Daily Camera (Boulder)
Hickenlooper, Gardner face off
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in a debate Friday evening sidestepped questions about the president he long ago endorsed, declining on multiple occasions to say that he is proud of Donald Trump’s leadership in general and during the pandemic.
Debating Democratic challenger John Hickenlooper for the third time in a week, Gardner, the incumbent Republican, said how he feels about Trump’s pandemic response “isn’t a question of pride. It’s a question of getting through this together.”
The debate was co-hosted by The Denver Post, Colorado Public Radio and Denver7 and held at the TV station’s studio. It was the first English-language, televised debate in the race between the two men.
Both Gardner and Hickenlooper said they oppose a national mask mandate as a tool to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 200,000 Americans. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has called for such a mandate.
Hickenlooper called Trump incompetent and said the federal response to the virus is “a disgrace.” He criticized Gardner for generally keeping quiet when Trump does or says something controversial
But the two agreed on a number of topics. Both said they would not vote for a Medicare For All bill. Both condemned white supremacy in clear terms, in contrast to the president’s recent invitation for the Proud Boys, a white supremacist hate group, to “stand back and stand by.”
A moderator at one point suggested that white supremacists in Colorado were more likely to vote for Gardner than for Hickenlooper — nationally, they’re loyal to Trump — and Gardner said he rejected that premise.
The candidates disagreed on whether Trump has, as the moderator put it, “inspired domestic terrorism.”
“Quite possibly, yes,” Hickenlooper said.
“I sure hope not. No,” Gardner said.
Both men said they have faith in the country’s election system. Both said they support Senate term limits.
And both said that they believe marriage equality is settled law, even as conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito expressed interest this week in revisiting the matter.
Added Hickenlooper, on that topic, “With the rush to confirm Amy Coney Barrett” to the court, “one has to be concerned about some of these things we thought had been settled.”
Barrett is Trump’s nominee to replace late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Reversing his position when President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the court in 2016, Gardner has said he will not oppose a vote on Barrett.
On Friday he declined to acknowledge or explain this contradiction.
Hickenlooper said he doesn’t believe that Gardner and the rest of the Senate majority will actually go through will confirming Barrett before January, when both the Senate and White House could flip blue.
The Democrat refused to directly answer a question about whether he’d support adding seats on the Supreme Court as a potential retaliation measure by Democrats next year.
Through three debates in this race, Gardner has been on the attack constantly, seeking to characterize Hickenlooper as untrustworthy and only in it for himself. Hickenlooper, who is a far less nimble talker than the mile-a-minute Gardner, has mostly declined to defend himself against individual attacks.
As Gardner knocked him on his two violations of state ethics laws and other topics, Hickenlooper said he was confident the public would see through the strategy: “Cory Gardner can’t defend his record, so he’s going to keep attacking me all night.”
Hickenlooper at one point cited a 9NEWS fact-check of a new Gardner bill concerning pre-existing conditions, which described that bill as “horse excrement.” Gardner said he took offense to that and questioned why Hickenlooper would be so negative.
Hickenlooper rejected Gardner’s characterization of his tone, but he did say he didn’t expect the race would get this negative, and graded himself a “B” on campaign positivity. Gardner declined to give himself a grade for positivity.
The debate was mostly much more civil and issuesfocused than the presidential debate Sept. 29, though Gardner did on numerous occasions speak over moderators.
The Senate candidates’ final televised debate will be held Tuesday at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, moderated by 9NEWS journalists.