COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Springs took center stage in the race to become Colorado's governor Sunday evening. Incumbent Jared Polis, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger, businesswoman and University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl, argued their case to a crowded room of 200 people at the Penrose House for the State Debate.
During his opening statements, Governor Polis touted a list of accomplishments including lowering the cost of health insurance plans sold on the state exchange, capping the cost of insulin, and the opening of new state parks.
"We said we were going to get universal full day kindergarten free for every kid done, preschool free for every kid, I stand before you four years later, we got it done," Polis said.
Regent Ganahl attacked Polis' record citing high inflation, growing crime, and fentanyl overdose deaths.
"Jared's bad policies are killing our kids, when you vote, hold him accountable," Ganahl said. "We need a new governor and tonight I hope to earn your vote."
The candidates argued over Ganahl's proposal to take the state to zero income taxes over 8 years.
"We'll lower the size of government by undoing a lot of the growth that he did, but also by putting in a hiring freeze and making sure there's no fraud and waste by implementing an audit," Ganahl explained.
"There is no way for my opponent to implement her tax scheme without slashing funding for schools, slashing funding for law enforcement, and forcing local governments to raise property taxes," Polis countered.
A heated moment came up midway through the debate as the candidates began speaking over each other in regard to the sharp rise in fentanyl deaths and the legislature's response.
Ganahl accused Polis of "decriminalizing" fentanyl, comparing the number of deaths caused by the synthetic opioid to American casualties in Afghanistan.
"It remains a felon to sell to any kind in Colorado. I support that policy, I hope you support me in supporting that," Polis said.
"We're second highest in fentanyl increase in deaths in our country, you think we're doing a good job with fentanyl, it's poisoning our kids," Ganahl interrupted.
"This is a national plague, we're 26th to be clear, in fentanyl deaths," Polis countered. "That's not something to be proud of. We're 26th in fentanyl deaths. The last time you said that it was corrected on television by a fact checker."
The candidates drew clear distinctions over energy policy. Polis said he favors renewable sources of power generation because of the cost associated with producing electricity.
"Coal power is the most expensive form of power on the grid, 8 to 10 cents per kilowatt hour. new solar is 2-3 cents per kilowatt."
Ganahl said she supports oil and natural gas exploration as a means of offsetting revenue reductions in her zero income tax plan.
"First of all, you obviously you don't pay your heating bills because they're out of control right now," Ganahl said in response to Polis' point about power generation.
"That's because of natural gas" Polis interrupted. "Entirely because of natural gas."
The debate wrapped up with each candidate hoping to win over voters before Election Day.
"I've been blessed to live the American dream right up the road in Monument," Ganahl said in her closing remarks. " I'm now a mom on a mission to make sure that our kids and grandkids can have the same opportunity that I did, that many of you did."
"I have a track record of not just saying things, but actually getting them done, preschool and kindergarten, reducing rates by 20 percent on the exchange, capping the cost of insulin," Polis said.
The State Debate was a joint effort between News 5, the Colorado Springs Gazette, and the El Pomar Foundation's Forum for Civic Advancement.
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