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Polis, Stapleton commit to debates (but not all the same ones)

Author: Joey Bunch - July 30, 2018 - Updated: July 31, 2018

From left: Walker Stapleton and Jared Polis (File photos)

Democrat Jared Polis and Republican Walker Stapleton laid out the gubernatorial debates they’re willing to do Monday. Now the haggling on the dates, venues and questions begins.

Both campaigns told Colorado Politics they have been inundated with requests to appear at debates and other joint events.

Polis issued a press release Monday afternoon challenging Stapleton to 13 debates and forums. The campaign also announced that Polis’ former primary challengers — Mike Johnston, Cary Kennedy and Donna Lynne — will serve as surrogates for Polis at three other events — a move evidently aimed at putting to rest whether the party is fractured after the contentious primary that featured attack ads and counter-attack ads.

Most notably, Lynne, the sitting lieutenant governor, will pinch hit for Polis at a Club 20 debate in Grand Junction on Sept. 8. The candidate debates at Club 20 — the Western Slope coalition of counties, business and other civic leaders — is seen as a major event on the state political calendar, but especially for Western Colorado politicos.

Club 20 didn’t take the news well, noting its 22 counties include two U.S. Congressional seats, eight Colorado
House districts, four Colorado Senate districts and more than 580,000 Coloradans.

“It is a shame that Candidate Polis is unwilling to participate in a non-partisan forum where our voices can be heard,” Christian Reece, Club 20’s executive director, said in a statement. “No gubernatorial candidate has skipped this debate in recent memory and it is a slap in the face to all of Western Colorado.”

Both campaigns favor doing a debate put on by the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel and other partners, however, if they can agree on a date.

In all, the campaigns have five debates in common on their lists, including one in Pueblo and three television station-led debates in Denver.

“Voters in every community across Colorado deserve to know how we plan to address the biggest challenges facing their families — from rising expenses and flat paychecks, to the cost of health care, to the need for better funding for our public schools,” Polis said in a statement. “I am excited to attend these 13 debates and forums and discuss my positive vision to fight for a Colorado where every family has the opportunity to get ahead.”

Stapleton listed Club 20 at the top of his list.

“I look forward to debating Congressman Polis across Colorado and will use these opportunities to show the stark contrast between our two visions,” he said in a statement. “My message of economic opportunity is resonating with voters, and Coloradans understand Congressman Polis’ policies will lead to job losses, higher taxes, and economic ruin for our state. I hope Congressman Polis will accept these debates and join me in discussing the important issues facing Coloradans and our very different visions for addressing them.”

Here is the schedule of the events Polis prefers, followed by Stapleton’s. Debates that both candidates say they’ll attend personally are in bold.

Jared Polis


  • Grand Junction Daily Sentinel/Colorado Mesa University/Rocky Mountain PBS — Grand Junction
  • CBS4, CPT 12, KOA, KHOW — Denver
  • Pueblo Chieftain — Pueblo
  • Denver7, Denver Post, University of Denver — Denver
  • 9News/Fort Collins Coloradoan — Denver
  • KOAA — Colorado Springs


  • Metro Mayors Caucus
  • Arvada Chamber of Commerce
  • Colorado Concern
  • Broomfield Chamber of Commerce
  • CACI/Chamber of Commerce
  • Jewish Colorado
  • The Equitas Project


  • Johnston — Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance forum
  • Lynne — Club 20 debate
  • Kennedy — at an event to be announced in the coming weeks.

Walker Stapleton


  • Club 20 — Grand Junction
  • 9News, Coloradoan, Colorado State University – Fort Collins
  • CBS4, Colorado Public Television 12, KOA NewsRadio, 630 KHOW — Denver
  • Denver7,  the Denver Post, University of Denver – Denver
  • Pueblo Chieftain – Pueblo
  • Colorado Springs Gazette – Colorado Springs
  • Denver Chamber of Commerce – Denver
  • Progressive 15 – Greeley
  • Grand Junction Sentinel – Grand Junction

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.