“Fake headlines” is how Colorado state Sen. Don Coram refers to his primary opponent’s weekly campaign ads that run on the front page of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel’s Sunday edition. The Montrose Republican is challenging U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Silt, to represent Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District.
Boebert can afford the prominent spot with campaign contributions that dwarf those of her opponents. She has raised nearly $4 million from mostly out-of-state donors, outpacing Coram, who raised $89,000 in the first three months of this year.
“Boebert’s contributions come from out of state, and those people don’t vote,” Coram said.
One campaign ad claims that Coram “used his public office to unleash a multi-year $35 million scheme to line his own pockets” — which Coram said contains “zero truth.”
Colorado voters in 2012 passed Amendment 64, which legalized industrial hemp and psychoactive marijuana. Coram, a state representative at the time, said Democratic Sen. Gail Swartz asked him to co-sponsor a bill in the House regarding regulation of the industry. The bipartisan “Oversight of the Industrial Hemp Program” passed in 2013, directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create a regulatory program governing hemp cultivation.
In 2017, Coram co-sponsored a bill that recognized industrial hemp as an approved agricultural product, thus eligible for federal project water.
Coram said he became interested in hemp after learning from constituents that cannabidiol oil — or CBD — was effective in reducing seizures in children with epilepsy. In 2017 he invested in a 6-acre hemp-growing operation.
An anonymous letter was sent to the Durango Herald that year that said Coram’s processing company, Paradox Venture, would benefit from the legislation and thus was a conflict of interest. However, state statute and legislative rules exempt legislation when it benefits an entire “class,” such as all hemp growers.
In 2019, Coram and his partners expanded cultivation to roughly 20 acres (out of 187,000 acres statewide). By then statewide supply had exceeded demand and most of the product Coram had invested in was not sold, he said.
“Growing hemp is not near as lucrative as what my wife would earn by being a consultant,” he said, referring to Boebert’s husband, an oil rig foreman-turned-consultant for the oil and gas industry.
Boebert initially failed to disclose in 2020 and 2021 her husband’s nearly $500,000 annual consulting income despite ethics and campaign finance laws that require candidates and members of Congress to disclose sources of income of immediate family members, along with major investments and assets, so that voters can determine potential conflicts of interest. Boebert is a fierce proponent of the oil and gas industry.
“I don’t know of a consultant — with no qualifications — who makes $500,000 a year off of one client,” Coram said.
When a Colorado Newsline reporter reached Boebert by phone seeking comment, she answered, saying “I have an idea, don’t call this number again.” Boebert then hung up on the reporter.
Her campaign subsequently declined an email request for an interview.
Another Boebert campaign ad accuses Coram of opposing stricter penalties for fentanyl possession. Coram responded by saying lawmakers worked to improve a bill that would have made possession of any amount a misdemeanor.
A new law was passed in May, which will take effect July 1, making possession of more than 1 gram of a substance containing fentanyl a felony. Coram voted in favor of the bill. But he said he and other lawmakers tried to make possession of any amount of fentanyl a felony.
“Somebody is grasping at straws because she knows she’s in trouble,” Coram said. “I’ve had no ethics violations, and no investigations,” unlike the congresswoman.
Colorado officials are currently looking into allegations that Boebert inflated mileage she logged while campaigning in 2020, and then used more than $20,000 in reimbursements from donors to pay off years of tax liens on her restaurant.
Boebert has been scrutinized after tweeting “Today is 1776,” and for giving a tour of the Capitol complex prior to the rioting on Jan. 6.
Our Revolution, a group associated with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, sent Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold a letter this week, asking her to bar Boebert from running in future elections (such as the general election in November should she win the June 28 primary) for her alleged role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Coram said the main difference between him and Boebert is “I operate through civility and communication.”
Coram, who said he has passed nearly 500 bills as state senator, contrasted his success as a lawmaker with Boebert’s record.
“She’s never passed a single piece of legislation,” Coram said. “I’ve been in the minority for eight years, and the majority for four years and have had the same amount of successes both times. I’ve passed bills dealing with teen suicide, water, natural resources. Broadband, infrastructure, lower prices for prescription drugs, health care for rural areas.”
Not only has she not had any legislative success, she’s taken credit for passed bills that she’s voted against, he said.
Coram and Boebert held their first debate last month at the Sky Ute Resort and Casino in Ignacio. Although the two campaigns had agreed to use paper for notetaking purposes only, Boebert brought a three-ring binder she referenced throughout the debate, Coram said.
“Anytime a question was asked she thumbed through it trying to find the answer her staff had prepared,” he said. “I’d like to know if she’s qualified — or is it her staff? I was hoping to use the debates to show that. She fumbled, it was embarrassing. There were a lot of negative comments on how she handled herself, and her use of notes. I wasn’t expecting a prepared three-ring binder she’s been carrying around for a year. It shows she’s not prepared.”
Although Coram said he would have preferred a different outcome in the 2020 presidential election, he disagrees with Boebert regarding the debunked claim that there was widespread election fraud and that former President Donald Trump actually won the election.
“There’s no evidence that has come forward that Joe Biden is not the duly elected president,” Coram said.
Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.
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