HD 56: 3 newbies vie for eastern sprawling House District 56

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    The contest for House District 56 features a triad of political rookies: Democrat Matthew Snider, Republican Phil Covarrubias and Libertarian Kevin Gulbranson. A vast, far-flung jurisdiction, HD 56 covers portions of north Aurora and stretches into large swaths of Adams County. The district also encompasses several, smaller eastern communities, including Watkins and Bennett. The incumbent in HD 56, Republican Kevin Priola, elected not to run for re-election this cycle and is instead running for District 25 in the state senate. Priola won his House seat by nearly 30 points in the 2014 general election, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

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    [wc_accordion collapse=”1″ leaveopen=”0″ layout=”box”] [wc_accordion_section title=”About the Race“]

    By QUINCY SNOWDON, Staff writer

    3 newbies vie for eastern sprawling House District 56

    A trio of newcomers is jockeying to represent House District 56 this November in a race that has been relatively wide open since Republican Rep. Kevin Priola decided not to run for re-election earlier this year.

    The three-way race for the sprawling, eastern district is a battle between Democrat Matthew Snider, Republican Philip Covarrubias and Libertarian candidate Kevin Gulbranson.

    Philip Covarrubias
    Philip Covarrubias

    Second Amendment rights have bubbled to the front of the platform for both Snider, an ordained deacon and former IT salesman, and Covarubbias, a Marine Corps veteran and foreman at Xcel Energy.

    The two candidates assert staunch support of Second Amendment rights on their websites, though Snider, an Endowment Life Member of the National Rifle Association, cedes that there should be more discussion on gun rights at the state level in an effort to keep firearms away from people deemed unfit to operate them.

    “We clearly have a massive gun-violence problem that needs to be addressed in a rational manner so that law-abiding gun owners are free from unnecessary infringement on their Second Amendment rights and the public can be confident that mass-shooting tragedies will not occur,” Snider wrote on his website.

    In a candidate questionnaire issued by The Aurora Sentinel, Snider went on to say that, if elected, he would convene a special public hearing to hash out the need and appetite for various measures pertaining to guns.

    Matt Snider
    Matt Snider

    “I fully intend to convene a special public hearing, inviting representatives of the NRA, RMGO, NAGR and police chiefs and sheriffs throughout Colorado, together with gun control advocates, to jointly work on solutions to addressing public safety,” he wrote.

    Covarrubias said if elected he would support diminishing existing gun control regulations. On his website, he wrote that one-sided gun regulations are what inspired him to pursue work in the political realm.

    “Once the Democrats at the state Capitol slammed Bloomberg-sponsored gun laws and rural energy laws down Coloradan’s throats in 2013, I decided to get involved,” he wrote.

    The Republican was a marksmanship instructor during his time in the Marine Corps, according to his website.

    A former telecommunications executive and independent contractor from southeast Aurora, Gulbranson said there is no reason to add additional gun control measures in Colorado.

    “I think we’ve got all the gun control that we need on the books today and we don’t need to go any further with it,” he said.

    Gulbranson agreed with Snider on the controversial red-light traffic cameras in Aurora and elsewhere in the state, saying that they should be banned outright.

    “They’re an absolute waste and an extreme invasion of privacy,” the Libertarian said.

    Covarrubias said he would need more information on the cameras, but would not support an all-encompassing ban on their usage.

    kevin-gulbranson
    Kevin Gulbranson

    Gulbranson and Snider disagreed on the state’s longstanding Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, with the Libertarian saying that the document has been “the best thing to happen to Colorado in the past 30 or 40 years,” and Snider saying he would work to dismantle the amendment if elected.

    TABOR is one billionaire’s program to keep his own money in his own pocket because he doesn’t have the vision to believe in Colorado and invest in its future,” Snider, a former IT and computer systems salesman based in Dallas, wrote on his website. “And you’re stuck in reverse, on a sure path to failure, because of his greed. That’s why TABOR needs to go, consigned to the ash-heap of failed, regressionary austerity measures offered by guys with no vision, enthusiasm or program for success.

    Covarrubias did not specify any specific changes he would make to TABOR, and said he would need to revisit the amendment to comment on it further.

    Covarrubias had raised $12,355 by the most recent campaign finance filing deadline on Oct. 3, according to the Secretary of State’s office. He has about $1,500 on hand.

