Editor’s Note: This post is the second part of a two part series to fact check the final debate between Colorado Senate candidates Cory Gardner (R) and John Hickenlooper (D). This race has been considered one which could determine the majority party in the United States Senate. See part 1 here. Fact checks apply to the bolded statements they are near.
Marshall Zelinger (9News moderator): Let’s return to disparity in Colorado, our project to discuss racial equality and specifically police reform. Mr. Hickenlooper. During your term as Denver Mayor from 2003 to 2011, Denver City Council approved more than $6 million to settle use of force cases or deaths involving law enforcement, settlements and incidents that have continued since. How will you be able to reform these problems as a senator when you weren’t as mayor and even governor?
John Hickenlooper: So I look at the progress we made when Paul Childs was shot before I was even inaugurated as a mayor, we began police reform, we worked with the Black Ministerial Alliance. And we created some of the first major reforms: civilian oversight commission, an officer, the independent monitor to investigate claims of misconduct by the police, and we began trying to hold police officers accountable.
This statement is true. As mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper did pass reforms to reduce use of lethal force by police officers and establish an independent monitor and civilian oversight commission.
I think what’s remarkable is that Colorado, our general assembly this past year, actually on a bipartisan level, passed legislation that is a model for what we should be able to do nationally. They banned chokeholds; they banned no-knock warrants. They require police officers to keep their cameras on. They held police officers accountable for their actions; they passed limitations on qualitative immunity.
This statement is true. In June 2020, a bill dubbed ‘Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity’ was passed by the Colorado General Assembly. The bill’s requirements include: A ban on chokeholds, ban on use of deadly force to arrest someone on suspicion of minor or non-violent offenses, ban on use of deadly force unless there is proof of imminent danger, a requirement for law enforcement officers to wear body cameras and release the footage to the public.
This is the type of reform that needs to go to Washington. Instead of what we’ve seen so far in Washington has just been suggestions without any real teeth.
Kyle Clark (9News moderator): Thank you, Mr. Hickenlooper. Mr. Gardner. How do you believe systemic racism affects Coloradans and what have you done about it?
Cory Gardner: Well, look, I believe that this country is inherently good. I believe that this nation is a great nation that has made mistakes, yes. That we learn from those mistakes, yes. Our souls were seared in a way perhaps that we’ve never seen with the murder of watching it, of George Floyd. And we must make sure that we are passing reforms like the Justice Act that John Hickenlooper has belittled here tonight, legislation that would have provided tracking for police violence and opportunities for us to get more dollars in the hands of states to do the right thing when it comes to police reforms.
In our analysis of the debate, John Hickenlooper has not mentioned the Justice Act in any manner.
We need to make sure that we’ve passed the Justice Act. We need to make sure that we focus on things like the First Step Act, which is our bill to reform sentencing, our efforts to provide historically black colleges and universities with mandatory funding so that we can bring more equality.
But again, what you didn’t hear from John Hickenlooper tonight is why he didn’t step away and why he didn’t condemn Recreate 68, which called for violence, which called for defunding police; why he won’t call for an investigation into what he now describes as a murder of Marvin Booker.
Marshall Zelinger: Thank you, Mr. Gardner. Let’s talk about climate change and the energy industry. And the questions come from Jacy Marmaduke who’s written on the environment and politics for our partners at the Coloradoan.
Jacy Marmaduke (Coloradoan reporter): Mr. Gardner, first for you: we’re continuing to see impacts of climate change play out in Colorado in the form of devastating wildfires, record heat and intensifying drought. You portrayed yourself as an environmental advocate in recent campaign ads. But over the last three years, you voted to rollback limits on greenhouse gas emissions for the fossil fuel industry and confirm former fossil fuel lobbyists as leaders of the EPA and the Department of the Interior. Why have you voted against climate action even as climate change continues to take a toll on your state?
Cory Gardner: Well, thank you, Jacy, thank you for the question. If you look at those commercials that are running on TV, they talk about the Great American Outdoors Act. This is the most important conservation legislation that has passed the United States Senate in over 50 years. It will create thousands of jobs right here in Colorado. It’s the biggest infusion of money into our public lands in the history of our country.
The Great American Outdoors Act will primarily create a fund to fix deferred maintenance at national parks, as well as guarantee funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Exact job figures created by this act are unclear.
