With voting in Colorado’s pivotal U.S. Senate race already well underway, Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and his Democratic challenger, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, appeared at what may have been their final joint event before the election on Thursday, speaking separately at a candidate forum hosted by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.
Both Gardner and Hickenlooper pitched themselves as bridge-building moderates to an audience of Colorado business leaders, discussing topics including health care, infrastructure, energy and recovering from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic — and both touted Colorado as a model for national success.
“I hope that what we’ve been able to share with the people of Colorado is a vision that makes Colorado when you have fewer taxes and less regulation, not more,” Gardner said. “When you empower people across all four corners of this state to succeed, that’s exactly what we have — a successful state with more opportunities, not less.”
“We need to do in Washington what we did in Colorado, which is to come together,” Hickenlooper told moderator Ed Sealover of the Denver Business Journal. “And in this case, I think we need to rebuild our economy in a more equitable fashion. We’ve gone through so much, and we’re going to rebuild our system better than it was before. And we’re not going to do this with the same people in Washington.”
Despite not appearing on stage together, both candidates took the opportunity to echo the criticisms of one another that they have lodged throughout four head-to-head debates in recent weeks, drawing a particularly sharp contrast on the issues of fossil fuels and climate change.
“I’m an all-of-the-above energy believer,” said Gardner, who has repeatedly avoided directly acknowledging the role of the fossil-fuel industry in global warming. “John Hickenlooper has said that he would make oil and gas obsolete. … That means that he would be supportive of anything that would make those jobs go away.”
Hickenlooper — who consistently faced criticism from environmentalists for his record on oil and gas issues during his time as governor — spoke in favor of accelerating the transition to clean energy, comparing Gardner’s views on climate issues to President Donald Trump’s coronavirus response.
“Trump looked at COVID-19 and thought, ‘If we don’t talk about it, maybe it’ll go away,'” Hickenlooper said. “President Trump and Cory Gardner have the same attitude towards climate change. They’re not really taking it seriously enough, with a sense of urgency.”