Thursday night, I had the privilege to observe the debate between Gov. John Hickenlooper and his opponent, former Congressman Bob Beauprez. There were three questions in particular that struck me as important for understanding the differences between the candidates.
The first of these came over a question about recreational marijuana. Asked if it was time to consider a repeal of the law passed two years ago, Hickenlooper stated that it was too early to say, and stressed that tighter regulation and more research into the effects of marijuana on developing minds would be a more prudent way forward. Beauprez, when given the chance to answer the same question, stated that it was high time that repeal be put to a vote. This was extraordinary for a few reasons. First, because the issue of legalization had already been put to a vote two years ago, with obvious results. Second, Beauprez, supposedly representing the party of small government, would like to bring back prohibition, which has a nasty habit of increasing the size of government, in both enforcement and bureaucracy. Lastly, marijuana is a rapidly growing industry, the repeal of which would hurt the economy and drive all of the projected $40 million in tax revenue back underground. In short, no question better illustrated the lack of integrity between the rhetoric and the reality of the Beauprez campaign.
The second question in the debate that caught my attention was a question about fracking. Hickenlooper, a geologist in his previous life, had championed a compromise between oil and natural gas interests and concerned citizens that removed proposed fracking bans from the ballots. Instead of celebrating the compromise, his opponent decried the agreement on the basis of two claims. First, that by removing the fracking bans from the ballot, Hickenlooper was somehow holding the oil and natural gas interests hostage, and that second, the concerned citizens in Colorado whose homes and local environments might be affected by fracking should not be heard on this matter. The removal of fracking bans does not hurt the industry, and if any thing, it relieves some of the pressure on them. Secondly, the representative of the people should be attuned to the concerns and needs of the community, and not simply dismiss them.
The last question came closer to the end of the debate. Hickenlooper, who had been hammered by Beauprez all night about his supposed lack of leadership, was asked about hard choices he was forced to make following the disastrous floods of 2013. Hickenlooper responded that he had significantly moved up time tables and reestablished a status quo much earlier than anyone had thought possible. Later, he turned to Beauprez and asked him about Beauprez’s record in Congress, and found, instead of rock hard, lantern-jawed examples of leadership, a soft dodge and defensiveness from his opponent.
Hickenlooper has had missteps, sure. But he is hardly a career politician, unlike his opponent, who is largely running on a “common-man” platform, as if he were some populist crusader. For all of his missteps, Hickenlooper has done a very good job of managing crisis, of which there have been many, and of managing the many transitions that Colorado has been subject to. His is a vision for the future, unlike his opponent, who would have us all return to an era long since passed.
Collegian Columnist Jesse Carey can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter by @junotbend.