The Natural Resources Defense Council has said of that legislation, that it addresses two pressing issues of our time: one, climate change and two, biodiversity. That bill that just got signed into law addresses climate change.
I’ve also passed a nearly 50% increase in funding of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory right here in Colorado, to focus on efforts to address climate change to reduce emissions.
Cory Gardner is a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; however, it is unclear if he played a role in increasing the NREL’s funding.
Source: Gardner’s press release and Colorado Politics
But my plan doesn’t include laying off 230,000 Coloradans. That’s what John’s plan would do.John would destroy the livelihoods of 230,000 Colorado families because he wants to make their job obsolete. Just a few miles down the road from us, Weld county relies on those jobs. My hometown relies on those jobs. But John Hickenlooper, his plan is to shoot those jobs down.
The truthfulness of this statement cannot be determined; however, it is true that two coal-fired power plants are to be closed in Craig, Colorado. Tri-State Generation, the company that operated the plant, has stated they plan to transition to clean energy in the wake of this closure.
Jacy Marmaduke: I didn’t hear you address your specific votes that were related to the greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and your confirmations to the EPA and the Department of the Interior.
Cory Gardner: Well, look, if you look at the work that we continue to do with the Great American Outdoors Act addresses climate change. If you look at the other votes, I’m sure there, the number of jobs that they would have cost was too high. I don’t think we have to punish our economy in order to achieve reductions in pollution and to address climate change. What those rules and regulations would have done is driven up the cost of electricity in Colorado, for those who can least afford it. And when it comes to appointees, I’m excited about the fact that Colorado has its Secretary of Interior from Rifle, Colorado, in place in Washington, D.C. We were just in Colorado breaking ground under Arkansas Valley conduit. That’s the kind of work that we need to continue to do. But I will not destroy the economy in pursuit of a radical further than [the] Green New Deal agenda.
Jacy Marmaduke: Mr. Hickenlooper, since you were name-checked there would you like to have 30 seconds for rebuttal?
John Hickenlooper: You bet I would. Just because you have one environmental bill doesn’t make you an environmentalist. The NRDC endorsed me, not Cory Gardner.
This statement is true. John Hickenlooper was endorsed by the NRDC Action Fund.
I think we should recognize his role, he has voted to roll back clean air and clean water protections. He voted to put a coal lobbyist in charge of the EPA, and we’re replacing two coal-fired electrical plants with wind, solar and batteries and the monthly electric bill is going to go down.
It is true that Cory Gardner has voted to roll back multiple environmental laws and regulations, however his participation in the Great American Outdoors Act muddles his stance on climate change.
And that’s what the future is, is we’re going to transition to a clean energy economy. It’s going to make six times more jobs than are going to be lost.
Cory Gardner: Are those jobs going to be replaced in Craig that were lost as a result of those closings?
Jacy Marmaduke: I’ve got a specific question for Mr. Hickenlooper on your oil and gas record. You supported the industry during your tenure as governor and you even drank fracking fluid at one point to prove that it was safe. Now you’re pushing for 100% renewable electricity. Why did you change your stance in oil and gas drilling and why should people who care about climate change trust that you’ll follow through on your platform?
John Hickenlooper: Well, let’s be very clear. I always was focusing on climate change. I got a master’s in earth environmental science in 1979. We didn’t call it climate change. We called it the greenhouse effect, but we knew it had the potential to be an existential threat to all of mankind. And we’re seeing those consequences now. What we did in Colorado, we were the first state to hold the oil and gas industry accountable, and to create methane regulations, which, you know—methane, when it’s vented is 80 times more harmful to climate than CO2.
This statement is true. As mayor and governor, John Hickenlooper created the nation’s first regulations on methane.
And yet, those methane regulations were rolled out by Canada’s national policy, they were rolled up by the United States as national policy, until, of course, President Trump came in and with the support of Cory Gardner, they got rid of our methane regulations.
This statement is true. The Trump administration weakened legislation regarding the need to detect and repair methane leaks.
Not only that, they rolled back the limitations on emissions from vehicles. You know, from coal generation, all these things, all these plants, all these emissions are now going unchecked.
Cory Gardner: If I could respond, actually, the court just struck down those methane regulations.
