Where Senate candidates Cory Gardner and John Hickenlooper stand on Colorado issues

Cory Gardner vs John Hickenlooper on Colorado issues: Where the U.S. Senate candidates stand


John Hickenlooper


John Hickenlooper

Former Colorado governor and Denver mayor



Background: The economy went into a recession in February as the coronavirus began to spread and led to lockdowns across the country. In Colorado, more than 500,000 people have filed for unemployment and the state is facing billions in lost revenue.


Wants to protect small businesses

A: Hickenlooper supports four different actions to protect small businesses that are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He wants to boost the Small Business Administration’s capacity for loan forgiveness and tap the Community Reinvestment Fund to address small business liquidity. He also believes Congress should consider specific funding and benefits for small businesses including the use of technology, information and infrastructure. He also is pushing for the creation of capital pools and the development of financial products that will continue to benefit small businesses once the crisis has passed or if another may arise.
When it comes to people on unemployment, he supports the continuation of the $600 extra payments


Background: The U.S. House in May approved a $3 billion package designed to stimulate the economy amid the coronavirus and help people make ends meet. Republicans opposed the legislation, dubbed the HEROES Act, and the Senate has not acted on it.


Families should get up to $2,000 a month

A: He is backing a $3 trillion bill authored by Democrats in the U.S. House -- known as the Heroes Act -- that includes $600 in additional unemployment payments. But at the same time, he’s said he wants to see a compromise, which so far Democrats and Republicans have been unwilling to find. In addition, he supports a plan put forward by Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and others to give most people an additional $2,000 check with future payments on a sliding scale.
But he has also called for a compromise economic relief bill that is less generous, saying if he was in Washington the gridlock discussions would be different.


Background: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that President Donald Trump signed into law in December 2017 reduced the individual tax rate for most taxpayers and nearly doubled the standard deduction. In addition, it repealed or dialed back certain other deductions and removed the penalty for not obtaining health insurance. It also reduced the corporate income tax and pass-through business tax rates. The $1.5 trillion package but did not spur the economy as expected.


Called tax cuts a “regressive giveaway”

A: Hickenlooper supports ending the tax cuts signed into law by Trump, but he has called them “a regressive giveaway to wealthy families and corporations”


Background: Rural Colorado continues to face shortages of critical professions like doctors and teachers. A stunning 98% of new jobs in the past decade have been created along the urban Front Range, leaving wide swaths of the state behind. Recent federal assistance has come in the form of a farm bailout and tax incentives, but produced mixed results.


Tax credit for small businesses

A: Hickenlooper proposes a tax credit for small businesses. He wants an agenda that builds on assets of each rural community instead of a one-size-fits-all strategy. He also supports expanded access to high-speed internet access.


Background: President Donald Trump received bipartisan congressional approval for a rework of NAFTA -- now known as the USMCA, or United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The deal includes new protections for auto manufacturing and labor and the environment, and it relaxes market restrictions on dairy products to encourage trade. It came as a welcome relief to many Colorado farmers and manufacturers. But the Trump administration’s tariffs have created strained relations around the globe in recent years.


Supports the trade agreement

A: Hickenlooper supports the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. He hopes that the three countries can move ahead with protections for Colorado’s farmers, workers and businesses. Hickenlooper does not support trade tariffs and opposes President Trump’s tariffs on goods from China and the European Union. Instead, he said he supports free-trade agreements.


Background: The topic of paid family leave became a dominant conversation at the state Capitol for the past two years, but Democratic leaders recently abandoned their attempt to create a program. Instead, the idea’s supporters are pursuing a ballot measure in November. In the meantime, state lawmakers developed legislation to provide paid sick time to workers.


He supports it despite prior position

A: Hickenlooper supports the ballot measures to provide up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to workers for the birth or adoption of a child, to deal with serious health conditions or to care for a sick family member. But in 2011 as governor, he opposed a Denver ballot measure to require businesses to provide five to nine paid sick days a year, depending on the company’s size. He said it would cost jobs.




What is the top challenge for teachers in Colorado and what can you do at the federal level to address it?

Background: Colorado ranks near the bottom in terms of teacher pay and per-student funding and the current state budget crisis is only making the situation worse. Colorado lawmakers will underfund education by $1 billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year, compared to the constitutional requirement for classroom spending.


