Republicans running for governor of Colorado debated Tuesday — here are 3 takeaways

It started with a question about separating families at the border and ended with a comment about a toilet seat. Elections!
6 min. read
Republican gubernatorial candidates Doug Robinson (clockwise from top left), Victor Mitchell, Walker Stapleton and Greg Lopez. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Republicans running for governor got another shot Tuesday night to convince primary voters why they’re the party’s best shot at winning the governor’s seat for the first time since 1998.

They also talked about farting and toilet seats -- responses from Doug Robinson and State Treasurer Walker Stapleton to a question about what their significant others find annoying about them -- but that’s not really what’s important here. What is important is that Greg Lopez, Victor Mitchell, Robinson and Stapleton offered some fresh perspectives on a variety of topics during the final debate before next week’s primary.

Tuesday night's debate was co-hosted by Denver7, The Denver Post and the University of Denver and covered a lot of topics (check out the entire debate here). Stapleton is the party’s frontrunner, ahead of Mitchell, Lopez and Robinson. Will their performances sway any votes? We’ll find out next week. For now, here’s three takeaways from Tuesday’s debate.

The four candidates expressed some concerns for the Trump Administration’s policy of separating families at the border, but only one explicitly said they didn’t support it.

Mitchell and Stapleton danced around the question of whether or not they supported the policy, while Robinson outright said he didn’t support it. Lopez’s response sounded a bit like he opposed the idea while suggesting a possible new policy.

“These scenes from the border are heart-wrenching,” Robinson said. “This is not who we are as Americans. It’s not who we are as Republicans. We have to allow these families to be together.”

Mitchell said nobody wants their kids separated — he called it a sad outcome — but said this was part of a broader issue on immigration reform he believes President Trump is doing a good job of tackling. He said he doesn’t believe Democrats are working with Trump to passing reform. He called on the state’s two senators to get to work.

Lopez said seeing kids separated from their parents isn’t something he wants to see, though he said parents have a moral responsibility to keep them out of harm’s way.

“What I’d like to see, if I had the ability, is you know, first of all let’s keep the families together but let’s make sure they follow the rule of law,” Lopez said, adding he would ask for comprehensive reform, “to send the family back together. Let’s make sure that they have a court date that they can appear and we can hear them out correctly.”

Stapleton, who released an ad this week reinforcing his intent to support Trump’s immigration policy, said that as the father of three kids, the last thing anybody wants to see if families broken up. He didn’t provide a clear yes or no response. He said he’s agreed with Trump calling out Congress to “fix” the country’s immigration system. He called out U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (whom he mentioned, like, easily five times Tuesday) for not doing enough.

“Congress should be culpable,” Stapleton said. “Every member of Congress should be culpable for the failure of the federal government to fix our immigration system.”

The group had varying ideas on how to make housing more affordable.

A question about how to keep Californians in California elicited some laughter, but it led to some pretty serious responses on housing. It led to a question on what candidates would do to help lower home prices in the state, as well as the potential for economic incentives.

Lopez said housing market prices come down to zoning and planning. He said any time there’s growth, it affects water resources in Colorado, which is another related concern. He said he wants to address housing costs by working with the Denver Regional Council of Governments, developers and municipalities.

In contrast, Robinson said it’s not the government’s role to reduce home prices in Colorado, saying it’s the private sector’s responsibility.

“What we need is more competition and less government involvement, not more in our housing marketplace,” Robinson said. He said this will require more tort reform for builders and a streamlined building permit process.

Stapleton, who said he has experience running a publicly-traded real estate company, said this is an issue of supply and demand. He said there needs to be more “supply,” noting that young people moving to Colorado can’t afford to pay a $75,000 down payment for a house. This leads some people to end up spending 40 percent or more of their income in rent.

“This is a problem for young people that want to start their professional lives in Colorado, and I believe unless we get a fundamental fix to construction defects that includes a right to cure over a 90- or 120-day period, we are not going to get the supply we need,” Stapleton said.

He added that if someone is willing to have a portion of their development be affordable housing, they should work with them to help expedite the approval process.

Mitchell said there needs to be an entire repeal of the construction defect laws in Colorado.

“The biggest thing we can do to deal with affordable housing is get rid of regulations,” Mitchell said. “I want to get rid of 100,000 pages of regulations and give people earning power, encourage people to open their own businesses. That’s the best way to improve affordable housing, is to increase wages.”

All four support President Trump’s proposed plan to enact a domestic abortion gag rule, which would ban doctors from receiving federal funding from talking about abortions.

Vox reported in May that the White House was considering reinstating a gag rule similar to the one reinstated in 2017 that banned family planning clinics around the world getting aid from the U.S. from performing or even speaking about abortions.

Stapleton said he would support this rule, adding: “I’m gonna be a pro-life governor.”

Robinson said he would support it, pointing out every Republican president has supported this rule going back to President Reagan, who put it in place. Mitchell said “absolutely,” while Lopez also said he would support the proposed rule.

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