Colorado US Senate race: Udall, Gardner and Kent on the issues

Photo: Udall, Kent, GardnerU.S. Sen. Mark Udall is defending his seat from challengers Libertarian Gaylon Kent and Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner.

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The candidates answered the following questions from CPR News about issues they may face. Rep. Cory Gardner's campaign did not respond to repeated requests to complete CPR's questionnaire. His positions are comprised of previous statements and news coverage that CPR News has compiled.

Do you want the Affordable Care Act to stay in place and possibly have minor changes, or do you want to completely overhaul or eliminate the ACA?
Mark Udall (Democrat)I enrolled in the Colorado exchange and know the law isn't perfect, but we can’t go back to a time when insurance companies could pocket your cash, jack up your rates, cut your coverage, and drop you when you get sick. My opponent voted repeatedly to cancel quality health care coverage for 400,000 Coloradans and to take all Americans back to a time when the insurance companies called the shots. Coloradans refuse to move backwards and I’ll keep fighting to make sure we expand access to quality, affordable health care and that we keep Colorado moving forward.
Gaylon Kent (Libertarian)The ACA is not in step with the principles of American liberty. It should be eliminated. Doctors must have the same access to the free market as every other professional. 

Cory Gardner (Republican)

Gardner voted more than 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In a Denver Post debate, Gardner said "I believe we have to do something instead of going back to what we had in place before the Affordable Care Act to address people with needs, including those people on Medicaid. To make sure we provide insurance for people with pre-existing conditions. To make sure that we address the issue of tort reform. That we have health savings accounts that can meet all the needs of the people."
What can be done to shore up Medicare and Social Security?
Mark Udall (Democrat)I am committed to protecting the Medicare and Social Security benefits that seniors have earned through a lifetime of hard work. We must keep our promise to our seniors, which is why I have opposed efforts to gut Social Security and turn Medicare into a voucher program -- increasing costs on seniors by $6,400 a year. My opponent supported all of these efforts, breaking a promise to our seniors and putting his Tea Party ideology ahead of the needs of Colorado’s seniors.
Gaylon Kent (Libertarian)Low taxes and free markets will produce a flourishing economy that will result in higher revenues for these programs. Medicare would benefit from doctors being allowed back into the free market. This will result in lower costs and better care. Social Security may never be completely healthy. We must stand by the commitment made to this nation's workers, though. 
Cory Gardner (Republican)As a US House member, Gardner voted for the Paul Ryan budget plan that would have allowed seniors to choose between Medicare or a subsidy to buy private health insurance. Democrats criticized the plan as a privitization of Medicare. In a Denver Post debate in October, Gardner said Medicare must be preserved for future generations, but did not offer specifics on his plan. On Social Security, Gardner said the federal government should stop borrowing against its revenues.
What role should the federal government play in regulating oil and gas extraction?
Mark Udall (Democrat)I am proud to champion Colorado’s best-of-the-above approach to energy production. That means developing our abundant supplies of renewable energy and natural gas to create good-paying jobs and lead the way towards energy independence. Colorado has been a model for the nation in finding a balance between developing reliable, more-affordable energy sources. The truth is, while there are some places we shouldn't frack -- such as near schools, neighborhoods, and in our national parks -- development should be allowed in other areas. I believe we can develop Colorado’s energy resources while protecting our air, water, and the communities that depend on them.
Gaylon Kent (Libertarian)The minimum required to support a free market and protect our planet. 
Cory Gardner (Republican)Gardner has sponsored House bills that would "streamline" the permitting process for drilling in Alaska and increase access to domestic land for oil production. He says he supports an "all of the above" approach to energy. 
Do you support changes to the Endangered Species Act? If so, what?
