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John Hickenlooper, Andrew Romanoff Debate: Both Senate Contenders Favor Law Enforcement Reforms

DENVER (CBS4) - The statewide mail-in voting has started in Colorado's Democratic Senate primary race between John Hickenlooper and Andrew Romanoff, and the two took part in a virtual debate this week hosted by CBS4. Both veteran politicians are looking to unseat Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican and Colorado's junior senator, in the general election in November. If either one was to do so, it has the potential tip the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. That could have a big impact on how the Senate responds to racism, police brutality, COVID-19 and the economy.

(credit: CBS)

In Wednesday's debate, Romanoff and Hickenlooper both sounded off on the growing call in some circles to defund police departments in light of aggressive arrest tactics. Both candidates said they would be willing to divert money away from law enforcement towards other community services.

"I'd like to reinvest in mental health care in America -- we've got those programs throughout the country -- and use the resources that we're spending now on criminalizing," Romanoff said.

"Rather than ever sending a teenager to jail, we have diversionary programs and educational programs, skills-based training, to make sure that we need smaller jails -- that we send less kids to jail, predominantly kids of color. Let's change that," Hickenlooper said.

Governors Hickenlooper (D-CO) And Kasich (R-OH) Speak At The Brookings Institution In D.C.
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 10: Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper participates in a discussion as part of the Brookings Institution's Middle Class Initiative October 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, participated in the discussion and found common ground on issues related to the economy, trade, education and other areas. Both governors are seen as potential 2020 presidential candidates. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The candidates also fielded questions about coronavirus. Both believe a second wave of COVID-19 would require a partial shutdown if there isn't more testing, tracing and treatment. They both said Congress isn't doing enough to make sure that stimulus money is going to those who need it most. And Hickenlooper also had reservations about people making more on unemployment than they would working.

Hickenlooper and Romanoff differ in their support for the Medicare for all and the Green New Deal. Romanoff supports both while Hickenlooper doesn't. They also disagree on whether Joe Biden should be the Democratic nominee for president if he is guilty of sexual assault. Hickenlooper said he believes the allegations to a large extent.

"I look at Tara Reade as someone who has shown a great deal of courage to come forward and talk about what happened to her," said Hickenlooper. "In the end I still support Joe Biden for president, absolutely."

"I believe her allegations should be investigated and taken seriously, like any allegations. I don't know whether they're true or not. I support at this point Vice President Joe Biden over Donald Trump. I will say if the allegations are proven true I would request the Democratic party pick a new nominee," Romanoff said.

Andrew Romanoff
Andrew Romanoff (credit: CBS)

Last week, Hickenlooper was found in contempt after defying a subpoena to testify before the state's independent ethics commission, even as the state footed his legal costs. He wouldn't say in the debate whether he would reimburse taxpayers and continued to defend his actions in regard to the two ethics investigations.

Hickenlooper served two terms as governor of Colorado and ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for president last year. Romanoff is Colorado's former state House speaker. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has endorsed Hickenlooper but Romanoff won the support of Colorado party activists and the top position on the ballot.

CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd moderated the debate with Colorado Sun Political Reporter John Frank, and PBS 12 Colorado Inside Out Host Dominic Dezzutti also questioning the candidates. Watch the complete 60 minute debate below:

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