GRAND JUNCTION – Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez challenged Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper to answer whether he intends to grant clemency to a death-row inmate before Hickenlooper leaves office, prompting one of the liveliest exchanges during their first debate Saturday.
“I have no plan to revisit my decision, so my decision stands,” Hickenlooper said. He said: “The government shouldn’t be in the business of taking people’s lives.”
Republicans have blasted Hickenlooper in ads for his decision to grant an indefinite reprieve to Nathan Dunlap, who was convicted of killing four people at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant.
Hickenlooper has been criticized for his decision because a subsequent governor can reverse it, leaving Dunlap’s fate unresolved.
Beauprez’s question to Hickenlooper during the debate on Saturday comes after Hickenlooper suggested in a yet-to-be-aired CNN interview that he could grant Dunlap clemency should he lose his re-election bid
While his opponents slam him on the death penalty, Hickenlooper has pledged to avoid negative ads. He focused many of his debate remarks touting Colorado’s economy as one of the best in the nation.
During his time in office, the state reversed a $1 billion budget shortfall, while increasing the state’s reserves to nearly $600 million, he said. He said that many sectors are adding jobs, and that state unemployment is at 5.3 percent. It was just more than 9 percent when he took office.
Beauprez said that doesn’t paint the whole picture, arguing that the figure doesn’t account for people who have given up looking for work. He described the state’s economy as being middle-of-the-pack and says he can improve it.
“We have a long ways to go, and we’re better than this,” Beauprez said.
For Hickenlooper, the brewmaster-turned-politician who was easily elected Denver mayor twice and cruised into the governor’s office in 2010, this is arguably the biggest challenge of his career. Polling has shown the race to be tied.
Beauprez, a former congressman, is getting a second crack at winning the governor’s office after a crushing defeat in 2006.
The candidates debated Saturday evening in Grand Junction at an event hosted by Club 20, an influential western Colorado advocacy group.