Mark Udall (Democrat)Colorado is blessed with the country’s most stunning landscapes and a rich natural heritage. That’s why I support locally-driven efforts to protect species like the sage grouse while also giving certainty to ranchers, communities, and outdoorsmen. It’s also why I’ve led efforts to protect Colorado’s wild lands, successfully creating the James Peak Wilderness, and put forward a plan to protect thousands of acres in and around Browns Canyon. These natural landscapes not only support native species of plants and animals, but support jobs in local communities and anchor Colorado’s thriving outdoor economy.
Gaylon Kent (Libertarian)I do not have an in-depth answer for this question. 
Cory Gardner (Republican)As a state representative in 2005, Gardner supported changes to the act that would make states equal partners of the federal government. He said, in part: "The protection offered by the Endangered Species Act should not be status quo, but instead, a tool of last resort. Earnest modernization will make this a reality." 
What should the federal government do about climate change?
Mark Udall (Democrat)Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Coloradans understand that it threatens our special way of life, which is why it’s so troubling that my opponent doesn’t believe it exists. That’s why I’m pushing for a robust, comprehensive response to the threats posed by climate change. This includes a best-of-the-above energy strategy that makes use of Colorado’s abundant supplies of renewable energy, such as solar, wind, and geothermal. I successfully led the fight to extend the wind energy tax credit, which supports over 5,000 jobs across Colorado and helps lead the way toward our clean energy future. Colorado continues to be a model for the nation on how to responsibly move toward energy independence while tackling the cause of climate change.
Gaylon Kent (Libertarian)Nor do I have one for this question. 
Cory Gardner (Republican)"I believe that the climate is changing. I disagree to the extent that it's been in the news," that man has contributed to climate change, Gardner said in an October debate. Earlier this year, he voted against a measure that would have stated definitively that climate change is happening. 
What changes should be made to the federal tax code?
Mark Udall (Democrat)There are too many loopholes in our tax code, and I think we’re in desperate need of tax reform to raise revenue and flatten rates so small businesses can grow and entrepreneurs can innovate. We should be focused on tax credits for middle class families and small businesses that create Colorado jobs -– not on protecting tax breaks for millionaires and companies that ship jobs overseas.
Gaylon Kent (Libertarian)Low taxes and free markets. 
Cory Gardner (Republican)According to Gardner's "Four Corners" plan, the federal tax code should be made flatter and fairer. The corporate rax rate should be reduced. The estate tax should be eliminated. Tax relief should be provided to Colorado flood victims, and Coloradans should be protected from a national energy tax. 
What areas of federal spending should be increased? What should be cut?
Mark Udall (Democrat)Coloradans are fiscal hawks but also believe in making smart investments that drive economic growth. That’s why I have pushed to cut wasteful spending while also investing in infrastructure, college affordability, and critical research and development. I led the successful fight to end wasteful earmarks and am the first Democrat in years to introduce a Constitutional amendment to require Congress to balance the budget each and every year. I've also worked with Republicans to support a waste commission to target cuts to unnecessary or duplicative programs.
Gaylon Kent (Libertarian)Low taxes and free markets. It is not the government's job to ensure fairness. It's job is to provide every citizen with the opportunity make something good happen for themselves. What we do with that opportunity is up to us. 
Cory Gardner (Republican)At a Denver Post debate in October, Gardner said he supports a balanced budget agreement that would bring spending in line with revenues and that duplicative programs should be cut. "I will make sure we live within our means in the United States Congress," he said. 
Do you support or oppose legalized abortion? Are there any exceptions?
Mark Udall (Democrat)I respect Colorado women and trust them to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. That's why I support protecting and expanding access to affordable birth control and preventive care and will always protect women's rights to make their own decisions when it comes to these deeply personal matters.
Gaylon Kent (Libertarian)"No uterus, no opinion." The government must stay out of the abortion issue. Humans have been terminating pregnancies for 3,000 years. Criminalizing it is not going to eliminate it. The government has no business taking the right to make a decision away from a citizen. 
Cory Gardner (Republican)Gardner sponsored a "personhood" bill in Congress that would grant legal rights to the unborn and effectively ban abortion and restrict contraception. However, Gardner has since reversed course, saying it is merely a "statement that I support life." 