This statement is true. The methane regulations were struck down by a federal court that ruled the regulation went beyond the scope of the Bureau of Land Management.
The methane regulations still stand in Colorado. He may have drank the fracking fluid, but he’s also drank the Kool Aid now. The fact is, he himself said he wanted to go further, further than the Green New Deal. Make no mistake about it, what that means for Colorado. If you work in oil and gas, he wants you gone from your job. If you work in the coal mines around Craig, Colorado, he wants you gone from those jobs. That’s your record. And you’ve said it, you run TV commercials about the fact that you’ve closed those down.
Kyle Clark: Mr. Gardner, thank you 30 seconds for you to respond and we’ll move on.
John Hickenlooper: It’s absolutely ridiculous. The bottom line is that we’re going to create far more jobs through a new energy economy than are ever going to be lost.
There is evidence that a clean energy economy has the potential to create many new jobs.
We are going to get to clean energy, and it is going to be less expensive. But we’ve got to do this on an integrated basis on a national level. So, we’ve got to take up the best practices we started here in Colorado and move them out. Again, Cory Gardner has voted again and again to roll back the protections for clean air, clean water. He didn’t just go neutral on climate change. He actually took us in the wrong direction.
The statement is true. See previous note.
Kyle Clark: Thank you, Mr. Hickenlooper. Mr. Gardner, your signature promise when you were running for the Senate was, quote, “When my party is wrong, I’ll say it.” Democrats point to your unwavering loyalty to President Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and say that you broke that promise. But there’s another way to look at it in which the promise holds, but that would mean that the reason why you don’t defy them is because you think that they’re right almost all the time. Can you explain how you view that pledge and whether you’ve kept it?
Cory Gardner: I continue to stand up for the people of Colorado time and time again. I continue to fight for those jobs in Colorado that John Hickenlooper wants to destroy. I’ve fought against my party on immigration because I believe we need an immigration policy that works. I fought against my party on marijuana legalization because I believe states’ rights matters, and the state of Colorado is leading the way. I fought against my party when it comes to conservation.
Cory Gardner’s record does support that he has fought against his party on the issues of immigration and cannabis legalization.
Source: Denver Post and CPR News
It’s why we convinced the president to change his mind on permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. I have passed 11 bills into law. I’m the third most bipartisan member of the United States Senate for a reason, because I believe if you build in that support with Republicans and Democrats, you can get things done.
It is true that Cory Gardner has been ranked the third most bipartisan member of the United States Senate, based on the number of bipartisan bills he has sponsored.
Now, I am sure that not every Democrat in the state including John Hickenlooper is happy with my record, probably because Gardener ends in “R” but the fact is, we have been able to get things done for the state, supporting the people of Colorado, supporting the people of Colorado 100% of the time, things like moving to the Bureau of Land Management to Colorado, and I will continue to fight for this state.
Marshall Zelinger: Mr. Hickenlooper, you’ve been the boss in previous elected roles and in the private sector. That’s one of the reasons you gave for not wanting to be a senator and saying you wouldn’t be good at it. You’re asking voters to pick you for a job six years, guaranteed. That’s a long time to be testing out whether or not it’s something you’d be good at. What was the last job you had where you weren’t the boss? And were you any good at it?
John Hickenlooper: So, the last job I had where I wasn’t the boss, I was a geologist back in the early 1980s. But certainly, as the boss, as a small business owner, I was the optimist. I was a problem solver. But I only did that by bringing the whole team together as a mayor, as a governor. I wasn’t the person that had to dominate every conversation. Our success was because we attracted people that knew how to get things done. And that’s really the problem in Washington.
You hear all the things that Cory Gardner says, it sounds like everything in Washington is fine. He’s got all these bills, but nothing’s changing, nothing’s really happening that is going to change our lives, is going to address climate change. Look at the pre-existing conditions. His bill—I mean five independent fact checkers say that in his precious bill, there is no protection for people with pre-existing conditions.
As referenced previously, a Colorado Public Radio investigation found that the bill does not provide adequate protections for those with a pre-existing condition.
If you remember one thing tonight, that that lie is not just a lie to me or to the viewers; it’s a lie to 2.4 million Coloradans who already have preexisting medical conditions.
