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Gubernatorial Candidates Divided On TABOR, Education Funding And Gun Control At UNC Debate

Matt Bloom
Candidates for Colorado governor at the University of Northern Colorado on April 10. From left: Erik Underwood (D), Mike Johnston (D), Greg Lopez (R), Scott Helker (L), Doug Robinson (R), Donna Lynne (D) and Steve Barlock (R)

When asked what they thought the defining issue facing Colorado is, the panel of seven candidates at Monday night’s gubernatorial debate in Greeley couldn’t pick just one.

“The most important thing the next governor has to do is to build a coalition statewide to go to the ballot and repeal the worst parts of TABOR to build schools,” Mike Johnston, a Democrat, said to the crowd of 100 people in UNC’s University Center Grand Ballroom.

Fellow Democrat Erik Underwood echoed Johnston’s concerns, but was quick to call him a “Johnny-come-lately” on repealing TABOR.  

"Actually, I'm the only original candidate on the Democratic side that wanted to repeal TABOR," he said. "So, thank you."

Doug Robinson, a Republican, said he had multiple priorities but pointed to the future of the state’s transportation infrastructure as a critical issue.  

“I think we’ve been drifting without a plan for our future,” Robinson said. “We have to invest in our roads and if we do that, commerce will follow infrastructure.”

Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, a Democrat, said it was mistake for a gubernatorial candidate to prioritize one issue over others. 

“I think we have a process issue,” Lynne said. “We don’t talk about what we need to do. We kinda knee-jerk through issues and just keep going along.”

Libertarian candidate Scott Helker urged voters to avoid polarizing language in the upcoming midterm elections.

Republican Greg Lopez said he was most concerned about Coloradans being able to have mature, productive conversations about key issues like transportation and education funding. 

Fellow Republican Steve Barlock said securing the future of the state’s water sources was his main priority.

Monday’s conversation, moderated by Denver 7News anchor Anne Trujillo and UNC political science lecturer Gregory Williams lasted more than two hours. The candidates fielded questions on everything from sexual harassment in the workplace to more lighthearted questions about if the candidates would rather be stuck in an elevator with President Donald Trump or former President Barack Obama. 

Democratic candidates across the board adamantly opposed arming teachers with guns and favored stricter gun control legislation. Republican candidates were less intent on tightening gun laws. 

When asked about their stances on LGBT rights in Colorado, all candidates said they would represent people equally no matter their sexual orientation.

The Greeley Tribune live streamed the event on Facebook. 

Not all the candidates hoping to replace Gov. John Hickenlooper this fall participated. Early favorites Walker Stapleton, Cary Kennedy and Jared Polis were not present – but are expected to attend their respective parties’ state assemblies this weekend.

John French, an unaffiliated candidate, was scheduled to participate in Monday’s debate but did not attend.

I cover a wide range of issues within Colorado’s dynamic economy including energy, labor, housing, beer, marijuana, elections and other general assignment stories.
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