Should marijuana be legalized across the country?
Mark Udall (Democrat)I want to carefully watch what happens here in Colorado. That said, I believe the federal government should support our state's regulatory framework. That's why I pressed the Administration to provide guidance and clarification for our local businesses who seek to follow all applicable laws and regulation related to the sale of marijuana. I will continue to push the Administration to ensure that federal red tape and bureaucracy don't impair Colorado's ability to enforce and execute our laws.
Gaylon Kent (Libertarian)Yes. It should not be regulated and taxed by the government, however. We are taxed and regulated enough. Merely the penalties for production, sale and use should be eliminated. 
Cory Gardner (Republican)Gardner opposed the ballot measure that legalized marijuana in Colorado. He voted against an amendment that prohibited enforcement of federal drug laws against state-licenses medical marijuana businesses. He also questioned the Justice Department's decision to allow Colorado to opt out of federal drug laws. 
Do you believe adults who came to this country illegally should have a path to citizenship? Why or why not? 
Mark Udall (Democrat)Our immigration system is broken, which is why I am proud to have passed a bipartisan, comprehensive reform plan through the Senate. Coloradans believe in a tough but fair path to citizenship to bring millions of undocumented immigrants living in this country out of the shadows. We also know that businesses need certainty when they make hires and that protecting our border must be a part of any comprehensive fix to our immigration system. That’s why I’m disappointed that radicals in the House, like my opponent, have steadfastly opposed taking a single step toward fixing our broken system. They even refuse to hold a simple up-or-down vote on the broadly supported, bipartisan Senate bill. Our immigration system is broken and allows an underground economy to exist, exploiting cheap labor while depressing wages for everyone else. I’ve also championed the DREAM Act so children who have known no other home than America can earn a path to citizenship. Again, my opponent opposes this common-sense measure, and even took the unthinkable step to vote to deport DREAMers. That’s not only backwards, it’s wrong.
Gaylon Kent (Libertarian)Citizenship no, however those in this country without authorization should be allowed to stay. This nation must simplify the immigration process, to include a worker visa program that allows them to live and work here without becoming citizens. 
Cory Gardner (Republican)In a statement on his House website, Gardner states: "Our first line of defense against illegal immigration is the border, and it is the federal government’s job to make sure that it is secure. Americans are tired of watching the political establishment lack the will to enforce our nation’s laws when it comes to border security and immigration policy. ... It isn’t giving amnesty to the 12-20 million illegal immigrants in this country, or giving those people benefits that will only encourage more illegal immigration. The time has come to enforce the rule of law and end illegal immigration. To that end, I will support legislation that ensures employers only hire people who are here legally and that guest workers are here temporarily." 
What can the federal government do to boost Colorado's economy?
Mark Udall (Democrat)I have fought for common-sense energy policies that create good-paying jobs and build on Colorado's leadership in the 21st century clean energy economy. As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I’ve pushed for a best-of-the-above approach, one that recognizes the important role traditional sources of energy play in our economy while embracing the incredible opportunity of renewable sources of energy. Untapping the power of Colorado’s abundant energy supplies is key to our continued economic growth. We also need to fix our broken immigration system, so employers have the certainty they need to hire new workers and millions of undocumented immigrants can come out of the shadows. I’m proud to have worked to pass the Senate’s landmark, bipartisan immigration reform bill and am calling on my opponent to stop obstructing passage of this common-sense measure in the House.
Gaylon Kent (Libertarian)Adopt a flat tax of 10 percent on citizens and businesses. Low taxes and free markets will produce a flourishing economy. This will boost the economy everywhere. 
Cory Gardner (Republican)Gardner's "Four Corners" economy plan focuses on tax reform, small businesses, government reform, and health care. It says, among other things, government should support small businesses, encourage free and fair trade, justify new regulations, make the tax code flatter and fairer, eliminate the estate tax, and repeal and replace Obamacare. See more details here. 