    By the same filing deadline earlier this month, Snider reported bringing in $7,595. The Democrat has spent just about all of that sum, with only $9.34 left in his coffers, according to the Secretary of State.

    Gulbranson’s campaign reported spending about $12 so far this election cycle.

    A vast, far-flung jurisdiction, HD 56 covers portions of north Aurora and stretches into large swaths of Adams County. The district also encompasses several, smaller eastern communities, including Watkins and Bennett.

    The incumbent in HD 56, Republican Kevin Priola, elected not to run for re-election this cycle and is instead running for District 25 in the state senate. Priola won his House seat by nearly 30 points in the 2014 general election, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=” Matt Snider’s biography“]

    A former IT consultant and salesman based in Dallas, Texas, Snider currently acts as the assistant pastor at Simpson United Methodist Church in Arvada. He is an ordained deacon with the United Methodist Church. He also serves on the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee for the Cherry Creek School District. Snider is a “Life Endowment” member of the National Rifle Association.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=” Philip Covarrubias’ biography“]

    Republican Philip Covarrubias has long been involved in the Front Range construction industry and currently works as a foreman for Xcel Energy. He served in the United States Marine Corps from 1986 to 1990 as a marksmanship instructor. He lives in Brighton with his wife, Tonya, and two children.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”  Kevin Gublranson’s biography“]

    Libertarian Kevin Gulbranson is a “semi-retired” telecommunications executive who acted as the Senior Vice President of Track Phone Wireless in Miami prior to moving to Colorado. He still does some IT consulting and lives in unincorporated Arapahoe County, he said. Gulbranson has been affiliated with the Libertarian Party since 2012.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Matt Snider’s issue questions and responses“]

    Would you vote to end capital punishment in Colorado? Probably not, and I am very conflicted about this from both a theological and sociological viewpoint. I deeply believe all life is sacred and there is an ultimate authority in the universe. But not all of us subscribe to the same moral or spiritual ethics. Unfortunately, there are a few people who manifest such evil that they place themselves, in my opinion, so far outside of the human community, that they earn the ultimate punishment. They are, however, still worthy of redemption, as my faith teaches, and that is between them and God. But their capital crime requires the natural consequences of their actions. Now, we can discuss the details of ensuring a just and equitable process to protect against the discriminatory and arbitrary application of capital punishment. That is a conversation I’m willing to have. No one wants anyone unjustly condemned. And many have been, as the Innocence Project has conclusively demonstrated. But I still believe the death penalty remains a necessary societal check against unrestrained murderous criminal behavior, as long as it is reserved for those for whom there is absolutely no doubt as to their guilt.

    How should the state pay for substantial expansion of state roads? I do not believe in private ownership of public roads that are built with taxpayer dollars through so-called “public-private partnerships.” Businesses bringing products to market benefit from the fastest and least expensive routes. Tourism and recreation benefit from rapid transit times. Lives depend on easy and fast transport by ambulances across traffic-free roadways. Because of these exigencies, and in view of TABOR, future road construction should be paid for by a combination of tolls and special assessments through a statewide enterprise fund administered at the county level, which is exempt from the provisions of TABOR. A tolling system should be implemented on new roads. And an increase in the gas tax is probably necessary, as long as that increase is dedicated to road, bridge and tunnel construction, repair or modifications. I am open to talking about an increase in the special assessment for fully electric or hybrid vehicles. But no additional roads should be privatized in any part.

    Should the state cede some local control of fracking to counties and municipalities? How much? Yes. If control of other important issues, such as schools, are delegated to local boards, shouldn’t fracking be? I view this as a critical component of self-determination and personal property rights. Shouldn’t you or your town control what goes on in your own community or on and under your property? Just how much control can be debated but for me, no one is putting a drilling rig or a well bore on, next to or under my property without my express approval. I have a right to peaceful enjoyment of my property, including its views, and a right to protect my health, safety, water and air. So do you.