Invest more money in teachers and schools

A: As governor during the Great Recession, Hickenlooper’s first budget proposal called for a $332 million cut, or $497 per student, to Colorado schools. At the time, he stated, “There’s nothing I’ve ever grappled with as long and hard as that.” Hickenlooper later vowed to help push for the state to pay back about $1 billion borrowed from education during the recession but never signed a budget to fully fund education.
Looking ahead, he said he supports putting more money into classrooms but did not provide specific policy proposals. He said he would push for allowing public school staff to organize in unions and support an education secretary who is a “strong advocate for public schools.”


Background: Student debt is emerging as a bigger problem in Colorado than other states. About 734,000 Colorado borrowers are paying off student loans, totaling $26 billion, a 2019 study found. The amount of student loan debt increased 176% in a 10-year span that ended in 2017.


Supports cutting the federal interest rate on student loans

A: In order to relieve student loan debt, Hickenlooper supports cutting the federal interest rate on student loans to 2.5% or lower, and making community college free for those who can’t afford it. He also favors expanding federal aid. His campaign platform proposes allowing college students to work off their debt through jobs in public service.


Background: The use of hydraulic fracturing technology allows energy companies to drill miles-long horizontal wells and extract oil and gas deposits by fracturing shale rock. In Colorado, fracking has led to a boom in the energy industry in Colorado, which counts $30 billion in economic impact and tens of thousands of jobs. However, the proliferation of wells and their location near Front Range communities is generating conflict.


A mixed record on fracking

A: Hickenlooper has long supported fracking but now wants to make fracking “obsolete.” He won’t explain his position. But he has argued that prohibiting drilling in Colorado would shift more drilling out of state and will not help drive down global greenhouse gas emissions.
He supports 100% renewable energy by 2050, which would essentially shut down the oil and gas industry. And he supports tighter restrictions on methane emissions and helped put such a rule in place in Colorado.


Background: The political conversation about climate change is significant in Colorado, where the Democratic-led legislature is making significant policy shifts with support from Gov. Jared Polis. In Colorado, just 23% of the state’s power is generated from wind, solar and hydroelectric power, with the rest coming from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. Any policy moves would affect the energy industry that employs more than 30,000 workers in the state, among oil, gas and coal.


Wants a transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050

A: Hickenlooper says federal lawmakers should set a goal to achieve a 100% renewable energy economy with net-zero emissions by 2050. In the interim, he wants to see a 43% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. He would fight to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, enforcing stricter standards on methane pollution and other harmful emissions and increase the development of wind and solar energy.
His policy proposals would allow the oil and gas industry to continue operations for decades, however. He says the implementation of a carbon dividend plan will allow revenue generated from the price of carbon to be returned directly to American taxpayers as a dividend.


Background: The Green New Deal is a resolution authored by progressive members of Congress to tackle climate change and further economic equity. Unveiled in 2019, the resolution is short on details and not actual legislation, but it lays out broad goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to help put people to work on renewable energy technologies.


Despite prior statements, he opposes the Green New Deal

A: In his failed 2020 presidential campaign, Hickenlooper initially suggested he would embrace 99% of the Green New Deal. But then he changed direction, saying he supports the concept but not the proposal, writing an opinion piece titled “the Green New Deal sets us up for failure.”
He says whatever policies come forward on climate change must be easy to put in place so they can make an impact sooner. With the complexity of the Green New Deal, such as providing a federal job guarantee for every American, he says it would be difficult to get the legislation through Congress and even harder to implement.


Background: Coloradans this year will choose whether to direct the state to develop a plan to reintroduce wolves into the state in 2023 under Proposition 114. The idea is that connecting wolf populations in the Northern Rockies with packs in the south will enable recovery of a species that was nearly hunted to extinction in the early 1900s.


Opposed reintroduction as governor

A: It’s not clear where he stands. Hickenlooper as governor opposed reintroducing wolves to Colorado. He signed a letter sent to the Department of Interior expressing opposition to reintroducing wolves in the mountain west. He and others have argued that the Mexican gray wolf never previously existed in Colorado.


