Final Stage Of Colorado’s Dem Senate Primary May Start With A Debate Over Debates

Andrew Romanoff Picnic Forum
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff at a picnic-style candidate forum hosted by Indivisible Denver hosted for Democrats running to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020 at Barnum Park on Sunday, June 9, 2019.

Former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff is pushing his U.S. Senate primary rival, former Governor John Hickenlooper, to commit to seven debates before the Democratic primary on June 30.

The two are the last candidates standing in a once-crowded field vying to unseat Colorado’s Republican U.S Senator Cory Gardner. Romanoff qualified for the ballot with overwhelming support at Saturday’s Democratic state assembly. Hickenlooper, a two-term governor, petitioned onto the primary ballot.

Romanoff and Hickenlooper have agreed to hold several events together, but the details are not firm: no set number, format, or location has been determined.

On Tuesday Romanoff’s campaign asked Hickenlooper to agree to take part in seven debates before June 30, some of which may need to happen virtually, given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The voters deserve to hear from both of us on the same (virtual) stage before then,” the campaign wrote to Hickenlooper’s side in a letter that it also shared with the media. “Your absence from 19 candidate forums throughout this campaign made that difficult. I’m sure your schedule—like mine!—is a little clearer now. That’s why I’m inviting you to join me in seven debates. Let’s give the people of Colorado a chance to make an informed decision.”

A spokesman for Hickenlooper said the former governor does plan to debate Romanoff, but hasn’t settled on a specific number yet. 

“John has been campaigning all across Colorado for the past eight months, holding events in 54 counties already,” said campaign spokesman Ammar Moussa. “He looks forward to meeting with more voters and participating in more forums and debates throughout this campaign.”

Colorado’s Senate race is expected to be one of the most closely watched in the country. Hickenlooper is considered the frontrunner to challenge Gardner; he ended the quarter with $4.9 million cash available. Romanoff had $805,000 cash on hand.