DENVER, COLO. (AP) — After five debates and months of campaigning, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican challenger Bob Beauprez are locked in a tight race.
It’s been a contest dominated by clashes over how the state regulates fracking, the governor’s controversial decision to halt an execution and the candidates’ disagreement over how well Colorado has weathered economic woes.
Now the ballots have been mailed and the candidates have less than three weeks to convince voters. Both campaigns and outside groups are spending millions of dollars on the race they believe is tied.
This is the state’s first general election where every registered voter will receive a ballot by mail. It’s possible the bulk of the votes will be in by Nov. 4, which makes the debating and campaigning happening right now more crucial than ever.
For Hickenlooper, a two-time Denver mayor, the election is his toughest yet. When he was elected governor four years ago, Republicans didn’t mount a serious challenge.
For Beauprez, a buffalo rancher who grew up working on his father’s dairy farm, this is a chance at redemption after a humiliating 17-point defeat when he ran for governor in 2006. If he wins, it would mark the first time Republicans have won the state’s top office since 2002.
Hickenlooper’s biggest pitch to voters is the improving economy in Colorado, where the unemployment rate is 5.1 percent, compared to 9.1 percent four years ago. Hickenlooper said the economic recovery has occurred despite several natural disasters the state has faced, including wildfires and last year’s floods.
“We did this by working together. Not by picking fights or attacking each other,” Hickenlooper said during the Colorado Springs debate.
Beauprez says Colorado’s recovery is not as robust as it should be, and he’s called for less government regulation.
“Let’s be great again. Let’s be that robust, nation-leading economy, not middle-of-the-pack, or average,” he said. Beauprez has repeatedly accused Hickenlooper of failing to be a decisive leader.
On fracking, Beauprez has criticized a deal brokered by Hickenlooper to get groups planning to put competing fracking measures on the ballot to agree to back off and instead study the issue.