First televised debate between Polis and Stapleton gets a little hotter, with disagreements on nearly everything but kombucha

They also both think they’re creative dudes.
5 min. read
A screengrab of the first Colorado gubernatorial debate on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, hosted by CBS4.

It took a question from debate moderator and CBS4 reporter Shaun Boyd, but Jared Polis and Walker Stapleton finally said something nice about one another.

Stapleton volunteered to go first. He called Polis is a creative guy with bold ideas, while Polis said Stapleton will be someone he would work with his administration to provide some creative financial solutions.

"He and I firmly support the future of kombucha," Stapleton said. He also said they were both fans of cooking before sneaking in a not-so-nice thing. "I'm just concerned that his bold ideas are writing checks that Coloradans can't cash."

It was the only Hallmark moment during Friday night’s debate, the first live televised debate between the two candidates hoping to replace term-limited and potential White House candidate Gov. John Hickenlooper. In some ways, it was similar to the gubernatorial forum both participated in on Friday morning, yet, this time around, there was a little bit of shouting.

The two talked over one another, making Boyd look like some kind of circus ringleader calming down two elephants. And as we'd guessed, Stapleton was on the offensive, often starting his responses by mentioning Polis. But they still got around to answering quite a few questions during the hourlong debate. Some of the responses were things we’ve heard them talk about before, but there were a few fresh talking points for candidates.

Here are three things we learned from Friday night’s debate.

Just like Colorado’s U.S. Senators, the two had party-line opinions on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Polis said he disagreed with President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee’s opposition to women’s reproductive health choices. Kavanaugh faced allegations of sexual misconduct and was narrowly approved during a Friday procedural vote. Barring a vote change, Kavanaugh will likely be approved during a final vote Saturday.

“I think that, by the way, putting everybody in that public setting was in many ways, a farce,” Polis said, referring to testimony last week. “Anything valid should have been investigated.”

He opposed Kavanaugh even before the allegations were made. Polis said he opposes his fundamental judicial philosophy, which he said was “restricting our freedoms.”

Stapleton supports Kavanaugh’s confirmation. He said Washington has “made an absolute circus” of the judge’s confirmation.

“As the father of two daughters, seven and four, I think it’s important that they be respected and taken seriously when, if somebody does any wrong to them I want that as a dad,” Stapleton said.

The two offered more nuanced responses about where they stand on abortion rights.

Stapleton has previously said he will be a pro-life governor, though he wouldn’t speculate on the future of Roe v. Wade. Democrats have suggested Kavanaugh’s confirmation could lead to overturning the landmark decision.

He didn’t answer whether he would outlaw abortion in Colorado. He did say he supports a ban on third-trimester abortions.

“I support that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land,” Stapleton said. “It’s not an a la carte buffet. You have to accept that it’s in the Constitution but I will govern as a pro-life governor and I will enforce Colorado’s constitution, which says that state taxpayers' money — this has been in the constitution since the 1990s — shouldn't be used for abortion-related services.”

Asked if he believed third-trimester abortions should be legal in all cases, Polis said he doesn’t want Stapleton deciding that for the women in the state. He said he supports policies reducing the need for abortion, like long-acting birth control.

“When it’s about choice, and it looks like unfortunately with Kavanaugh’s confirmation, the Roe v. Wade protections will be eliminated, so this governor’s race is very important,” Polis said. “Not just for the extreme case of abortion, also for IVF, for many forms of birth control, to me these are personal freedom issues.”

Polis wouldn’t directly answer if he would repeal the constitutional amendment Stapleton mentioned or whether state dollars should be used for abortions.

The two were asked how they would handle growth in the metro area, which they both believe starts with improving infrastructure.

Stapleton said growth means jobs, and jobs mean growth. He said this is why his top priority for addressing growth will be fixing the state’s transit infrastructure. He wants to use bonds and legalize sports gambling to generate revenue to pay for this plan. It also involves “fixing” the state’s medical marijuana system.

“We’ve done an analysis of Colorado and eight other states, mountains states, and found out that if we actually spent the same amount per mile in maintenance charges that these other states did we could have more than $150 million for bonding for the future,” Stapleton said, before suggesting Polis’ plan transportation was “radical.”

Stapleton called out Polis for wanting to spend money on multi-modal transportation. Stapleton said this includes “under-utilized” public transit and bike lanes.

Polis agreed that the state needs to invest in infrastructure and that growth has to work to improve the quality of life for Colorado families. He said making life easier for families includes providing preschool and kindergarten options available and saving them money on health care.

“What does growth mean when we have a three percent unemployment,” Polis said. “And it’s very low. But for many families, you may have gotten a raise but your rents gone up more. Your 15 minutes commute is now a 35-minute commute.”

One final thing: Both will have different approaches to the state’s cannabis industry if elected governor.

Stapleton wants to hit the pause button developing the state's legal marijuana industry, which includes the potential for social consumption sites.

Polis said Colorado voters have spoken, though the state needs to do what it can to keep it out of the hands of minors and the right parameters around the state's market.

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