"You're the fun cousins," radio host Dan Caplis told the Denver Republicans, hosts of last night's mayoral debate between Michael Hancock and Chris Romer. But this discussion was not all fun and games; while Romer said (over and over) that as mayor he would "ruffle feathers," Hancock plucked plenty with his final answer.
Asked for three of their opponent's weaknesses, Hancock offered this: "I'm very scared of Chris Romer." Why? He throws ideas out there, like eliminating the manager of safety position, a concept Romer withdrew this week; uses "fuzzy facts"; and also ran for his legislative seat at the same time he was planning to go for mayor -- "I'm concerned about your integrity," Hancock pronounced. Ow! And Hancock's supposed to be the nice, popular one.
For his part, Romer said he would not resort to the the "politics of personal destruction," and then chided Hancock's campaign for calling Theresa Spahn and James Mejia "losers," in dismissing the former candidates' endorsements of Romer. (Spahn was sitting in front of me at the debate; she said the "loser" line was tweeted by Hancock supporter Terrance Carroll, who later repeated it on Fox.)
Before the sniping, the candidates weighed in on many of the issues they've discussed over, and over, through this endless campaign: whether Denver is a sanctuary city (both said no); how they'd rate the police department (B- for Romer, B for Hancock); how to bring business back to this city ("We need to stop marketing 300 days of sunshine," Romer offered in one of the fresher statements of the campaign); how to deal with the $100 million budget deficit ("with a scalpel, not a sledgehammer," Hancock said; "with a calculator, not a sledgehammer," Romer said); and, above all, how to deal with the $100 million budget deficit after city council had already approved a pay raise.
That pay hike is the focus of Romer's first run-off commercial; earlier in the day, Hancock's campaign had issued a rebuttal. At the debate, Hancock offered to shake Romer's hand if he said he'd pull the ad; Romer declined.
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No, this was not all fun and games.
But then, Caplis and co-moderator Craig Silverman had come straight to the debate at West High School from their radio show, where they'd debated the defeated THC/DUI bill with William Breathes, among others.
The crowd was small -- these were the Denver Republicans, after all, who represent just 17 percent of the registered voters in the city -- but vocal. At the start, Romer had noted "the irony of the Republican party hosting a debate with two Democrats in a non-partisan race..." Watch for more feathers to fly at tonight's Denver Democrats-sponsored debate at East High School.
Who will win the mayoral runoff circus? Catch Kenny Be's special campaign cartoon here.