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Candidates for governor clash on plans for rural Colorado

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Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018 6:24 PM

Gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton was meeting voters in Greeley, Fort Morgan and Sterling on Monday as his campaign rolled out his Rural Colorado Priorities Plan.

The Republican from Denver said if he is elected governor, he will tackle rural broadband internet needs and connect his administration to the state’s farmers and ranchers.

“As governor, I will be a voice for rural Colorado,” Stapleton said in a statement. “I will pursue policies that promote rural economic development and ensure there is abundant economic opportunity for our children. Colorado succeeds when communities along the Front Range, Western Slope and Eastern Plains have vibrant economies, and I will make sure rural Colorado is never forgotten.”

He said rural counties fall behind at the competitive disadvantage of slow internet connections. He said he would create a rural broadband task force and streamline the process and funding for extending broadband to rural communities.

“Coloradans deserves access to quality broadband no matter where they live,” Stapleton said.

He acknowledged progress in the Legislature this year in Senate Bill 2, which he supported, to steer existing government money and grants to rural communities.

“As governor, I will be an unwavering ally of our farmers and ranchers,” he said. “I will defend our agricultural sector by supporting fair trade and continue Colorado’s all-of-the-above energy approach so our agriculture community has access to cheap, reliable energy.”

The Polis campaign was not impressed.

“This ‘plan’ is mostly platitudes and it’s taken over a year to release,” said spokeswoman Mara Sheldon. “It’s no surprise that this meager document makes no mention of rural communities’ health care needs, teacher shortage or the outdoor recreation economy – because Treasurer Stapleton would rather not talk about his misguided policies to rob Coloradans of their health care, take funding out of public schools or sell our public lands off to polluting special interests.

“Jared unveiled his rural economic development nearly a year ago and has put forward detailed plans to grow the outdoor recreation industry, address our state’s water needs, expand rural high-speed internet, make health care more affordable for rural families and end the teacher shortage in rural communities.”

Last November, Polis wrote an op-ed in the Summit Daily outlining his plan to extend high-speed internet to rural communities. He also wrote an op-ed in the Aspen Times about health care. Polis also has unveiled his Keep Colorado Wild plan.

Stapleton’s camp fired back.

“Congressman Polis’ policies are so bad for rural Colorado he didn’t even bother showing up to the Club 20 debate to defend his radical agenda to rural voters,” said Stapleton spokesman Jerrod Dobkin, referring to last weekend’s gathering in Grand Junction. “From his government-run health care program to his attempts to raise taxes and utility bills on hardworking Coloradans, rural Colorado simply can’t afford Congressman Polis.”

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