The 9News Republican debate for governor Thursday night focused more on hot button issues than policy or platforms, so it was certainly more entertainment for the masses rather than policy for the wonks.

Quite frankly, we thought they all did a good job and represented the party well, so a round of applause for Walker Stapleton, Doug Robinson, Victor Mitchell and Greg Lopez.

Some managed to sneak in their ideas of governing while answering questions about whether they were asleep in bed when PERA passed the state legislature, and there were a few other silly questions.

Which brings us to the moderators. We think Brandon Rittiman did a smart, thorough job and handled the candidates evenly. Kyle Clark was his usual snarky self, but also came off a little too self-absorbed in his own opinions. Just a reminder, this was a candidate’s debate, not Meet the Press.

Here are some take-outs on topics the candidates addressed:

Marijuana: Lopez, Robinson and Mitchell said they would support a repeal vote on recreational marijuana. Stapleton said that’s not practical, but stronger regulations are needed on medical marijuana for teenagers.

Immigration: All four candidates would repeal the driver’s license program for illegal immigrants. Stapleton was asked additional questions on immigration, and said he would limit funding to sanctuary cities and deport those who committed felons. He also got in a jab at Jared Polis, and said the Democrat would turn Colorado into a sanctuary state.

Clark got in his own little jab at Lopez for his “alcohol-fueled, domestic violence incident” and than asked Stapleton about his “relationship with alcohol.”

Stapleton said the DUI charge 20 years ago was a mistake, and called the questions a “sideshow” to the real issues. Lopez was not given the opportunity to respond.

Gay cake: All candidates agreed with the Supreme Court ruling, then were asked if they would remove sexual orientation from discrimination protection laws. All said no.
Lopez said the commission should have respected religious and constitutional rights. Stapleton agreed that no one should be discriminated against because of their faith. Mitchell said the gay couple had thousands of bakeries to choose from, and questioned their motives in choosing that particular bakery.

Lopez was asked about his experience and policies he would pursue if elected. Lopez pointed to his experience as both city administrator and mayor. But he punted on policy and said he will wait until he’s “in the belly of the beast” to see what needs to be done in state government.

Stapleton was asked why he missed a PERA meeting and comments he made about being asleep when it passed the legislature. It was a joke, Stapleton responded. And the one meeting he missed was called at the last minute and lasted all of 15 minutes. Robinson accused Stapleton of lobbying against it, Stapleton cited his lengthy record to rescue the pension system and said he did support the bill and would have voted for it if he were a lawmaker.

Never Trumpers: That discussion escalated quickly. Mitchell confirmed he did not vote for Trump but added that does not preclude him from supporting the president. Then he added this interesting little back-handed compliment: “Some people call me the nice Donald Trump.”

Mitchell said his ads suggesting Stapleton didn’t vote for Trump were based on Stapleton’s relationship to the Bush family. At that point, the moderators jumped in and defended Stapleton — just because family votes one way doesn’t mean they all vote the same. Robinson got in the fray and said Mitchell called him asking for an introduction to Romney, and said it was Mitchell who was running a “Never Trump” movement. Stapleton managed to get in his own reply, that he did in fact vote for Trump and supports the president.

Transportation: Who supports a tax increase to build roads? None of the Republicans.

Guns: Robinson was the only supporter of the red flag bill allowing judges to confiscate guns without due process. Lopez voted against it. Mitchell said he believes extreme risk orders are needed, and that he got an A plus rating from the NRA. Stapleton said Mitchell got a zero rating from the NRA. Stapleton said he agreed with the intent and spirit of he bill, but that the rushed version was arbitrary and denied due process.

2030 Winter Olympics: Mitchell said Colorado absolutely should pursue it to increase the state’s exposure. Robinson said no tax dollars should be thrown at the games. Lopez did not support it all. Stapleton said he wanted a guarantee that no public funding would be used, and that Colorado could actually make money from the venture rather than going into debt.

The entire debate can be seen on the 9News website linked here. We strongly recommend that voters watch it.