DENVER — The three candidates for governor met downtown today for a friendly debate. That’s right, there are three candidates still very much in the race, at least to hear them tell it.
A relaxed, smiling, joking Dan Maes said he is in it until the end, or at least for as long as he is convinced “the people” want him in it.
“We are in it, and I don’t know how else to say it. We won the assembly, we won the primary, the people have spoken and they want me in this race, and as long as the people tell me they want me in this race then we’ll be in this race,” he told a crowd of reporters after the debate.
“This is a culture war, a culture war between the people and the machine and we’re going to find out who controls things,” said Maes, addressing increasing pressure from the Republican Party for him to get out of the race against Democratic nominee and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.
American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo was no less adamant than Maes. Asked during the debate how a race with two conservatives could have a happy ending for conservatives, Tancredo said, “It will have a happy ending because I will win.”
He said he had a better chance of winning a three-man race with Maes and Hickenlooper than Maes had of winning a two-man race. He noted that he won his first election in a field of five and that he knows it can be done.
He said he has felt for quite some time that Maes had “integrity and character issues” that would lead to a Republican defeat if Maes stays in the race. “Some people have serious reservations about your ability to serve,” he said to Maes.
Maes, for his part, said it is Tancredo who should never have gotten in the race and who should now step down. Tancredo, he said, is the one “creating angst” in the Republican Party.
Hickenlooper scoffed at the notion that the election would be a cakewalk for him, noting that no one thought he had a chance when he first ran for mayor. He said he knows first-hand that even a candidate that people think has no chance can win. “I take them both [Maes and Tancredo] very seriously.”
While all parties will probably claim victory in the debate, which was filmed in the studios of Colorado Public Television Channel 12 and will air Friday night at 9 on channels 12 and 4, none of the candidates seemed to distinguish themselves from the pack.
Speaking of his meeting with the Republican Governors Association Wednesday, Maes said the RGA is going to wait until after Labor Day to make any decisions about helping to fund his campaign. He acknowledged that he got some pressure from certain factions of the organization to step down, but said he also received support from others at the RGA.
He shrugged off the notion that Colorado GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams has applied any pressure, saying, “I don’t think Dick has applied any pressure on me one way or the other. He has been very fair and objective through the process. He has given me information and asked me to consider it accordingly. When it comes to the so-called power brokers, you know their opinion is important to me as is grassroots opinion, and right now the grassroots says we want you in this race, so I’m in this race.”
He pointed a finger at the Denver Post for “having some sport with me” and said he hoped former Sen. Hank Brown, who withdrew his endorsement Wednesday, would reconsider “when all the truth is out.”
Responding to questions about tea party and 9/12 groups wanting to meet with him, possibly to either reevaluate their support or ascertain his electability, he said he has been hunkered down with advisors a lot lately, trying to build a winning organization and hasn’t been out meeting with people as much as he was earlier.
“They are wondering what is gong on. There is a certain media out there that is trying to sway their opinions with things that are not reflective of the facts,” he said. Maes said fundraising has been picking up, noting that he picked up three $1,000 checks during breakfast today.