WATCH: The first head-to-head debate in the Colorado governor’s race was about … crypto-currency?

This weekend in Aspen, a Democrat and Republican running for governor of Colorado faced off about crypto-currency in a debate co-moderated by the pro wrestler conspiracy theorist and ex-Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who showed up wearing a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt.

The venue: The Nexus Conference in Aspen, held Sept. 21-23.

The candidates: Democrat Erik Underwood and Republican Lew Gaiter.

The topic: The kind of blockchain technology popularized by Bitcoin, the world’s first decentralized digital currency.

Bitcoin is a kind of virtual currency that is not backed by a government and does not exist on paper. Bitcoins are mined on computers and transactions are verified and recorded on a public ledger called a blockchain. Blockchain technology— digital public ledgers stored on many different computers instead of a centralized location— is on the rise. Fast Company recently asked whether blockhain technology by governments and private businesses would “revolutionize” the global real estate market by organizing title records. Fortune reported recently how Big Pharma is using blockchain technology to track medications. Last year, Delaware’s governor created a blockchain initiative to “provide an enabling regulatory and legal environment for the development of blockchain technology and to welcome blockchain companies to locate in the state.”

In tech-forward Colorado, a state that legalized the sale of recreational marijuana and whose cannabis businesses struggle with banking because of federal regulations, a conference on blockhain technology was an easy fit.

Conference organizer Jon Hazell told The Colorado Independent part of the idea of the conference was to bring those outside the crypto-currency bubble into the fold. He wanted to attract politicians, for instance, and he did. In Aspen, political figures from the far left like Dennis Kucinich mixed with far-right pols like Ron Paul.

Crypto-currency, Hazell says, can often be associated with more libertarian ideals, but it “should not be a party thing.”

In that spirit, Hazell says he reached out to all the candidates for governor and got initial commitments from perhaps 10, before the number whittled down to two. He said a GOP breakfast scheduled for around the same time likely meant a conflict for Republicans whom he described as less dismissive about participating than some Democratic campaigns.

That left Democratic media tech entrepreneur Underwood of Boulder and Republican Larimer County Commissioner Gaiter going head to head on a stage before a crowd of hundreds.

“The conference is having a probably first-time-ever event: It’s a crypto-currency-blockchain-technology-oriented governor’s debate,” Hazell said in a promotional video. “So we have candidates from all sides coming, and they’re going to be talking about blockchain technology and crypto-currency and how it relates to the state of Colorado.”

The two candidates who showed are both running in wide fields in their respective primaries that include big names. Underwood, a former Republican who switched parties because of Donald Trump, is running on abolishing Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights amendment and on immigration reform. Gaiter is a self-described home-schooler of nine children and a two-term GOP county commissioner who says he’s probably raised the least amount of money in the governor’s race so far.

“You really set yourself apart from all the other candidates being here for the people and really being interested in learning more and also educating our audience about blockchain technology,” said co-moderator Christina Tobin, the founder of The Free & Equal Elections Foundation.

Some highlights: Underwood said he has a plan to “create a crypto-currency for Colorado” that would link up with the cannabis industry to track sales and tax revenue. He also popped Gaiter for supporting a “very divisive” Trump— a “man who wants to build a wall.”

Gaiter, his arm in a sling from a broken collarbone, said that while he was opposed to the statewide ballot measure legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana, he helped green-light two pot businesses as a county commissioner once it passed. He said in his closing statement, “where we’re going with crypto-currency, with blockchain, I think that is fantastic, I think we have a huge opportunity to be on the forefront of something exciting.”

Watch the video below to see how the candidates respond to the digital disruption of financial markets, economic privacy, and banking for marijuana businesses. They come in at minute 43.


Photo by Zach Copley for Creative Commons in Flickr.