DENVER – Three Republican candidates for governor said they would probably repeal a law passed last year granting in-state tuition to students who immigrated illegally.
But they stopped short of saying they would reverse another signature law Democrats passed in 2013 – civil unions for same-sex couples.
Former state Sen. Mike Kopp, Secretary of State Scott Gessler and former congressman Bob Beauprez debated Thursday afternoon at the studio of Denver television station 9News. Former congressman Tom Tancredo is refusing to debate the other Republican candidates and did not attend Thursday’s event.
When it came to repealing civil unions, Gessler said he would have to look at the specific bill before him, and Kopp said he’d consider it, but, “It’s not on my agenda.”
The three stood united in their opposition to gun laws signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper. But they distinguished themselves on a handful of other issues.
Both Republican and Democratic legislators introduced abortion legislation this year, to either ban it or try to keep it legal. Beauprez, Gessler and Kopp all called themselves pro-life, but they have differing degrees of opposition to abortion.
Beauprez said he only approves of abortion to protect the life of the mother, but he realizes others have different opinions.
“I respect that, and I will honor that when I’m governor,” he said.
Gessler said he would consider exceptions to protect the mother, as well as in cases of incest or rape.
Kopp would allow no exceptions.
“I believe that when a woman is pregnant, she has a human life inside of her. And if it’s human life, then it’s protected life under our Constitution,” Kopp said. “I’m not one of these candidates who will get squishy during a political campaign.”
They differed slightly about whether they would repeal the health-insurance exchange that the Legislature created in 2011. Under the federal Affordable Care Act, states could either create their own online exchanges or use a website run by the federal government.
Beauprez said although he would like to repeal the state exchange, he thinks it’s more productive to reform it.
“The reality, though, is we can’t wish it away. It is the law of the land, so we have to make a bad situation as good as it can be for our citizens,” he said.
Kopp and Gessler both talked about their opposition to the creation of the exchange in 2011, but Kopp criticized Gessler for not being more visible during that debate.
“I didn’t see you come over and give us a hand with that,” Kopp said. “Welcome to the club.”
All three think Colorado needs stronger regulations on marijuana, but they saved their sharpest zingers for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who criticized Colorado this week for allowing legalized pot to erode its quality of life.
“Getting advice from the governor of New Jersey on quality of life is like getting advice from the cast of ‘Jersey Shore’ on dating,” Kopp said.
Registered Republican voters will choose their candidate at the June 24 primary election to square off with incumbent Gov. John Hickenlooper.