Gubernatorial debate in Grand Junction very vague |

Gubernatorial debate in Grand Junction very vague

Matthew Bennett
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Gubernatorial candidates Jared Polis, left, and Walker Stapleton shake hands before the start of the debate Saturday evening at Colorado Mesa University's Love Recital Hall.
Christopher Tomlinson | Courtesy Grand Junction Daily Se

After a Western Slope debate meeting between Colorado gubernatorial candidates Jared Polis and Walker Stapleton failed to materialize at a Club 20 event in early September, the two finally faced off in Grand Junction on Saturday night at the Rural Colorado Debate.

Hosted by Colorado Mesa University, Rocky Mountain PBS and the Daily Sentinel, moderators John Ferrugia, Charles Ashby and Dennis Herzog repeatedly asked for specifics, but were met time and again with what sounded like politically scripted responses and attacks on each other from Democrat Polis and Republican Stapleton.

The opening question honed in on bringing economic development to rural portions of the Western Slope.

“If you were elected what new and specific steps would you take to increase incentives for companies to relocate in rural Colorado, and again be specific?” Ferrugia asked.

“We need to make sure that no matter where you live in Colorado, you have great opportunities to succeed.”Rep. Jared Polis

“I think the next governor of Colorado needs to have an economic plan that puts Coloradans first. By putting Colorado first you don’t just put the metro area first, you put all of Colorado first,” Stapleton said. “(Polis) represents the most radical, extreme candidate for governor in Colorado’s history.”

Stapleton pointed out how he was one of the earliest supporters of President Donald Trump’s economic plan which, according to the current state treasurer, would bring more than 120 economic opportunity zones to Colorado, half of which being in its rural areas.

“We need to make sure that no matter where you live in Colorado, you have great opportunities to succeed,” Rep. Polis said.

Polis also touted his plan for rural broadband and internet connectivity to enable location-independent employment across Western Colorado.

“I’ve heard you both talk about broad generalities in this. I haven’t heard anybody say what initiative you would envision, specifically, to bring economic development to rural areas,” Ferrugia pressed.

With that, Stapleton quickly brought up his support for the Jordan Cove Pipeline.

“Congressman Polis has been in Washington for a decade and refuses to support this project. It would be transformational to the economy of western Colorado. It’s another example of why he is extreme and out of the mainstream.”

Polis, however, questioned how many jobs the Oregon natural gas pipeline would actually bring to the Western Slope and quickly steered the conversation away from Jordan Cove to his numerous startup businesses.

Following the rural economic discussion, moderator Dennis Herzog drilled for answers regarding water, which brought out more generalizations and further attacks.

“I will oppose any trans-mountain divergence without agreement from western Colorado,” Polis stated. “And, I support water storage as part of an overall solution that includes additional efforts…”

“This is another issue where I have vast differences with Congressman Polis,” Stapleton countered. “(Polis) said he wanted to look at alternatives to storage. I’m not to sure I’m eager to hear what those alternatives are.”

Moderator Charles Ashby, appearing frustrated with both candidates lack of specificity, said, “Well, thank you gentlemen, I appreciate you restating your platforms about your energy policies but we already knew that. The question was, how would you reach across the aisle and make a policy that can be accepted by everybody?”

Finding a policy both candidates could agree upon was practically as non-existent as rainfall in the Centennial State this past summer. And, for every drop of bipartisanship displayed, it was quickly dried up when contentious issues such as sanctuary cities and Roe v. Wade were brought up.

“I disagree with Congressman Polis and his party’s platform in this election of making Colorado a sanctuary state. I define a sanctuary city as somebody who has entered this country illegally and committed a felony,” Stapleton said.

Polis, at a Friday night debate in Denver, said he does not support sanctuary cities or having Colorado become a sanctuary state, but that he does support letting local law enforcement make those decisions.

Polis at the end of the debate questioned Stapleton’s views on abortion. Referencing Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, Polis asked of his opponent, “Would you sign a bill that restricted or eliminated the rights of women to control their own bodies here in Colorado?”

Stapleton replied, “I said I’d be a pro-life governor because it’s a matter of my faith. I also accept Roe v. Wade as being the law of the land and I’m not going to speculate. When I raise my hand to become governor of Colorado, I don’t raise my hand to accept just some of our Constitution. I accept all of it. It’s not an a-la-carte offering.”

(Editor’s note: This story has been altered from the original online and print version to include a clarification of Jared Polis’s position on sanctuary cities.)


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