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In Final Debate, Colorado Gov Candidates Make Their Last Pitch



With early voting well underway, Colorado's gubernatorial candidates staked out their positions one last time during at their eighth and final debate Friday. Hosted by CBS Denver 4 and Colorado Public Television, the topics were rather routine - except for the issue of public safety. That's where things got heated.

Bente Birkeland reports from the state capitol

Both campaigns are flooding the airwaves with TV ads ahead of Election Day. One from the Beauprez campaign referencing the death of Department of Corrections chief Tom Clements was singled out.

"My intension still, is to raise the serious question about John Hickenlooper's record on public safety," said Republic challenge Bob Beauprez. "I think that needs to be a Governor's first responsibility is to protect and defend the safety of the citizens, on my watch that will absolutely be a priority. I never intended to offend Lisa."

The Lisa referenced by Beauprez is Tom Clement's widow. She asked Beauprez to remove the reference to her husband's death from the ad, which he did. Governor John Hickenloooper said Clements was a close friend and the ad crossed the line.

"I do think that invoking his death for political purposes… I was… am still dumbfounded," Hickenlooper said. "And I know it was difficult not just for Lisa and her daughters, but for everyone."

A parolee killed Clements after spending most of his prison time in solitary confinement. Hickenlooper said Clements had been working hard to reduce the number of people in solitary.

"We're down to a couple hundred people now, and no one is being released directly to the public. So the problem that was being raised has been solved," said Hickelooper.

But Beauprez believes the difficulties with administrative segregation still exist.

"All he did is turn those in Ad Seg back into the general prison population. And guess what, prisoner on prisoner violence is up. Our streets aren't safer," said Beauprez.

The two candidates also touched on the death penalty, transportation and energy development. On that subject, Hickenlooper said he's confident his oil and gas task force will come up with recommendations that give lawmakers guidance on ways to reduce public concern over fracking.

"Through electrical drilling, and rubber grommets, it could be quiet; we shroud it so there's not light. And then once a well is drilled we make sure there are gages so that the water and air is clean, and then we can really guarantee that there are no harmful effects to that dwelling," said Hickenlooper.

In fact, energy development is one area where Hickenlooper has bucked Democrats.

"Many in my party feel that hydraulic fracturing or any kind of hydrocarbon extraction is dangerous and should be banned," said Hickenlooper. "But oil, gas, and especially that natural gas, is a transition fuel that's going to get us to a cleaner future."

Beauprez has been critical of the task force, feeling it is the wrong approach because it extends uncertainty around energy development. He said the public should have had a chance to decide on two anti-fracking ballot initiatives backed by Democratic Congressman Jared Polis. The initiatives were pulled when Hickenlooper created the task force as a compromise.

"What he wanted to do was get these draconian, extreme measures off the ballot so he and Mark Udall didn't have to deal with them in their re-election campaigns," said Beauprez. "He was caving in, capitulating to Jared Polis. What should've been done, especially in this 2014 year, was to defeat and defeat these measures soundly."

Beauprez has gone back and forth on this topic. He's said in earlier interviews that he's glad the measures aren't on the ballot. As for bucking his own party, Beauprez said he would take a more modest stance when it comes to illegal immigration.

"Some in my party have been a little strident on the question of illegal immigration. I think it's time we all face facts that we're a better nation than this, and we're a better state than this, and need to find a solution to that long-standing problem," said Beauprez.

At the end of the hourlong debate both men made their closing statements, starting with candidate Beauprez.

"A governorship is a terrible thing to waste, and in a very serious way that's why I'm in this," Beauprez said. "I want to provide opportunity to this great state that its always provided to me. I don't want to run your life; I want you to have the freedom to run your own life. I don't want to run your family or your small business, but I want you to have the freedom and liberty to do that for yourself. That's what will guide me every single day."

Hickenlooper got the final word in front of the televised audience.

"Four years ago we had a $1 billion shortfall in the state budget," the Governor stated. "We were 40th in job creation. Four years later we've come back. We've gone from 40th to fourth. We have a $650 million rainy day fund. We've had 35 consecutive months of job growth. That's the most since 1996."

That was the final word from the final televised debate in the election season, next stop: Election Day.

Copyright 2021 KUNC. To see more, visit KUNC.

Bente Birkeland
Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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