It’s debating time in Colorado’s gubernatorial race, and it looks like we’re in for a lot of it

Colorado gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton (left) and Jared Polis. (Alyson McClaran and Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Colorado gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton (left) and Jared Polis. (Alyson McClaran and Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

Colorado voters, are you ready to see your two gubernatorial candidates face off in debates?

Because if you are, you are, you’re in luck. There will be plenty of chances to hear Republican candidate Walker Stapleton and Democratic candidate U.S. Rep. Jared Polis engage in some verbal sparring. Stapleton, the state treasurer, in a release on Monday morning said he had accepted invitations to nine debates in Colorado. Later in the afternoon, Polis released his own acceptance list, which included 13 debates and forums.

And in an interesting twist, Polis said his three former primary election opponents — Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, Mike Johnston and Cary Kennedy — would serve as surrogates at some of the forums.

The debates take place throughout the state, including Denver, Grand Junction and Pueblo.

Their sudden interest in debates shows a shift of sorts for both candidates. After all, Stapleton was criticized for skipping debates during the primary campaign, while Polis faced backlash from Republicans after none of his former opponents attended a “unity” event following his primary election victory.

“Voters in every community across Colorado deserve to know how we plan to address the biggest challenges facing their families — from rising expenses and flat paychecks, to the cost of health care, to the need for better funding for our public schools,” Polis said in his release. “I am excited to attend these 13 debates and forums and discuss my positive vision to fight for a Colorado where every family has the opportunity to get ahead.”

Stapleton said in his release he’s looking forward to using the debates as a chance to “show the stark contrast between our two visions.”

“My message of economic opportunity is resonating with voters, and Coloradans understand Congressman Polis’ policies will lead to job losses, higher taxes, and economic ruin for our state,” Stapleton said in the release. “I hope Congressman Polis will accept these debates and join me in discussing the important issues facing Coloradans and our very different visions for addressing them.”

The two candidates’ lists show they’ve both agreed to attend the following debates (dates are still being worked out):

  • CBS4/CPT 12/KOA/KHOW debate
  • Pueblo Chieftain debate
  • Denver Channel/Denver Post/University of Denver/ABC News debate
  • 9News/Fort Collins Coloradoan debate
  • Grand Junction Daily Sentinel/Colorado Mesa University/Rocky Mountain PBS debate

Polis is challenging Stapleton to attend some additional debates and forums, while Stapleton has accepted debates that Polis didn’t have listed. They both agreed to a debate in Colorado Springs with different media outlets.

As surrogates, Johnston will participate in the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance forum, while Lynne will be at the Club 20 debate — a notable debate that takes place in the largely conservative Western Slope region of the state. Kennedy’s event will be announced in the coming weeks.

Stapleton’s camp was quick to call out Polis for essentially missing the Club 20 debate by sending a surrogate. Stapleton said in a release Monday that Polis’ decision was “an insult to our rural communities and shows Congressman Polis is not ready to represent all of our state.” Club 20, a coalition representing 22 counties comprising two congressional seats and some 580,000 residents, also released a statement calling Polis out for skipping the debate.

This story has been updated to clarify that Polis does not plan to attend the Club 20 debate.