Jared Polis turns down Club 20 debate in Western Slope

In the heart of Colorado’s Western Slope, a decades-long rite of passage for gubernatorial candidates of both parties is facing an unexpected shakeup.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, the Democratic candidate for governor, is declining to participate in the Club 20 debate, a Sept. 8 gathering in Grand Junction that draws business leaders and others from throughout Western Colorado. In his place, Polis wants to send a surrogate he beat in the Democratic primary, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, to debate Republican opponent and state Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

The debate has long been considered an official kickoff of sorts for the governor’s race in Colorado. It’s also an event that recognizes the role that rural western Colorado plays in deciding statewide elections.

At Club 20, organizers are so accustomed to having candidates pencil the date into their campaign schedule that they’ve never faced the decision of whether to allow a surrogate to debate instead of the person running. Calling it “uncharted territory,” Club 20 Executive Director Christian Reece said the organization’s leadership team will meet next week to discuss whether to allow a surrogate.

Beyond the debate itself, the perceived snub highlights the urban-rural divide in Colorado’s statewide political races.

“Frankly, it’s really a slight to western Colorado,” Reece said in an interview. “When we talk about the urban-rural divide which often plagues our state, it’s these types of things that further that divide.”

The club, which is more than 65 years old, encompasses 22 counties in the state. Reece said the club found out about the proposed surrogate from a news release, not the campaign directly.

Mara Sheldon, a spokeswoman for Polis’ campaign, said suggestions that Polis is overlooking Grand Junction or rural Colorado are misplaced. She stressed that Polis has agreed to do a separate debate in Grand Junction. That event, which doesn’t yet have a date, is organized by the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Colorado Mesa University and Rocky Mountain PBS.

“We’ve been invited to a lot of debates and we just can’t do them all,” Sheldon said.

Sheldon also noted that the campaign opened its first office in Grand Junction. That opening came in January.

“Jared’s represented rural Coloradans for the last decade,” Sheldon said.

It also gives Stapleton’s campaign ammunition to fire when reaching out to western Colorado voters.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *