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3 gubernatorial candidates face off in 9NEWS debate

10:37 AM, Oct 14, 2010   |    comments
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The debate, hosted by 9NEWS and The Denver Post, featured Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, the Democratic candidate, businessman Dan Maes, the Republican, and former Congressman Tom Tancredo, the candidate from the American Constitution Party. The debate was held at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora and will re-air from 8 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14 on Weather Plus which is on channel 9.2 or Comcast channel 249.

Ashley Wheeland, a woman from Aurora, asked the night's first question. Wheeland says she is unemployed and asked each candidate what they would do to help people like her through the recession.

Hickenlooper says he wants to make it easier for businesses to expand.

"The only thing that we can do is help businesses that are here to grow, try and attract businesses here, try and get the economy back on track," Hickenlooper said. "Let's brand the state as pro-business. And part of that is making government smaller - cutting the red tape."

Tancredo focused in on reducing taxes for Coloradans.

"What you have to do in order to bring us out of this recession is indeed reduce taxes. And there are a whole slug of them that need to be reduced," Tancredo said. "For instance the business-personal property tax. That kind of a tax eats at jobs like nothing else you've ever seen in your life."

Maes says he wants to remove regulations on energy in Colorado.

"I think our economy equals energy in this state, to start with. We have to undo the energy regulations. We have to get our natural gas out of the ground, our oil out of the ground, our coal out of the ground, our uranium out of the ground. And as these energy jobs come back around it filters back down into the secondary and tertiary jobs," Maes said.

During the debate, Tancredo criticized Denver as being a haven for illegal immigrant, calling it a "sanctuary city."

"Begin by enforcing the laws that we have, making it difficult if not impossible to operate sanctuary cities. Sanctuary cities are just that - places that provide some sort of haven for people who come here illegally," Tancredo said.

"I said from the beginning that this is an issue that shouldn't be solved on a city basis or a state basis, you get in some trouble there," Hickenlooper responded.

Hickenlooper went on to say he felt the need for a secure border, a good identification system, a guest worker system and that businesses have to be held accountable.

Maes faced another question about the controversies over his history as a businessman.

"Everything I've said is true. The half truths and outright lies that have been laid out there are completely unfounded," Maes said. "I stand by my resume completely. Everything I've said about my business track record is absolutely true. I stand by the resume that I put on my website six months ago."

"Why we're talking about a job I had 25 years ago and in another state, is so irrelevant," Maes said.

This debate featured questions asked the candidates by people who submitted them through YouTube. Becky from Denver wanted specifics on how each candidate would solve the state's budget crisis.

Maes he says he wants to undo the jobs added under Gov. Bill Ritter's administration.

"You find out where the extra weight is, the dead weight, the non-essential employees and you show them the way home," Maes said. "It starts with the positions that are empty already that shouldn't be filled. Then we move onto additional head count that are not essential. Then we go into the general fund area department by department by department."

"We cut redundancies," Hickenlooper said, specifically asking why both the governor's office and the legislature both did their own budgets. "The budgets are well intentioned and smart and professional, but they're about as accurate as a seven-day weather forecast. I guess I shouldn't say that on TV."

Hickenlooper went on to say that "you're going to have to make serious cuts" and listed transportation, education, higher education and health care.

Tancredo listed several specifics, including cutting Medicaid.

"Let's start here: Medicaid. If we unwind, I think what we did from 2007, the expansion of Medicaid, that's about a $250 million annual savings to the state of Colorado," Tancredo said.

Tancredo also said he would fight with unions, like the teachers union, to makes cuts and wants to make changes to the state retirement program, also known as PERA.

"I don't want to take away PERA. All I'm going to do is going to try and save PERA," Tancredo said. "If we change PERA to a defined benefit to a defined contribution plan, it saves millions upon millions of dollars for the state."

Following that, a YouTube question was asked about how to help funding for higher education.

Hickenlooper says the answer could come from the private sector.

"One of the things we did in Denver is that we reached out to the private sector," Hickenlooper said. "I think on a statewide basis building a partnership whereby we use private business and foundations of private philanthropy allowing kids to get scholarships at all different levels of income."

Tancredo's thoughts on the issue brought the most murmurs from the crowd watching the debate. He wants to limit the state liability on those who want to go back to college in Colorado.

"Everybody can go back to college and just keep going forever. What if you say: 'We're going to have to limit this,'" Tancredo said. "I want to try and figure out a way to actually limit the state liability."

"You do it this way, you say: 'Each one of you have this much of a state contribution,'" he said. "But it's only going to be good for X number of hours. After that, you have to understand, that state commitment ends."

Maes says he would look for funding through Amendment 23.

"Amendment 23 has been guaranteeing funds to K through 12 at the expense of higher ed. and other general fund departments. And a difficult decision that I would like to propose to the people of Colorado is that we give Amendment 23 a time out for a year or two, bring some equity back to how the budget is allocated and get some of that money back over to higher education," Maes said.

Like on 9NEWS' debate on Monday night, both candidates were asked which part of the negative campaigning had offended them the most.

"The thing that has bothered me the most is stuff I have seen appear in the paper in columns," Tancredo said. "Because of my stance on immigration in particular, and a historical stance on that, the word 'racist' is always thrown around, 'xenophobic.'"

"When I talk about immigration it's got nothing to do - zero to do - with race. Never has, never will. I'm doing this because I believe there are serious problems we face as a nation," he said.

"[The thing that is] wearing me out is this constant negative attack. And all it takes is to hang something out that's not true, but just hang it out there, and then you have to respond and play defense constantly. And if you're playing defense constantly, you can't play offense," Maes said.

"The need to distill everything down to yes or no answers. So often that's used by the media to try to divide people and pull them apart," Hickenlooper said.

Hickenlooper says many questions deserve context.

"If this was done to that, then we would be able to support it. Or I can't support it now, but if it was changed in this way, then I would support it," he said.

Near the end of the debate, they got to answer a lighthearted question: Which candidate would they pick for a drive across the country.

"They would both be so appealing," Hickenlooper said to laughs.

Hickenlooper says he would take Tancredo for the East Coast because "it's so flat you need something very entertaining" and Maes when he got to the mountains because "he and I have a lot of business perspectives we'd have to talk over."

"There's this guy that's running as an Independent candidate, he's one of my opponents right? Seems like a very interesting character," Tancredo said.

"We put Tom in the back seat, but we have to make up first, and we put the mayor in the front seat and we'll talk business," Maes said.

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