Marshall Zelinger: Mr. Hickenlooper, it was another introspective question, and I heard a lot about Cory Gardner but you said you’re a geologist. The second half of the question was, were you any good at it?
John Hickenlooper: I think, well to be very blunt, I was a good geologist but I was not a great geologist, and I remember to this day I was out of work for two years after the industry collapsed in the mid 80s. I finally ended up opening one of the first brew pubs in the country. And I remember the first day when I walked into that restaurant, and the electricity and having brought people together and creating a team that was really going to do something special. We’re going to kind of resurrect the whole economy of lower downtown. I knew I was going to be 10 times better at running that restaurant than I ever was as a geologist.
Kyle Clark: Thank you, Mr. Hickenlooper. After that deep dive into a LinkedIn profile, we will shift to a discussion about whether an American president will peacefully give up power after losing, the hallmark of our republic for centuries. Ernest Lunning from coloradopolitics.com has a question for Mr. Gardner,
Ernest Lunning (Colorado Politics reporter): Senator, President Trump several times has refused to commit himself to a peaceful transfer of power after the election. And at last week’s debate, Vice President Mike Pence also wouldn’t say whether he will accept a peaceful transfer of power. As we saw here in Denver over the weekend, things in this country are the boiling point. First, are you okay with the president you’re endorsing being anything less than clear on this question? And second winner lose what concrete steps will you take to make sure there is a peaceful transfer of power at the White House?
Cory Gardner: Well, thank you, Mr. President should be crystal clear. Every single person in this country should be crystal clear that there will be a peaceful transition of power, there’s no doubt about that. Kyle said that that’s the hallmark of our democracy, I think that’s the exact statement that I put out. This is the hallmark of democracy, a peaceful transition, and there’s no doubt about it, and we will follow the constitution. What will we do about it? We will follow the law, we will follow the Constitution.
Now, Governor Hickenlooper’s the last question he was asked what the last job he had where he wasn’t in charge. Well, you know what I can tell you right now I have one of those jobs where I’m not in charge. It’s the people of this country and the people of the state that are in charge of this position in the United States Senate. I work for the people of Colorado. We all work for the people of our country as elected officials to the United States Congress, and what you’ve heard in his answer is yet once again, an example of somebody who wants to go to Washington, not realizing they work for the people, that they’re the boss, they’re in charge. That’s what matters in this election. Thank you.
Marshall Zelinger: Now, some questions about the role of big tech plays in our lives and in politics. Mr. Hickenlooper, I’ll start with you. You supported bringing Amazon’s second headquarters to Colorado. Do America’s big tech companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook stifle competition and do you see the need for any specific additional regulation?
John Hickenlooper: So, we’re seeing and over the last, I think, eight years now or nine years, we’ve seen a dramatic or a consistent but over time, a dramatic decline in the number of new businesses starting every year.
According to Colorado’s Quarterly Business and Economic Indicators, new entity fillings have steadily increased every year since 2011. The number of new establishments has remained fairly consistent since 2009.
And I think there’s no question that such as big tech, there is a level of consolidation and corporate size that based on a number of different polls [puts] small businesses at a serious disadvantage. Certainly, when we look at the responses to COVID and the first CARES Act that really didn’t have sufficient support for the truly small businesses. They’re the backbone of America. So whether you’re looking at Amazon or Google, these behemoth companies have to be much more responsible to their communities, and they’ve got to be able to address the issues of their size and how it squelches competition, how it inhibits entrepreneurs from starting businesses [and] are also going to have to deal with the consequences. I think we’ve seen in the past that we have sets of laws that demonstrate that size can be a barrier to competition and innovation.
Marshall Zelinger: Thank you. Quick 30-second follow up: what should social media giants do about disinformation, misinformation and conspiracy theories online? And if they don’t take action is that a place for Congress to get involved?
