First Gardner-Hickenlooper Senate Debate Still On For Tonight

October 2, 2020

Update Oct. 3: A recap of the debate can be found here, or you can re-watch the debate in the video above. Our original story continues below.


The first debate between the two men facing off in Colorado’s U.S. Senate race, Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, is still moving forward as originally planned.

Both candidates have been tested and received negative results.

The event will take place in person, at 7 p.m. on Friday night at Pueblo Community College. It will be streamed online.

It’s the first of three in-person Senate debates scheduled for the coming week.

Debate moderator Steve Henson, the editor of the Pueblo Chieftain, said additional precautions will be put in place since Gardner was in Washington, D.C., this week where he may have been near people who have tested positive for the coronavirus. 

In the wake of the news that President Donald Trump has the virus, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican, confirmed today that he has also tested positive. Lee was at the White House during the Rose Garden ceremony when Trump nominated judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. 

Lee met with Barrett on Tuesday, a couple of hours before Gardner did. All of the Republican senators met with Barrett in the Mansfield Room at the Capitol, rather than have her go from office to office.

Over the summer, Barrett tested positive for COVID-19, according to The Washington Post, but has since recovered.

Lee also participated in the weekly Republican lunch with his Senate colleagues on Wednesday. Gardner’s campaign said he did not attend that lunch. It’s an opportunity for GOP senators to meet, eat and discuss policy issues and strategy. The Republican caucus has continued to hold these policy lunches during the pandemic, while Democrats have moved to weekly calls instead. In a nod to the pandemic, the Republican lunch has moved into a much larger room to allow for social distancing.

“We’re taking a lot more precautions,” said Henson of the Chieftain’s upcoming Senate debate. “The two candidates and myself are all being rapidly tested today to make sure we don’t have COVID. Of course if one of them tested positive that would be the end of the debate.”  

Later on Friday afternoon, Gardner announced on Twitter that his test was negative. A spokesman for Hickenlooper’s campaign said he has taken his COVID-19 test and got a negative result as well.

Two members of the League of Women Voters were supposed to keep the time during the debate, but Henson said they will no longer attend in person. Instead, he’ll do that himself. He said there will be a limited number of other people in the room for the debate.

“The two candidates, myself, and the camera and production crew,” Henson said. 

The presidential debate between Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden showed exactly how chaotic a political debate can be. While it could get combative at times, Henson expects the debate between Gardner and Hickenlooper to be generally substantive, informative and based on the issues.

“They’re statesman, they’re articulate, they’re respectful,” he said.

Henson and the staff of the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper prepared the slate of questions on topics such as health care, immigration and the Supreme Court.

“There’s obvious things to ask,” he said.

Telemundo will host the next Senate debate on Tuesday, Oct. 6.

On Friday, Oct. 9, Colorado Public Radio, the Denver Post and Denver7 will cohost a televised Senate debate.

The final debate will air on 9News. 

Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected; Sen. Gardner did not attend this week’s Republican lunch.