Our three gubernatorial candidates had their first debate this weekend on the Western Slope. Bill Ritter and Bob Beauprez touted their
“rancher/dairy farmer roots. ”

From the news accounts, the biggest topics were meth and illegal immigration. Former DA Ritter pointed out how hard he worked for a law that would allow child abuse charges to be brought against parents who have both kids and a meth lab in their house. He also said the state and federal governments
need to pony up some more aid to fight the meth war.

Mark Holtzman blamed illegal immigrants from Mexcio for the problem, while Beauprez agreed borders are a problem and said we need to work on the supply end of the trade. The news accounts don’t mention it, but as DA, Ritter was a strong supporter of drug treatment programs.

On immigration, Holtzman was the most vehement, and the Post says he has made the issue his “mantra.”

“It’s a horrible challenge and blight for this state to have to face 400,000 illegal aliens living in our state, almost 10 percent of our population, costing us $600 million a year in benefits. As governor, I will do anything I can to end those benefits for … people who don’t have any business living in this state.”

Holtzman also took a shot at Beauprez right at the end of the debate, not leaving time for Beauprez to respond.

“You say you’re tough on immigration, but you were the only Colorado Republican to vote with the Democrat delegation to oppose a law which, if passed, would have cut off federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities.”

Holtzman also invoked the names of “biblical figures, Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich.”

Where is Ritter on immigration?

He repeatedly urged the audience to consider compassionate approaches to issues. “What you want to listen for are people who have responsible solutions, not political ones,” Ritter said, reiterating his support for government investments in its people. “Listen to the people who have the right solutions, not just convenient political debate.”

Ritter brought up his mother being on welfarre and his need for college aid as an example of the need for government to invest in its citizens.

“It made a difference in my life and my ability to make a difference in the lives of people.” Ritter said the state must protect its “vulnerable” people by investing in them, as the government did in him.

Ritter had a strong position on immigration when interviewed by Colorado Pols last year:

Immigration policy is a federal matter. I would advocate for a guest worker policy along the lines suggested by President Bush and as outlined by various Denver Post editorials. I would also advocate that the Federal Government provide the necessary resources to deport individuals who have committed crimes in Colorado, and who, under current law, should be deported after completing their jail or prison sentence.

On drug treatment, he had a pretty good answer I thought:

One key area where we can make progress reducing the recidivism rate is tougher drug treatment efforts, including monitoring and counseling programs for convicts. A large proportion of convicts are addicted to drugs when they enter prison. Returning them to the streets with an existing drug habit almost guarantees their return to prison.

At least we have some clear choices between the Democrat and the Republicans this year.