Immigration, layoffs highlight Colorado gov. debate |

Immigration, layoffs highlight Colorado gov. debate

Kristen Wyatt
Associated Press Writer
Vail, CO Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado – Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper said Saturday that, rather than support an Arizona-style immigration law if elected, he would instead lead an effort to craft an immigration compromise among the nation’s governors.

Hickenlooper’s Republican opponent, Dan Maes, repeated a promise that he would happily sign into law an immigration crackdown, even though parts of Arizona’s law have been blocked by a judge.

Republican state lawmakers from Colorado have joined several other states in considering a law similar to Arizona’s. A proposal would be forthcoming once the Legislature convenes.

Maes said he’d lead an effort to crack down not just on suspected illegal immigrants accused of crimes, but even immigrants who improperly seek government services.

“If they do not have valid identification, they must be told to go home,” he said.

Hickenlooper, Denver’s mayor, repeated his belief that states are unable to enact immigration reform alone. He said one of his first efforts if elected would be trying to broker a national gubernatorial compromise on immigration to propose to Congress.

Hickenlooper sarcastically suggested that if Maes had his way, jails would be so full of illegal immigrants that “we’d have murderers running down the streets” to make room.

A third-party candidate in the race, conservative Tom Tancredo, is an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration. But Tancredo was not invited to participate in Saturday’s debate.

Maes also defended his comment earlier this summer that he’d lay off thousands of state employees if elected. Maes said the cuts would be painful, but would help avoid tax hikes.

“We must shrink the size of government,” Maes said. He backed off his original statement that he’d fire thousands on “day one” of taking office, though.

“I think the first day might be a mistake,” he said. Maes didn’t elaborate on how soon he’d seek layoffs.

Maes, a first-time candidate whose repeated gaffes on the campaign trail have made him the butt of jokes, insisted that he is up to the job.

Even during the Republican primary, Maes pointed out, he wasn’t taken seriously but still managed to defeat a former congressman to earn the nomination.

Prominent Republicans have since called the political rookie unelectable. Maes fired back in his closing statement.

“We’ve been having a little fun with Dan Maes, haven’t we?” Maes asked.

He tried to turn his political isolation into an advantage.

“I stood up to the powerful people. No one is gonna buy me.”

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