Weld and Adams counties, in addition to Summit. Udall was first elected to the 2nd Congressional District in 1998 and was re-elected in 2000. He sits on the House Resources Committee, the Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands, the Subcommittee on Forests and Forests Health, the House Science Committee, the Subcommittee on Environment, Technology and Standards, Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics and the House Small Business Committee.

Udall faces competition from the Natural Law Party’s Patrick West, American Constitution Party’s Erik J. Brauer, Boulder County Treasurer Sandy Hume, republican, and Republican businessman Bob Vehar. Hume and Vehar faced off Tuesday in their party’s statewide primary election.

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or rwilliams@summitdaily.com.


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