Statehouse District 18 shapes up as tight race
Lee, incumbent Democrat, challenged by George

       In a race that has taken on statewide importance because of the close Democrat/ Republican representation in the Colorado Legislature and the nearly equal party registrations within its boundaries, House District 18 incumbent Pete Lee (D) will face Jennifer George (R) in the Nov. 6 election.
       The district takes in the Westside as far north as Fillmore Street, as well as Manitou, Skyway and the downtown.
       Lee was elected in 2010, extending the Democrat hold on that seat to 10 years. Michael Merrifield had been in office from 2002 to 2010, stepping down because he was term-limited.
       Lee, 64, is an attorney and small-business owner. He has been married 21 years. He had not held political office before his D-18 election.
       George, 45, is a former employment law attorney, a human resources consultant and nonprofit volunteer leader seeking her first political office. She has been married 20 years and has two daughters.
       The Westside Pioneer asked the candidates the same five questions (with a limit on each answer of 100 words or less):
       1. Why does District 18 need you in office?
       2. If elected, what's the main thing you would like the Legislature to accomplish? If there would be a cost or savings for taxpayers, please explain.
       3. CDOT has been coordinating with local governments on efforts to revitalize a segment of US Business 24 known as "No Man's Land." Is this working out well? Why or why not?
       4. Panhandling has become a problem for communities all over Colorado. What do you think about a law regulating it at the state level and, if so, how would you conceptually approach it?
       5. Who do you support for president of the United States and why?

       The candidates' answers begin on this page.

Pete Lee
1. WHY:
       Iíve lived, worked and raised my family †in HD 18 for 38 years, walked every neighborhood, held 11 town hall meetings, and talked with thousands of residents in the last two years. That outreach and experience make me deeply aware of the issues, challenges and aspirations of the residents. My records as a collaborative, bipartisan legislator and successful sponsor of six bills, including unanimous passage of the Restorative Justice bill, demonstrate my ability to get things done. Many of the bills I sponsor are ideas that come from the residents of HD 18.
       2. MAIN THING:
       Every year, the Legislature passes a balanced budget along with more than 300 bills on a bipartisan basis. I would like the Legislature to come together with that same spirit of bipartisanship for long-range planning to develop a vision for Colorado for the next decades. We must rise above the day-to-day disagreements and look to the future for our children and grandchildren Ė we must adopt comprehensive goals and strategies for economic development, schools for 21st century education, energy, water, roads, bridges and infrastructure, parks and wildlife and how to pay for them.
       3. NO MANíS LAND:
       To date the cooperative effort among CDOT, Manitou Springs, Colorado Springs and El Paso County has resulted in a preliminary plan to upgrade the area along Colorado/Manitou Avenues between 31st Street and Manitouís Highway 24 interchange, known as No Manís Land. The plan to bring the areaís roads, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, the Fountain Creek bridge and utilities up to modern standards with open spaces, bike lanes and streetscapes could be the most significant Westside upgrade since the Old Colorado City redevelopment 30 years ago. Progress on the intergovernmental plan for cooperative maintenance of the highway is encouraging and exciting.
       4. PANHANDLING:
       I would prefer to defer to local control for issues like panhandling. Local communities are in the best position to understand the conflict and balance the various interests and rights of the parties. Since local governments are responsible for enforcing local restrictions, they are in the best position to figure out the best course of action. A statewide approach could well result in a one-size-fits-all model that would not work well in every community.
       5. PRESIDENT:
       I support President Barack Obama because I believe his plan for economic growth and jobs will benefit all Americans.
Jennifer George
1. WHY:
       I feel compelled to run for office to protect our futures. Coloradoís economic health is my primary focus: I want all current and future Coloradans to find economic success here at home, and I will work to revive a vibrant, free economy for Colorado families and businesses. We have elections every two years as our check on what the politicians have accomplished. The incumbentís accomplishments are lacking. In fact, when the most important issue facing Coloradans is a lackluster economy and high unemployment, the incumbent failed to get a single, economic solution passed. We can do better than that.
       2. MAIN THING:
       My vision is to make Colorado the #1 state to do business, a model for smart, efficient government, and the bedrock for strong, local communities. I will explore bills aligned with my interests to expand private-sector jobs, reduce red tape, and promote high quality public education opportunities, such as to eliminate the business personal property tax and expand school choice. My focus on fiscal oversight will guard against wasteful spending, and Iíll work to institute priority-based budgeting and prevent harmful bills, like the incumbentís, that cost taxpayers more money.
       3. NO MAN'S LAND:
       This corridor is very important to HD18. As the gateway connection from Old Colorado Cityís to Manitou Springsí historic districts, this multijurisdictional area deserves support from the City of Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Manitou Springs and the State of Colorado. As our state representative, Iíll advocate for continued cooperation to implement the plan currently being developed as the ďWestside Avenue Action Plan.Ē Thanks to the work of local elected officials, Organization of Westside Neighbors, businesses and residents, this important project is included in the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority extension, which I support for economic vitality.
       4. PANHANDLING:
       I witness the local panhandling problem firsthand, as I shop for my familyís groceries and other items on Colorado Avenue. In general, I favor local control over statewide mandates. Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs could better tailor specific prohibitions and enforcement mechanisms, being closer to the problem and therefore to the solution. As a state representative, I would focus on improving the overall economic health of Colorado, working to reduce the need for panhandling and to strengthen charitable efforts to those in need. If we improve our statewide business climate, the private sector can create more good-paying jobs for our citizens.
       5. PRESIDENT:
       I support Mitt Romney for president of the United States. His plan to get our economy going will address the extensive, difficult financial issues facing our country. Most importantly, he has a proven track record of both private-sector and government success. Like me, Mitt Romney believes that our American dreams can prosper with a smart and efficient limited government.

Westside Pioneer article