What is your stance on same-sex marriage?
Mark Udall (Democrat)I’m a strong supporter of marriage equality and have long been a champion of protecting equal rights for Coloradans no matter whom they love or how they choose to raise their family. I was proud to lead the fight to repeal the military's discriminatory “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy and have fought to ensure gays and lesbians receive equal treatment when it comes to Social Security and veterans benefits.
Gaylon Kent (Libertarian)In favor of it. Without qualification or restriction. A nation conceived in liberty must extend every liberty to every citizen. If same-sex marriage is against your religious beliefs or moral code, don't gay marry. Just because something is legal does not make it mandatory. 
Cory Gardner (Republican)Gardner says he supports "traditional marriage." He said during a 9News debate that he would attend a same-sex marriage. 
Should the federal government impose new restrictions on the sale or possession of firearms?
Mark Udall (Democrat)I strongly support the Second Amendment. My mother was an NRA member and the person who taught me how to shoot a gun. But the mass shootings we’ve experienced here in Colorado and across the nation are beyond tragic and require action by Congress. We ought to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, felons, and minors, which is why I supported a commonsense approach to expand universal background checks.
Gaylon Kent (Libertarian)No. If the government said certain denominations could only worship on Tuesdays, would we accept that? Of course we wouldn't. We do not accept limitations on our First Amendment rights, why do we accept them on our Second Amendment rights? 
Cory Gardner (Republican)Gardner said during a Denver Post debate that gun control should focus on mental health assessments not universal background checks.  The NRA has endorsed Gardner. 
Do you support raising the federal minimum wage?
Mark Udall (Democrat)Yes. If you work hard and play by the rules, you shouldn’t be forced to raise a family in poverty. A minimum wage increase is long overdue and has been proven to lift wages across the economy. More than 250,000 Coloradans -- including the parents of 217,000 children -- do an honest day’s work but still struggle to put food on the table for their families. Clearly, the minimum wage has lost more than 30 percent of its value in the last few decades and needs to be updated to keep workers out of poverty. Unfortunately for Colorado families, my opponent opposes raising the minimum wage and has even voted to raise taxes on middle class families by $2,000 a year.
Gaylon Kent (Libertarian)Adopt a flat tax of 10 percent on citizens and businesses. Low taxes and free markets will produce a flourishing economy. This will boost the economy everywhere. 
Cory Gardner (Republican)Gardner opposes raising the federal minimum wage. He said earlier this year: “Hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs—jobs will be lost—as a result of a minimum wage increase. But I think, you know, it’s—One thing that I would say: I do think the American people have a tremendous amount of economic sense and that they understand that politics shouldn’t drive decisions out of Washington, D.C., so if there’s a minimum wage issue, shouldn’t the state of Colorado be best equipped to handle the minimum wage in the state of Colorado?” 
What should the federal government do to address growing inequality in America, and in Colorado?
Mark Udall (Democrat)I’m focused on building a stronger middle class so that all families have a fair shot at economic opportunity. That’s why I’m pushing to raise the minimum wage, make college more affordable, and ensure that women finally receive equal pay for equal work. My opponent opposes all of these common-sense measures and has even voted to raise taxes on middle class families by $2,000 a year. That’s not only backwards, it’s wrong. I’ll never stop fighting for middle class families and to keep Colorado moving forward.
Gaylon Kent (Libertarian)Low taxes and free markets. It is not the government's job to ensure fairness. It's job is to provide every citizen with the opportunity make something good happen for themselves. What we do with that opportunity is up to us. 
Cory Gardner (Republican)Asked about inequality at a Denver Post debate in October, Gardner said "It is beyond time we get government out of the way and let America work. We must unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of this country." He also said he supports expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and approving the Keystone XL pipeline.  In March 2013, Gardner voted for a bill maintaining work requirements for welfare recipients. 
Should the U.S. be helping arm Syrian rebels to take power away from ISIL--the Islamic extremist group? Why or why not? 
