By Ernest Luning
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
Colorado voters could have as many as eight more chances to see the three top gubernatorial candidates spar before the November election.
On Tuesday, the campaigns of Democratic nominee John Hickenlooper and Republican nominee Dan Maes announced the two candidates will be meeting for nine debates — in addition to one aired last week on public television — but left out any mention of the potential spoiler in the race, former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, who ditched the GOP to run on a third-party ticket. Instead, the rare joint release issued by the two campaigns said, without mentioning Tancredo by name, “Any decision on inviting third-party candidates is up to the individual event sponsors.”
Rest assured, Tancredo’s spokesman told The Colorado Statesman, he’ll be at nearly all of the scheduled debates.
“Right now he’s going to be at six of them,” said Tancredo campaign manager Cliff Dodge on Tuesday afternoon, “and we have calls into two more and expect to be into those — I think we’ll be in at least eight of the 10.”
The only one Tancredo is definitely skipping is the Club 20 debate set for Sept. 11 in Grand Junction, owing to the civic organization’s rules governing which third-party candidates can participate. It seems the Western Slope booster group requires candidates to belong to political parties that received at least 1 percent of the vote in the previous presidential election, and Tancredo’s new affiliation, the American Constitution Party, fell short.
It’s OK, Dodge said, predicting sponsors of the other debates will be happy to serve up all three candidates.
“You can’t have a party without the main dish,” he said with a laugh.
As for Hickenlooper and Maes, in addition to announcing the debate agreement, the two campaigns pledged to take the high road and stick to a discussion of the issues over the next two months.
“Coloradans are sick and tired of the personal attacks that tend to typify election season,” Maes said in a statement. “John and I will engage each other on the issues on these 10 occasions and at numerous other forums and smaller events to let Colorado voters decide whose vision for the state they prefer.”
Hickenlooper echoed his opponent.
“Dan and I have had healthy disagreements on various issues throughout the campaign so far, but I respect the way he has campaigned with class and respect,” Hickenlooper said. “I’m confident our joint commitment to discuss the issues facing our state will mean the rest of the country takes note of Colorado as a place that does things the right way.”
On top of the agreed-upon debates — including three on consecutive days in the middle of October — the gubernatorial candidates will be appearing together at less confrontational forums throughout the state. Here’s the debate line-up, listed by sponsoring organization:
Sept. 11: Club 20 in Grand Junction
Sept. 17: Progressive 15 in Loveland
Sept. 25: Action 22 in Colorado Springs
Oct. 5: Channel 7 in Denver
Oct. 12: The Pueblo Chieftain in Pueblo
Oct. 13: The Denver Post/9news in Denver
Oct. 14: Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry in Denver
Oct. 22: Fox 31 in Denver
Oct. 29: CBS 4 in Denver