Background: The topic of gun regulations is prominent in Colorado, dating back to the Columbine High School shooting and more recently the attack on the Aurora theater. The state instituted universal background checks and lawmakers recently approved “red flag” legislation to try to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental health issues.


Supports stricter firearms control

A: At the federal level, Hickenlooper backs some of the reforms he signed into law in Colorado, including background checks for all gun sales and ammunition magazine limits. He also would support efforts to close the “Charleston loophole” regarding firearm sales that take place after the timeline for a background check expires.
Hickenlooper also agrees with implementing extreme risk order protection laws to use court orders to take firearms from those deemed a threat and an assault weapon ban that builds off expired legislation from 2004.


Background: The Electoral College picks U.S. presidents by awarding electors to the candidate who wins each state, rather than the one who wins the most votes nationwide. Colorado has been at the forefront of the debate in recent years about potential changes, and home to the “faithless elector” movement in 2016, a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. A controversial 2019 bill to join a national popular-vote movement that faces a repeal vote in November.


Reversed stance to support national popular vote

A: Hickenlooper has expressed reservations about dropping the Electoral College. He told The Sun in 2019: “In the end, our Founding Fathers got things pretty right. It might be best to just stay right where we are.” But in a reversal, his campaign now says he supports Proposition 113, which bypasses the traditional Electoral College and enter the state into the national popular vote interstate compact.


Background: The rules in the U.S. Senate necessitate 60 votes to pass legislation, rather than a majority vote of the 100-person chamber. If Democrats retake the chamber, some in the party want to abolish the rules to require a supermajority vote. The current Republican majority now uses a simple majority to approve Supreme Court nominations.


Open to limited repeal

A: Hickenlooper’s campaign said he supports “amending the Senate rules on a case-by-case basis.” But he has not directly addressed the filibuster issue.



Supreme Court vacancy

Should the U.S. Senate confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court before the November election, and do you support adding members to the court?

Background: President Donald Trump’s move to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court is emerging as a cornerstone issue. And it’s generating renewed interest in increasing the number of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. It comes as Republicans in the U.S. Senate have used their majority to appoint conservatives to the federal court system.


He stands opposed

A: Hickenlooper opposes the U.S. Senate’s efforts to fill the court vacancy before a new president takes office.
He has avoided saying whether he would support adding justices to the court, but said he opposes the concept because of the precedent it sets. But he does support requiring a vote within a set period after a president appoints a Supreme Court justice to avoid what happened to Obama nominee Merrick Garland. He did not specify what timeline he would support.


Background: The U.S. Senate voted down two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump in January, a decision that split Colorado’s two senators along party lines.


Yes, but he hesitated

A: Hickenlooper now says he supported the article of impeachment against Trump. But back in October 2019, he hesitated when asked whether Trump committed impeachable offenses.


Background: Colorado lawmakers are asking voters to repeal the property tax-constraining Gallagher Amendment. The constitutional measure has saved Colorado homeowners an estimated $35 billion in residential property taxes since voters adopted it in 1982, easing the financial blow of the state’s rising cost of living. But the drop in property tax revenue also has set off a cascade of problems for the public sector, squeezing local budgets in rural areas that can least afford it, while shifting more costs to a state government that has financial challenges of its own.


Took on Gallagher as governor

A: He supports the ballot measure. On his way out of office in 2018, Hickenlooper asked the Colorado Supreme Court to provide the state government relief from the property tax-slashing amendment. He wrote at the time that the combination of TABOR and the Gallagher Amendment “caused the system to collapse.”


Background: COVID-19 continues to seriously impact Colorado. More than 70,000 Coloradans have tested positive for COVID-19 or are considered positive due to symptoms presented, and more than 2,000 have died. Now the prospect of a vaccine is on the horizon but the state is still struggling to respond.


Suggests military should help with distribution

A: Hickenlooper said he will focus on creating supply chains to get supplies to people who need it, including businesses. He believes the government should pay for coronavirus tests.
Hickenlooper suggested the military and National Guard should help with vaccine distribution. Even so, he said it would take up to a year to distribute the vaccine. He suggested he would be wary of the Trump administration’s ability to distribute a vaccine effectively. “I think a vaccine, when we get it, is going to have to be distributed very carefully and very fairly without any bias towards political purposes,” he said.