John Hickenlooper: Well, that’s one of the trickiest questions you’re going to get. I mean this country is based around the notion of free speech, that that is one of our most sacred rights, and we shouldn’t lightly discuss it. That being said, we’ve got to have some confidence in the media that where we’re getting our news that they’re getting real facts. And I think we are long past the time where Facebook and these large media giants, these behemoth tech companies, they have to be responsible for whether it was truth or untruth
Kyle Clark: Mr. Gardner, tech, social media and extremism kind of come together, online. Last week, Facebook cracked down on accounts spreading the QAnon conspiracy theory reclassifying it as a militia. You have campaigned alongside QAnon supporting congressional candidate Lauren Boebert. For those who don’t know QAnon is the conspiracy theory that President Trump will soon round up and execute Democrats for eating babies. The President himself has praised QAnon nonbelievers. If we could start with a yes or no question to kind of guide our conversation on this: Do you share the FBI’s view that QAnon is a domestic terror threat?
Cory Gardner: Well, I don’t believe in QAnon, and yes, I believe they’re a threat.
Kyle Clark: Yeah, no, and I’ve never heard anybody suggest to you believe in it, and I was just asking about the FBI. To follow up on the larger issue then, so if you trust the FBI that it’s a domestic terror threat why would you campaign along somebody alongside somebody who’s expressed support for it?
Cory Gardner: Well if you listen to Lauren Boebert, she says she did not and does not.
This statement is false, Lauren Boebert has expressed support for QAnon.
Kyle Clark: But she did and that’s you could just—
Cory Gardner: I think if she listened to her explanation—look I’m not here to defend Lauren Boebert for something that she did or didn’t say. You can take your interpretation of what she did or didn’t say. I take her at her word that she does not believe or support QAnon. That’s her fact. Look, the bottom line is extremism is not something that we should accept in this country on the left or the right. And we must condemn that hate every single time that we can. There is no room for white supremacy, there’s no room for discrimination in this country we have to stop people who want to spread that kind of misinformation.
But we also can’t allow our big tech companies in Silicon Valley to stifle legitimate speech, whether it’s on the left or the right. I’ve said this before: one of the concerns I have is, if you have 2000 censors in San Francisco or 2000 censors in Washington DC, which is worse? We need a mechanism to hold them accountable to find the truth and make sure that extremism doesn’t play.
I am worried about Governor Hickenlooper’s record though when it comes to big companies like Anadarko who actually paid for policy initiatives in his governor’s office. They had a pay-to-play plan where corporations would pick offices, initiatives and policies that they paid for in his office.
This statement is true. John Hickenlooper did accept money from corporations and nonprofits to fund initiatives and positions while he was in office. Funds were used to sponsor an internship program as well as initiatives for childhood literacy.
Kyle Clark: Thank you, that’s time. That’s something that has been discussed throughout the campaign. Mr. Hickenlooper, 30-seconds to respond and we’ll move on, specifically on your actions regarding Anadarko in those positions in your office.
John Hickenlooper: So we had public private partnerships like the governors before me. Governor Polis is utilizing them now.
This statement is true. Governor Polis has also accepted money from private foundations to fund positions in the governor’s office.
They’re a way when you have tight budgets to provide resources to various programs. For us it was getting books in the hands of four-year-olds, it was making sure that we had senior efforts to make the state more hospital for seniors. USA Today ranked [us] as one of the top states for seniors recently. I mean, these were efforts where we were transparent this time.
Marshall Zelinger: Thank you. We haven’t done great on the yes or no, but we’ll try again. Some yes or no to let voters know where you stand on a few things. Next viewers tell us they don’t have enough information on Amendment B, the repeal of the Gallagher Amendment which is repealed keeps residential property taxes from going down like they’re supposed to. Do you support it? First to Mr. Hickenlooper.
John Hickenlooper: Amendment B? Yes, I do.
Marshall Zelinger: Mr. Gardener.
Cory Gardner: I don’t believe in increasing taxes on residences, no.
Kyle Clark: You two disagree on a lot of different things but I’m curious whether you believe that your opponent here is a moral and ethical man. Mr. Gardener, do you believe that of Mr. Hickenlooper?
Cory Gardner: Well thank you. I have grave concerns with Governor Hickenlooper—
Kyle Clark: It’s a yes or no question, sir.
Cory Gardner: Look, I have grave concern about his contempt, how he can stand in front of us and say there are only two—
Kyle Clark: We’re not gonna filibuster the yes or no, thank you. Mr. Hickenlooper, do you believe that Mr. Gardner is a moral and ethical man?
John Hickenlooper: Yes.
Kyle Clark: Do you believe that President Trump is a moral and ethical man? Mr. Hickenlooper?