    Should Colorado repeal gun-control laws from 2013? This is another difficult issue. I have been a hunter and a target-shooter — and an Endowment life member of the NRA — longer than my opponent is old! I have a deeply held belief in the Second Amendment and the individual right to own and use firearms. However, I am also deeply concerned about public safety. No one going out to a store, mall, restaurant or a movie theater should end up in a body bag because some mentally ill person who never should have had a firearm in the first place goes on a rampage. We owe it to ourselves to ensure our kids come home from school every afternoon and are fully safe while there. I am not concerned with the average firearms owner. Every day over 100 million lawful firearm owners do absolutely nothing wrong with them. And the gun violence that is rampant throughout our state and nation is not committed by or in the name of the day-to-day members of the NRA, RMGO or NAGR. There are solutions to these problems but confiscation, licensing or ceasing manufacturing unfairly impacts lawful firearm owners. When elected, I fully intend to convene a special public hearing, inviting representatives of the NRA, RMGO, NAGR and police chiefs and sheriffs throughout Colorado, together with gun control advocates, to jointly work on solutions to addressing public safety.

    Would you support a bill to ban red-light traffic cameras? Yes, because, after all the arguments are in, I believe that red-light cameras are implemented in areas for revenue-generating purposes, not for public safety reasons, just like there are speed-traps in certain small towns. They also constitute, in my opinion, an unnecessary intrusion on privacy. However, I would be open to discussing cameras remaining in areas known to be high-risk areas for traffic accidents for the purpose of investigating accidents that do happen and for assessing fault in those cases. Police agencies also should be able to use those cameras to track criminal activity. To me, those are legitimate uses of cameras for public safety purposes.

    Would you support a measure to ask voters to re-write the Taxpayer Bill of Rights to require a vote on tax increases, but to remove all other state budget restrictions? Probably, but in actuality, TABOR simply needs to be repealed. The job of making hard government spending decisions needs to be restored to the legislature, the correct body for those decisions. I know it is not politically expedient to say that but, considering it passed so narrowly after three attempts and its grievous impact on Colorado government finances, I know of no other means to permanently resolve the state’s fiscal crisis but to simply say this out loud. I serve as the secretary and treasurer of a very large metro district and our board has to manage millions in taxpayer revenue. There are hard choices to be made and serious challenges to meet. But we all do our best to responsibly manage our district’s affairs in the best interest of our neighbors. And, we recently saved our metro district taxpayers over $2 million by refinancing our bonds at a much lower interest rate. 

    In principle, TABOR’s aim was a reasonable one: to restrain what was perceived as runaway spending. But in operation, especially following the 2008 recession, it has proven itself a disaster that threatens Colorado’s future prosperity. It is strangling our ability to invest in our state’s future. It is killing our chances to enlarge and expand opportunity for every business in the state. It prevents the state and all other levels of government from investing in their respective domains to make Colorado the kind of destination that people want to come to and spend their money in. It prevents hiring the best employees to deliver unrivaled, excellent government service so businesses will relocate here and create good jobs. It prevents building, repairing and enlarging roads, bridges and tunnels that are owned by all of us so we can open additional markets in hard-to-reach areas of our state. It prevents getting products to market quicker through those thoroughfares to keep prices low and competitive. It prevents investing in our education system, from kindergarten to graduate school, so that our kids are the best educated in the country who become the quality employees businesses want to hire. 

    Should a revised presidential primary system allow for non-affiliated voters to vote for party candidates? I support re-instituting a presidential primary system. However, I do not support allowing non-affiliated voters to vote for party candidates. It is my opinion that if you want a vote on a party candidate, choose a side and affiliate. If I am not a member of a club, why should I get a vote on who its officers are? However, I would be perfectly fine with allowing unaffiliated voters to have a list of names from which to choose (since the secretary of state has to send out the ballots anyway) to provide a “sense-of-the-electorate” referendum.

    Will you vote for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or someone else? “I’m with Her” – but only because Trump is an embarrassment to all Americans. I was supporting Bernie because I believe we need some serious underlying structural changes to our political and economic system so that all of us believe our voices are heard and we are all more prosperous. I’m also from New York, as is Trump. It is my equally outsized New York opinion that Trump is an under-educated, unprepared, ill-mannered, foul-mouthed, misogynistic, lying, thieving, ruthless, non-Christian, business-failure who cavorts with racists and anti-semites and conducts himself as if the presidency is a gameshow prize. Trump is utterly unequal to the task of the presidency and unworthy of the office. No serious member of either party’s leadership going back many years takes him seriously, and all world leaders regard him with unqualified scorn. I am ashamed that Trump is on the ballot of the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan. (And this is coming from a guy who spent more than 25 years as a registered Republican!)

