Gubernatorial candidates Bob Beauprez and Bill Ritter sparred over past legislation and future direction at a debate sponsored by the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance today in Loveland.
The event billed as “Decision 2006: The Race for the Dome” pitted the candidates against a panel of regional journalists and audience questions that focused exclusively on business-centric issues like immigration, economic development, water rights, and transportation. While the answers were well rehearsed, the issue that served as the proxy war between the two candidates was where the real rhetorical points were made. It was an interesting, if not risky, tactic to make Referendum C the focus of much of the debate this afternoon. It’s common knowledge where the candidates stood on the issue last November – Ritter publicly supported the measure while Beauprez opposed it.
However, the location of today’s event was literally on the border of Larimer and Weld Counties where the electorate voted in polar opposite manner on the issue. Larimer voters supported Referendum C by 56% while Weld voters opposed it by the same amount.
More than a dozen references to the 2005 ballot measure during the hour-long debate contrasted the candidates’ positions on funding for transportation, higher education and tourism as well as their approaches to state fiscal policy.
Ritter’s criticism of the Congressman’s plans to sell state assets and the securitization of tobacco settlement funds drew applause from the audience. Beauprez angrily denounced Ritter’s characterization of his positions as “baloney” and claimed that Referendum C was yesterday’s news.
Beauprez scored points with the audience by calling the Democratic majorities in the state legislature “anti-business” and offering a host of garden variety GOP platforms from tort reform to tax cuts, including an immediate reduction in the state tax rate from 4.63 to 4.5 percent.
Ritter rebuked Beauprez’s campaign promises as well as his actions in Congress as fiscally irresponsible for supporting the unprecedented increase in the federal debt ceiling to $9 trillion and voting with the Bush Administration 95 percent of the time.