John Hickenlooper: No.
Kyle Clark: Mr. Gardner?
Cory Gardner: Yes, I wish he would be more specific in his communications with the American people.
Marshall Zelinger: Some ballot questions here: Colorado’s Proposition 115 would outlaw abortion after 22 weeks except to save the woman’s life. Do you support this, Mr. Gardener?
Cory Gardner: Yes, I’m pro-life.
Marshall Zelinger: Mr. Hickenlooper?
John Hickenlooper: No.
Marshall Zelinger: Coloradans are being asked to join the National Popular Vote Compact, Proposition 113. It would award our electoral college votes to the candidate who gets the most votes nationwide. If it passes, it would not take effect this election. Do you support the National Popular Vote Compact, Mr. Hickenlooper?
John Hickenlooper: I’m not sure—it’s a double negative but yes.
Marshall Zelinger: You support—
John Hickenlooper: Yes.
Marshall Zelinger: Mr. Gardener?
Cory Gardner: The question was, do I support the national popular vote?
Marshall Zelinger: Would you vote yes or no on Proposition 113?
Cory Gardner: I want to keep the electoral college because I believe Colorado’s electoral votes should be—
Marshall Zelinger: So the answer is no?
Cory Gardner: Yes.
Marshall Zelinger: Proposition 118 would create a paid family and medical leave program that would provide 12 weeks of paid time off for family and medical reasons through a payroll tax paid half by employees, half by employers. Mr. Gardner, do you support?
Cory Gardner: So, I’m still trying to figure out the impact on businesses, small businesses in particular,
Marshall Zelinger: Mr. Hickenlooper?
John Hickenlooper: I support. We’re the only industrialized country that doesn’t have paid family leave.
Marshall Zelinger: Thank you both.
Kyle Clark: It’s time now for our closing statements. By a flip of a coin earlier, Mr. Gardner will go first. You both have 60 seconds. Mr. Gardner.
Cory Gardner: Thank you, Kyle, thank you 9News, the Coloradoan, ColoradoPolitics for this chance to be here today. We’re in northern Colorado, this state is far more than the Front Range, I-25; it’s the eastern plains in the western slope. It’s a state that has been made great by early pioneers and Native Americans. It’s a state that’s been made great by our immigrants who have fought hard and agriculture and engineering and medical sciences. It’s a state that this University has played a dramatic role in development.
We need somebody in Washington who’s going to fight tooth and nail for all four corners of this state. Somebody who believes that I-70 doesn’t end in Vail, that I-70 doesn’t end in Strasburg, that we value every job, whether it’s in Craig, Colorado or Weld County and Greeley, Colorado—those jobs matter. I’ve been honored to serve in the United States Senate the last six years as the third most bipartisan member of the U.S. Senate passing more legislation [than] the entire Colorado congressional delegation combined.
This statement is true. See previous note.
I’d be honored to have your support for the next six years as we fight corner-to-corner for the people of this great state.
Kyle Clark: Thank you very much Mr. Gardner. Mr. Hickenlooper, your closing statement, you have 60 seconds.
John Hickenlooper: Well thank you to CSU and to 9News for a lively debate. As I predicted we saw an avalanche, a barrage of attacks, of lies and distortions and exaggerations. I think people see through that. And I know that people understand the stakes that are involved. Colorado has a choice. Are we going to protect health care for people with pre-existing conditions or are we going to take it away? Are we going to tackle climate change head-on and protect our environment? Or are we going to keep rolling back clean air and clean water regulations like we’ve been doing? Are we going to step up and give away more tax breaks to corporations and wealthy Americans or are we going to recreate our economy in a way that actually allows more people to create their own American dream? Nothing is going to change if we don’t change Washington. That’s why I have to ask—Why I need your support, and why I need your vote. Together, we can change Washington.
Kyle Clark: Thank you, Mr. Hickenlooper. We do a lot of these debates. I think it’s rare for us to have a stage with so many combined years of public service to Colorado. On the off chance that one of your two careers in public service ends this November, we extend thanks, on behalf of the people of Colorado for the many years that you have served this state, despite the cynicism that exists today.
Meg Metzger-Seymour is the Editor-in-Chief of College Avenue and can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter @megmetzsey