    Should the state prevent counties, schools and municipalities from barring transgender people from using restrooms and locker rooms for sexes other than what appears on their birth certificates? Yes. Discrimination of any kind is a terrible business practice, horrible public policy and utterly un-Christian. Until you actually know a transgender person and take the time to get to know the unique struggle they have, you can never have any compassion for them over the simplest activity the rest of us take for granted — just going to the restroom. I have never met a transgender person for whom relieving themselves was an issue of sexuality. It is merely a biological reality for all of us. The sophomoric humor displayed by some about locker room access isn’t even worth addressing. Can we all just get on with the more important issues of the day and make space for everyone — in our hearts, minds, houses of worship, businesses and restrooms?

    What one thing, above all, would you ask fellow lawmakers to do or change to increase student performance on standardized tests? The only things lawmakers can address are the components of education — buildings, buses, books and bodies — not actual performance. At the end of the day, even if the legislature provides every last dollar that every single school district in Colorado requires, so that every need is fully satisfied, the one thing no legislator nor school district can control for or predict is the preparedness of the students who walk through the doors of each school every day. Student performance begins in the home — whatever home a given child comes from. If you assume that “every child comes to school ready to learn,” you’ve obviously never met a kid whose mother was beaten up the previous night and who didn’t eat that morning because she spent the night sleeping in the back of a freezing car parked in a Walmart parking lot. There are many moving parts in the debate over student performance. But it behooves our citizens and legislators alike to never assume that the student they have in mind when they think of funding education fits into a neat little generic box out of which, with sufficient financial inputs, we will obtain correlated high performance. Unless we address as a nation and a state the societal structural factors that create and perpetuate instability in homes and wild disparity in wealth and personal security, we will never be able to tackle fully the issue of student performance.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Philip Covarrubias’ issue questions and responses“]

    Did not respond.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Kevin Gulbranson’s issue questions and responses“]

    Did not respond.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”LIGHTER SIDE: Matt Snider’s personality questions and responses“]

    What food do you hate most? No question about it – BEETS!

    Do you indulge in recreational marijuana? No. And I don’t drink or smoke tobacco either.

    Who would play you in a movie about your life? Gabe Kaplan but I would hope Ben Kingsley would want the part.

    What Olympic Sport so you wish you could win gold at?  Weightlifting or karate. I did both for a long time.

    What was your favorite childhood candy?  Chocolate Charleston Chews — frozen.

    If you could be an eyewitness to one event in history, what would it be? The Potsdam Conference.

    If the Secret Service gave you a code name, what would it be?  Kosher Pastrami Sandwich.

    If you had to sing karaoke, what song would you sing? Car karaoke counts. “Where is Love?” (from Oliver!)

    What epitaph would you like written on your tombstone?  “Now I know more than the wisest among you.”

    Is a hot dog a sandwich? Only if it is wrapped in pastrami, covered in sauerkraut, smothered in mustard and topped with a couple of pickle slices.

    What is the last concert you attended? A Fort Worth Symphony concert. But I prefer Broadway shows. I recently saw “Beautiful: The Carole King.”

    What movie do you never tire of watching? Anything “Star Trek.”

    Dogs or cats? Dogs, most notably, golden retrievers, but anything with a wagging tail will do.

    What’s the most overrated thing about living in Colorado? Ski resorts. Natural hot springs are my favorite relaxation.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”LIGHTER SIDE: Philip Covarrubias’ personality questions and responses“]

    Did not respond.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”LIGHTER SIDE: Kevin Gulbranson’s personality questions and responses“]

    Did not respond.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=” Matt Snider’s campaign finance“]

    Click here for Matt Snider’s Campaign Finance Reports

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=” Philip Covarrubias’ campaign finances“]

    Click here for Philip Covarrubias’ Campaign Finance Reports

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=” Kevin Gulbranson’s campaign finance“]

    Click here for Kevin Gulbranson’s Campaign Finance Reports

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=” Matt Snider’s endorsements“]

    Other endorsements

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Philip Covarrubias’ endorsements“]

    Not available.

    [/wc_accordion_section] [wc_accordion_section title=”Kevin Gulbranson’s endorsements“]

    Not available.

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