Background: The issue of health care is one of the strongest dividing lines in the race as the two candidates debate the merits of the Affordable Care Act. In Colorado, about 94% have health insurance coverage, a recent survey found, but the number of people who are uninsured is rising at the national level. The reason is mostly the cost of insurance. At the state level, a bill to create a public option died in the legislature in 2020 and a government single-payer failed at the ballot in 2016.


Favors public option

A: Hickenlooper is promoting “an evolution, not a revolution” when it comes to health care. He favors a federal public health insurance option run by private insurance companies with regulations that are designed to help it compete against private plans on the insurance marketplace. He has said that it could be a pathway to a single-payer system such as “Medicare for All.”
Hickenlooper maintains that a public option plan needs to lower health care costs and work within the Affordable Care Act, but did not provide additional details on how it would work. As governor, he signed legislation to expand government-run Medicaid coverage to low-income residents.


Background: Colorado is one of seven states with no restrictions on abortion. A ballot measure on the 2020 ballot asks voters whether they support a ban on abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy expect if the woman’s life is threatened.


He’s opposed

A: Hickenlooper opposes the abortion ban on the 2020 ballot in Colorado. He has vowed to protect health care coverage for women and full access to birth control. As governor, he supported a program that provided long-active reversible contraception to low-income women for free as a way to reduce unintended pregnancies.


Background: The Democratic-led General Assembly in Colorado approved legislation in 2019 that would make the state one of the nation’s first to import prescription drugs from other countries. The Polis administration is delaying implementation amid the budget crunch, but the measure requires federal approval. President Donald Trump supports drug importation, but the next presidential administration could play a role.


Supports Colorado’s drugs importation program

A: Hickenlooper supports Colorado’s ability to import safe prescription drugs from other countries, including Canada and Mexico, and wants to end the prohibition on these imports. He would lower prices for consumers by expanding and rebuilding the Affordable Care Act. By allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices of prescription drugs, he believes drug companies will be more transparent about their pricing.


Background: Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, the first of 11 states. Medical marijuana legalization has spread to 33 states. But the drug is illegal under federal law, creating barriers for the industry.


Opposes national legalization of marijuana

A: Hickenlooper opposed Colorado’s move to legalize recreational marijuana for adults in 2012, but touts his administration’s implementation of the constitutional measure.
At the debate, Hickenlooper answered “yes” to the question but qualified that he supports decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.
In the past he has opposed federal action to legalize marijuana at the national level, saying states should make their own choices. But he does support the removal of cannabis from classification as a Schedule I drug.


Background: One major consequence of the federal-state split on marijuana legalization is the difficulty of banking. The U.S. House passed the SAFE Banking Act in 2019 to allow marijuana businesses access to financial services like loans, lines of credit and even bank accounts. These financial services are currently difficult to obtain because the drug is illegal at the federal level. The measure won bipartisan support, but has stalled in the U.S. Senate.


Yes, he supports the bill

A: Hickenlooper said he supports the measure -- and wants to go even further. He wants to amend the tax code, which he says now penalizes marijuana businesses by preventing them from accessing the same benefits as other companies. One way to level the playing field, he said, is to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and let the states decide whether to legalize it.




Depends on the time of the year

A: Hickenlooper often cites Telluride as his favorite place in Colorado with Aspen a close second. But asked this question more recently, he said the Eastern Plains and Morgan County are the best in the spring because of all the recently planted crops.


Background: Colorado likes to think of itself as the “state of craft beer.” It’s also home to two large brewers, MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch, and about 400 small independent breweries. The Beer Institute, a trade association for the global beer companies, forecasts the direct economic impact at $5.3 billion and suggests the industry contributes to a broader $13.6 billion in commerce. The Boulder-based Brewers Association estimates craft brewers alone contribute $3.3 billion to the state’s economy.


Amber ales and seasonals

A: Hickenlooper, who helped launch the Wynkoop brewpub, the first in Colorado, once joked his favorite beer was the one named after him, “Hickenlooper lager.” he featured the brewpub in his campaign ads even. But he says his tastes change by season with amber ales among his favorites in the spring. More specifically, he said he also likes Post Brewing Company’s Howdy, a pilsner, and Finkel and Garf’s Dry-Hopped Amber.


