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CBS4 Governor's Debate Recap: Polis, Stapleton Clash On The Issues

DENVER (CBS4) - Jared Polis and Walker Stapleton clashed on issues crucial to Colorado voters in their first fully televised debate on Friday. The two major party candidates vying to be the state's next governor participated in the hour-long debate at CBS4's studios.

(credit CBS)

Stapleton, the Republican State Treasurer, and Polis, the Democratic representative for Colorado's 2nd Congressional District, are poles apart on many topics, including health care, immigration and abortion.

With approximately 11 percent of Colorado voters undecided, according to a new poll, and less than two weeks to go before Coloradans begin casting their ballots, the debate provided an opportunity to hear their positions more clearly.


"We have a 100 day health care plan at that includes setting up reinsurance like Alaska and Minnesota have to move those highest cost care cases to prevent them from driving rates from the rest of us. To use bundled payments within Medicaid like Arkansas does, which wound up saving 20 to 30 percent on their Medicaid payments," said Polis, who supports Medicare for all. Stapleton opposes the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.

"We have a moral obligation to make Medicaid affordable because half of the Medicaid population in Colorado today are kids, even if they only represent about a quarter of the cost," Stapleton said. "We need to manage Medicaid expansion better in Colorado. ... We need to review the health care exchange because most big providers have left the health care exchange. There's only a few remaining. And the ones that have left haven't been able to keep premiums and the cost of health care in check."


"I am for a ban on third trimester abortions. I think it's a difference between my position and Congressman Polis's position which is really radical and really extreme. He wants a woman to be able to abort a baby a minute before that baby would be delivered by the mother and to me that is unconscionable as a parent and I do not support that at all," Stapleton said of his stance on abortion. Polis said that's a misrepresentation of his position.

If Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, the nation's highest court will have a solid conservative majority and could overturn the landmark case -- Roe v. Wade -- that legalized abortion. It would then be up to states to regulate abortion.

"Unfortunately it looks like with the Kavanaugh nomination the Roe v. Wade protections will be eliminated so this governor's race is not important just for the extreme case of abortion but also for IVF, for many forms of birth control. To me these are personal freedom issues. I don't think any governor, Democrat or Republican, has the right to make that decision for women."

Read More on what the candidates said about abortion.


Stapleton has made abolishing "sanctuary cities," or cities that refuse to enforce federal immigration law, one of the pillars of his campaign. He says Denver is one of the worst offenders. When asked Friday if he'd ask his administration to check a person's immigration status before providing any services he replied that he wouldn't.

"I have narrowly defined sanctuary cities to be individuals who have entered this country illegally and committed a felony-type offense. Those are the people that I've defined that we should not be giving safe harbor to. Those are the people that law enforcement is asking that Colorado have a uniform policy so that local municipalities can deal with ICE detainers properly. So that sheriffs ... don't have to be in legal limbo or legal jeopardy for simply keeping somebody who has committed a felony incarcarated and keeping their community safe."

Polis is from Boulder, which declared itself a sanctuary city, and he says he doesn't support the federal government commandeering local law enforcement to enforce their priorities. He says sanctuary city don't protect violent criminals.

"We want to make sure that we can protect our communities, that we empower local law enforcement to be able to use their limited resources to keep their communities safe. It's important that we allow access to education for the next generation of DREAMers or aspiring Americans that will hopefully someday be allowed to be American citizens when they work it out at the federal level."

Read more about what the candidates said about immigration.


Polis has served in his role in Congress for the past nine years. He's 43 and he and his partner have two children, ages 7 and 4. Should he win, he'd be the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the U.S.

Stapleton is in his second term as the state treasurer. He's 44 and married with three children, ages 10, 7 and 4.

Early on in the debate in a conversation about the Kavanaugh nomination, which has brought up accusations from the judge's past in high school and college, the two candidates were asked about police reports from their own pasts.

Stapleton was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of an accident.

"My incident was in my early 20s. I made a mistake. I learned from the mistake. It was the subject of a million dollar ad campaign when I first for treasurer and I've moved on in life," Stapleton said.

In one case Polis was cited for drag racing under an already suspended license. In another case, he wasn't charged but admitted to blocking and pushing a female employee trying to steal documents.

"I was the victim of a theft about 20 years ago," Polis said, referring to the latter incident. "I called the police. They reacted. The arrest was made. I don't think it's right to drag it up. The person who served the time is since deceased. She still has friends and family in the area."

WATCH: The candidates talk about their backgrounds.

The governor's seat is open in Colorado this year because Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper is facing term limits.

Friday's CBS4/CPT12 Colorado Governor's Debate was one of eight debates the candidates have pledged to participate in this campaign season.

WATCH: See The Complete Debate

The state's mail-in ballots go out on ‪Oct. 15.

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