Merrifield, Fisk debate reveals sharp differences

       House District 18 Democrat incumbent Michael Merrifield and Republican challenger Kyle Fisk revealed widely divergent positions on several issues - most notably healthcare, small business, abortion rights, education and illegal immigration - during their radio debate Oct. 31.
       The two also attacked each other, with Merrifield claiming that Fisk was secretly promoting vouchers and creationism in public schools and Fisk alleging that Merrifield was “beholden to special interests” (unions and public education advocates).
       The two debated during the two-hour Joseph Michelli show on KVOR. The district includes Manitou Springs, the Westside and downtown area.
       Health care: Merrifield said he supports a Democrat plan for universal health care in Colorado. This would help about 770,000 who are now uninsured, he said. Although not defining how it would be funded, he opined that this plan would help small business by taking away their increasingly expensive burden of providing health care for employees.
       Fisk argued back that this smacked of socialism, that Merrifield had voted to increase healthcare costs for small business in the past and that the key to affordable healthcare would be to cut government restrictions that currently shackle insurance providers. Merrifield scoffed at the idea that helping health insurance companies would solve the problem, citing greatly increased profits by the nation's seven largest providers in recent years.
       Small business: Merri-field believes he has helped small business in several ways. He cited Referendum C (created when voters allowed the state to retain excess tax revenues), which put money into public infrastructure; his push for renewable energy sources, which “would create employment opportunities and drive down the cost of energy”; and his help in creating a fund to promote statewide tourism.
       Fisk countered that if Merrifield's ideas were so good for small businesses, why did none support him? Fisk boasted of support from several statewide pro-business groups, including the National Federation for Independent Businesses (though not the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce). If elected, he would seek to roll back regulations that “are stifling business through overregulation and micromanagement,” Fisk said. He further alleged that Merrifield had voted against small business on 16 occasions; Merrifield said the challenger was “distorting my record.”
       Abortion - Merrifield proposed no exceptions to his position favoring “a woman's right to choose,” while Fisk offered no exceptions to his “pro-life” stance. Merrifield had supported a bill last session that would have allowed emergency contraception, and said he was “disappointed” that it was vetoed by Republican Governor Bill Owens. Merrifield elaborated on his beliefs with the comment that “an acorn is not an oak tree” while Fisk said he believes life begins at conception. Fisk added that he was “confused” that Merrifield supported abortion while pushing for state support of pre-natal screening for mothers.
       Education - Fisk said Merrifield supports a “failing status quo” in public education. He reiterated campaign statements that state education issues - including half of ninth-graders failing to complete high school - should be tackled by “empowering teachers, principals and parents.” He also said that Merrifield does what the public education lobby wants him to do.
       Merrifield charged that Fisk was “pushing a voucher agenda” and that, as a pastor, Fisk would have a conflict of interest because such would lead to more students going to private, church-run schools. Fisk did not argue this statement. Asked if he favored teaching creationism, Fisk said only that “we should give teachers the ability to teach different ideas.” He did not rebut a Merrifield follow-up that this meant he favored teaching creationism in science classes.
       Illegal immigration - Merrifield supported a bill this year, passed by the Legislature at a special session, which penalizes both illegal immigrants and their employers and which the incumbent calls “the toughest legislation in the country.” But Fisk said Merrifield more recently attended a border meeting sponsored by a pro-amnesty group, so this represented a flip-flop.

Westside Pioneer article