Governor’s race a toss-up, according to polls

Lauren Glendenning
The Aspen Times
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, left, and Republican candidate Bob Beauprez greet during a gubernatorial debate Sept. 30 in Denver.
AP | FR42408 AP

ASPEN — Gov. John Hickenlooper is a Democrat feeling the heat in Colorado — that is if you believe the polls.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll a week ago puts former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, the Republican gubernatorial challenger, at 46 percent over Hickenlooper’s 42 percent, with a 3.1-point margin of error. The University of Virginia Center for Politics rates the Colorado governor’s race as a toss-up.

The lines drawn between Democrats and Republicans are as clear as ever this election season, but the races aren’t as clearly blue or clearly red as they have been in recent elections. In the 2010 homestretch before the election, Hickenlooper was leading many polls by more than 10 points. He won that election with more than 50 percent of the vote, with ultraconservative American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo picking up 36.7 percent and Republican Dan Maes getting 11.1 percent.

Beauprez ran for Colorado governor in 2006 and picked up 40.16 percent of the vote, losing to Democrat Bill Ritter’s 56.99 percent, according to state election historical data.

Beauprez has locked in on Hickenlooper’s indecisiveness and says that kind of leadership isn’t going to move Colorado’s economy, or any other issue, ahead.

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“Colorado deserves a lot better than what it’s been getting,” Beauprez said in a phone interview last month. “Hickenlooper has a passion for kicking the can down the road. A governor should make decisions.”

But Colorado’s economy is moving ahead. According to U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis data released over the summer, Colorado is one of the top five fastest-growing state economies in the country. Business Insider ranked Colorado as the No. 1 fastest-growing economy in the United States, taking into account economic movement in a number of areas such as gross domestic product growth, working-age populations, unemployment, housing prices, average annual wages and auto sales.

It’s a point Hickenlooper is touting as Election Day nears. The governor has said he won’t run negative campaign ads, and commercials depict the former Denver mayor as a man who brings both sides together — a man of the people. Hickenlooper said at the September Club 20 debate in Grand Junction that he always chooses “the Colorado way.”

Beauprez criticizes the governor for that approach, though. Hickenlooper loves to sit down and talk with people, but “he just seems to have a real problem with leading,” Beauprez said.

Hickenlooper supporters would disagree, pointing to the governor’s leadership through crises such as the Aurora movie-theater shooting and the historic flooding that hit the Boulder region last year. The Denver Post endorsement for Hickenlooper mentions those emergencies as well as historic wildfires as proof that he’s a “first-rate leader and crisis manager.”

Hickenlooper has lauded his successes in recent debates, pointing to the Business Insider ranking as well as other statistics, such as the state’s budget reserve fund, which currently stands at just about $600 million, or 5 percent of the total general fund — it was as low as 2 percent during the recession. Hickenlooper signed a bill in April that will increase the reserve fund, also known as a rainy-day fund, to 6.5 percent of the budget. Hickenlooper also touted the state’s job-creation success under his watch.

And Hickenlooper said he’s put four times the amount of Western Slope representatives in his Cabinet than any governor in history — a point he made as a rebuttal to Beauprez’s claim that Hickenlooper governs the state as if he’s still mayor of Denver.

The gun laws that Hickenlooper signed didn’t represent Western Slope values, Beauprez said. Hickenlooper has publicly admitted that he “screwed up” in signing the bill limiting ammunition magazines — and apologized to Colorado sheriffs after telling them at their biannual meeting in Aspen in June that he wasn’t aware they wanted to meet with him in 2013 before he signed three gun-control laws, adding that he felt conflicted about the bills at the time.

It’s another example of indecisiveness, according to Beauprez. So is Hickenlooper’s decision to grant death-row inmate Nathan Dunlap a reprieve rather than take a stance and either grant him full clemency or let him be executed, Beauprez said.

Hickenlooper said in last week’s 9News debate that he would let the next governor make that final call.

As for no negative advertising, political groups have been running attack ads against both candidates. They responded to criticism about that at the 9News debate last week.

Hickenlooper avoided addressing the Democratic Governors Association ads directly but said attack ads are corrosive in general.

Beauprez didn’t apologize for ads being run by conservative groups against the governor because the ads are “based on facts,” he said.

Beauprez has run 502 “mixed ads” against Hickenlooper and 856 positive ads, while Hickenlooper has run 2,679 positive ads, according to The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit group tracking political-ad spending.

As for the issues, the candidates have blasted each other when given the chance, usually in debates and newspaper articles. Some of the easy fires have been at Beauprez for his support of a 2003 ballot measure that Hickenlooper calls “the last big water grab from the Front Range,” which Beauprez defends as a water-storage project.

Beauprez has homed in on a common conservative sentiment that there’s been too much regulation under the Democratic governor and that the Democratic groups have run the obligatory attack ads on Beauprez’s stance on abortion and women’s issues.

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