Colorado gubernatorial candidates sparred off in their first major debate this afternoon, in a taped program that will be broadcast tonight on KBDI Channel 12, a public access station. Participants in the debate included Republican candidate Bob Beauprez, his Democratic competitor Bill Ritter, and two third-party challengers—Libertarian candidate Dawn Winkler, and Clyde Harkins with the American Constitution Party.“KBDI, along with the Rocky Mountain News and CBS4, are happy to host as part of our Colorado Decides debate series the first governor’s race debate of the general election season,” said Dominic Dezzutti, a program producer.
Before the taping, Beauprez and Ritter supporters camped outside the Denver-based studios and held yards signs near oncoming traffic.
“We’re here mainly to support Bob. We’re here to promote a good showing for him so that he has support from everybody,” Justin Yarusso, a campaign intern, said. “He’s got great morals. He’s a principled conservative. He’s an all around great guy.”
“I think he’s very honest. He is a people person, and I think he really has the welfare of the state in mind,” said Louise Gutierret, a Ritter supporter.
Around 2PM, members of the media were invited to watch the debate live. Issues were sometimes heated, and ranged from abortion to state budget money.
“I never denied that the state needed the money, I want to make that very very clear…I would have created the money, the short term money,” Beauprez said, in response to a question asking his position on Referendum C, a sate budget measure passed by voters last year.
Ritter responded by saying Ref. C money was needed for government programs, and that the measure’s provisions only last for five years.
When asked if anyone in Beauprez’s campaign had pressured groups to hold off on an initiative campaign to refund Ref. C money, the congressman denied knowledge of any such actions.
“It’s news to me. If you got names I’d like to hear them,” he said, claiming that he fully supported the proposed initiative. “I signed [the petition.] I think I was the first signature, in fact, I know I was the first signature.”
Beauprez also expressed frustration with what he saw as a lack of serious immigration reform, while Ritter said he was tough on the issue when he was the District Attorney (DA) in Denver.
“I was the DA in Denver. We prosecuted people who were here illegally. Convicted them of felonies,” said Ritter. “The sheriff would notify [federal immigration authorities] and say ‘come get ’em’ and they wouldn’t come and get ’em because they didn’t have the resources.”
When asked hypothetically if he would sign legislation restricting abortions in the event that the Supreme Court finding Roe v. Wade was overturned, Ritter said it would depend on the situation.
“It depends on how it looks when it comes to my desk, but I think it’s important to understand the existence of exceptions: rape, incest, even fetal anomalies. And the second part of it is, does it or does it not contain criminal penalties?” said Ritter.
The response compelled Beauprez to speak up.
“Still pro-life, huh Bill?” he said.
“Yeah, I would absolutely say that Bob,” responded Ritter.
But the two mainstream candidates weren’t the only ones to talk about the abortion issue. Libertarian candidate Dawn Winkler said she was “100% pro-choice” and used that to differentiate herself between the other candidates.
“Colorado can move in one of two discretions: we can move toward a more parental government, more bureaucracy, more programs, more intrusion into your personal life, or we can move in the direction of a pro-choice candidate-me being the only one,” said Winkler.
The debate will be broadcast tonight at 9PM on channel 12, according to Dezzutti.