What to know about upcoming political debates and why one Pueblo incumbent isn't attending

Anna Lynn Winfrey
Pueblo Chieftain

The Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce is hosting candidate debates for the local races next week. Most candidates are planning to go, with the exception of District 4 incumbent Vicente Martinez Ortega.

A press release sent by the chamber last week says Martinez Ortega declined the invitation, but Martinez Ortega told the Chieftain that he didn’t respond.

Instead of going to the debates, Martinez Ortega said that he’s planning on going door knocking in his district, which includes Bessemer, Lake Minnequa and parts of the Southside.

“The people from District 4 care less about those debates and they care more about people being out there having access to their elected officials,” Martinez Ortega said.

Pueblo City Council member Vicente Martinez Ortega listens to a presentation during a city council work session retreat at the Pueblo Convention Center on Saturday, March, 3, 2023.

Chamber President and CEO Duane Nava recalled that Martinez Ortega indicated to him a few months ago that he wasn’t interested in participating in a chamber-run debate and confirmed Martinez Ortega did not respond to a text that included an invitation.  

Martinez Ortega clarified in a text that his initial conversation with Nava was before he had a primary opponent but stands by what he said.

Martinez Ortega’s only opponent in the race, Roger Gomez, still has a time slot to speak during the debate.

At last year’s candidate debates hosted by the chamber, there were at least two single candidates who spoke during a time slot because their opponent was unable to attend.

State Sen. Nick Hinrichsen, a Democrat who represents the 3rd district, listens as moderator Steve Henson asks a question at Pueblo Community College on September 7, 2022. Hinrichsen's opponent, Stephen Varela, said he would not be going to the debate two days before it was scheduled.

"Our board and staff are excited to host the election debates to help our community better know the candidates they will be voting for," Nava said in the release. "It is vital that the candidates make themselves available to appear and debate to show their commitment to Pueblo, and we are pleased that the response so far has been positive."

When and where the debates are happening

Here’s the schedule for the debates, which are organized by the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the League of Women Voters, the Pueblo NAACP, Action 22, the media center at Pueblo Community College and Comcast Business.

The moderator will be Sara Blackhurst, the CEO of Action 22, a regional nonpartisan organization that lobbies for southeastern Colorado at the state and federal level.

The debates will be held at Pueblo Memorial Hall and livestreamed on the chamber’s website.

Wednesday, Oct. 4

5 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.: Pueblo water board candidates

5:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.: City council district 4

6 p.m. to 7 p.m.: City council district 2

7:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.: City council at large

Thursday, Oct. 5

5 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Pueblo School District 60 board candidates

6:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.: Mayoral candidates

Anna Lynn Winfrey covers politics for the Pueblo Chieftain. She can be reached at awinfrey@gannett.com. Please support local news at subscribe.chieftain.com.