Free & Equal's Third-Party Gubernatorial Debate Doesn't Have Everyone at the Party

Room for Arvada High students, but not Paul Fiorino.
Room for Arvada High students, but not Paul Fiorino.

The Colorado gubernatorial debate hosted by the Free & Equal Elections Foundation on October 8 at Infinity Park Events Center in Glendale wasn't all that equal. While the organizers were bemoaning the current two-major-party system and decrying the failure of incumbent governor John Hickenlooper (Democrat) and two-time gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez (Republican) to accept an invitation to participate, there was a cry from the back of the room: "Where's Fiorino?"

See also: Public Enemy, Dynasty and Third-Party Politics in Colorado Campaigns

Well, right there. Because the cry came from Paul Fiorino himself, who's back on the ballot as an independent gubernatorial candidate.

While Free & Equal insisted that all ballot-qualified candidates had been invited to join, somehow Fiorino's invitation had gotten lost. "We couldn't find you on the web," a spokesman for the California-based group told Fiorino before the debate started, while the candidate was still hoping they might secure a mike for him. True, Fiorino doesn't have the largest presence on the web -- a Chinese hemorrhoid cure seems to have taken over his old campaign site -- but he's not that hard to find. He's on the Colorado Secretary of State's list of official candidates. And Montana-based votesmart.org, which tries to profile every candidate in the country, has a current e-mail and phone number for him, as well as his favorite food (pork chops), color (green) and quote ("Try, Try Again," W.E. Sisty, 59er Colorado Pioneer). "This whole thing is a sham," said Fiorino, who might have been channeling the never-say-die Sisty.

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For the record, Free & Equal founder Christine Tobin says Fiorino failed to respond to e-mails and phone calls inviting him to participate.

And the debate went on without him, and definitely without Hickenlooper and Beauprez, but giving voice to three of the candidates who've been shut out of most of the gubernatorial debates. So the several hundred people gathered in Glendale, and the doubtless several people who were watching the broadcast on C-SPAN, got to hear Libertarian Matthew Hess, Green Party candidate Harry Hempy and Glendale mayor Mike Dunafon, an independent, respond to questions from Professor Griff of Public Enemy, Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle publisher Chuck Bonniwell, Free & Equal founder Christina Tobin and a quartet of Arvada High School students who've been out protesting the Jefferson County School Board. "Holler like hell," Hempy told them.

After he retired from IBM in 2008, Hempy told the audience, he decided to go for governor "because two parties are not enough." Hess, representative of a national party that got its start in Colorado more than forty years ago, is running because, as a true Libertarian, "I want to leave you alone." And Dunafon, whose rapping video with Wyclef Jean has provided the most amusing break in this long slog of a campaign, jumped into the race because, he says, "We are giving away our freedom to an intellectual elite" -- and also, apparently, because it looked like a hell of a good time.

Not to Fiorino, though. He stood at the back through the two-hour-long program, then moved his campaign to a space on the sidewalk out front that just happened to be free.

You can watch the debate here:

Send tips to patricia.calhoun@westword.com.

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