Mark Udall (Democrat)ISIL is a brutal terrorist organization that represents a serious threat to U.S. national security. As a member of the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, keeping Americans safe will always be my number one priority. That’s why I strongly support targeting these terrorists with airstrikes along with efforts to arm and train moderate Syrian opposition fighters in the region to attack ISIL on the ground.
Gaylon Kent (Libertarian)No. We cannot have a peaceful world without a peaceful America. Conducting air and drone strikes is not going to bring world peace. We must allow every nation the dignity of conducting their affairs without US interference. 
Cory Gardner (Republican)Gardner voted for legislation that would arm "moderate" opponents of ISIL. Gardner also told the Denver Post that the White House needs to develop a "clear strategic mission," but offered few specifics. Gardner said he opposes the deployment of U.S. ground troops in Syria and Iraq. 
What should the federal government do to lower the child poverty rate in Colorado?
Mark Udall (Democrat)Child poverty affects not only families, but entire communities throughout Colorado. That’s why I’ve strongly supported efforts to strengthen early education programs like Head Start and to make sure that no child goes hungry by fully supporting programs like SNAP and crucial nutrition support for women, infants, and children. My opponent, however, has voted to cut all of these programs, putting his radical ideology ahead of the needs of Colorado families. He even voted repeatedly to repeal Medicaid coverage for over 200,000 Coloradans. That’s not only backwards, it’s wrong.
Gaylon Kent (Libertarian)Low taxes and free markets. 
Cory Gardner (Republican)CPR News couldn't find any record of Gardner speaking about this issue.
What would you do to help this country’s veterans, many of whom have recently returned from war?
Mark Udall (Democrat)It is one of the most important duties of Congress to support our service members as they transition back into civilian life. We should make it as easy as possible for our returning veterans to transfer the skills they gained in the military to new careers as they reenter the workforce. I was proud to cosponsor the Veterans Skills to Jobs Act and see it signed into law. I was also glad to see provisions of the Troop Talent Act included in the 2014 NDAA. The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill should also be updated to allow veterans greater access to vocational education and skills training, and more work must be done to help veterans translate their skills and experiences in a way that civilian employers understand. I will continue to work with my colleagues and listen to veterans so we can increase employment opportunities for our nation’s heroes.
Gaylon Kent (Libertarian)I'm a veteran. This hits home. To start, we can get the VA functioning properly, so vets get the benefits and care they are entitled to when they need them. When we do that, a lot of issues will go away. Those that don't can be addressed. This must be done, because a nation that treats its veterans poorly will soon find no one willing to fight its battles. 
Cory Gardner (Republican)In July 2014, Gardner voted for a bill increasing access to health care for veterans. "I'm proud to support this legislation that will expand the healthcare options our veterans have by opening more medical facilities and allowing veterans to seek treatment at non-VA facilities," Gardner said at the time. 
Do you support Common Core standards? Why or why not? 
Mark Udall (Democrat)Coloradans know that the key to ensuring economic success and opportunity is access to a good education. That’s why I’ve supported efforts to raise academic standards while providing educators the flexibility to implement the standards how they see best fit. It’s critical that we get these standards right and that we back them up with strong investments in our educators and schools. We have all witnessed through “No Child Left Behind” what happens when good intentions are derailed by poor implementation and underfunding. We must ensure that educators have the professional development resources to succeed, and that assessments are targeted and relevant to prepare our students to become leaders in the 21st century economy.
Gaylon Kent (Libertarian)No. Local school districts are the most qualified to decide what and how their students should be taught. 
Cory Gardner (Republican)CPR News wasn't able to find records of Gardner speaking on Common Core. However, his previous campaign website said he supports local control: "I also believe in local control and that local school districts know what is best for their students." 

Also running are unaffiliated candidates Raúl Acosta, Steve Shogan, Donald Willoughby, Unity Party candidate Bill Hammons, and unendorsed Republican Kathleen Rosewater Cunningham.