Background: The fierce debate over who can use Colorado’s federally owned public lands -- and for what purpose -- is a constant fault line in Colorado politics. The U.S. House last year passed the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act -- a massive public lands measure that would designate roughly 100,000 acres for new wilderness and recreation in the state, and remove more than 200,000 acres from oil and gas development. The measure has stalled in the GOP-led Senate and faces a veto threat from the White House.


Supports passing the CORE Act

A: Hickenlooper made public lands a focus in his terms as governor and is touting the CORE Act in his campaign for U.S. Senate. He supports dedicating 3% of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to be used to expand public access to federal lands and make exploring them more accessible. He has said that he wants federal agencies working with local agencies and the sports and recreation industry to invest in projects that will increase access to the outdoors.


Background: The Trump administration relocated the federal Bureau of Land Management headquarters to Grand Junction in July 2019, a move supported by Republican and Democratic leaders in Colorado. The Department of the Interior said about 40 BLM employees would transfer to the new location, far fewer than initially hoped. But the move drew controversy and a congressional investigation after critics suggested it was designed to gut the agency.


Backed the agency’s move to Colorado

A: He said it made sense to move the agency that manages public lands closer to them and supported the move, writing in a letter that “Grand Junction is an ideal location for the BLM to conduct its operations.” But since then he has expressed concern that it delivered fewer jobs than first promised and the agency doesn’t have a director who supports public lands.


Background: The Trump administration has aggressively promoted energy production on public lands, including in Colorado. The state is among the leaders in drilling on public lands, and the effort is expanding. The federal Bureau of Land Management wanted to limit oil and gas production on 190,000 acres in eastern Colorado, but in 2019 the agency suggested granting protections to fewer than 2,000 acres. This has riled wildlife conservationists who want to protect habitats, including those for the sage grouse, and also those who want to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Proponents counter that the lease proceeds can help fund national parks.


Does not support new oil and gas extraction on public lands

A: Hickenlooper supports curbing future oil and gas leasing on public lands. As governor he opposed drilling for oil and gas on nearly 200,000 acres of the Thompson Divide. But he opposes breaking existing contracts, but is focused on the transition to clean energy.


Background: The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis ignited conversation about racism in America and in the campaign, forcing the candidates to draft plans for how to address inequities and structural barriers for people of color. In addition, candidates are looking at how to address police brutality.


His plan calls for equity for all

A: Hickenlooper released an “equity for all” plan that calls for improving access to health care for people of color, as well as investing in education; supporting entrepreneurs of color; addressing police brutality; and reforming Colorado’s criminal justice system. He said he would support the Health Equity and Accountability Act to address the health of minority populations. He also supports reparations for African-Americans.



Immigration and DACA

How would you address the nation’s immigration system? What in particular would you support in regards to the DACA program and should state and local law enforcement cooperate with federal immigration authorities?

Background: On a procedural level, the Supreme Court earlier this year upheld the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, for people brought to the U.S. unlawfully as children. A question still remains about granting citizenship status to those in the country illegally. And the aggressive efforts of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is prompting states like Colorado to explore limits on their authority. Federal authorities say such moves amount to sanctuary policies.


Wants current system to work but record includes caveats

A: Hickenlooper supports funding the current immigration system to address a backlog of cases. Hickenlooper said he believes in the creation of a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country unlawfully that also ensures the safety of American workers and border security. But in the past he has suggested that people in the country illegally should be deported and supported a 2006 measure in Colorado that cracked down on illegal immigration.
As governor, Hickenlooper signed legislation granting in-state tuition to people in the DACA program and driver’s licenses to immigrants in the country illegally. He was vocal about opposing Trump’s efforts to end DACA. Moving forward, he supports dramatic reforms to ICE, including shrinking the agency’s size, and a delay in deportations and detainments amid the coronavirus.


The Issues

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The Candidates

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Cory Gardner

Cory Gardner

U.S. senator   

John Hickenlooper

John Hickenlooper

Former Colorado governor and Denver mayor