If you didn't pass out from inebriation (after playing our debate drinking game, of course) or from sheer boredom, congratulations. We survived the final, hour-and-a-half gubernatorial debate of 2018. Watching felt a little bit like déjà vu considering it's been less than a week since we last saw Democratic Congressman Jared Polis and Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton trade talking points on exciting topics like health care, education and how to fund infrastructure. There were a few key differences from last week's debate and this one, so we're going to point those out rather than repeating ourselves like the candidates and moderators did for much of the debate on Tuesday, October 23.
1. Talking points ruled the night
Last week's moderators, 9News's Kyle Clark and Marshall Zelinger, really tried to stop the candidates from giving non-answers. When candidates skirted questions with talking points, Zelinger or Clark would at least point it out. This week's moderators, Anne Trujillo of Denver7 and Nic Garcia of the Denver Post, did their best, but candidates ran right over them in several instances. Polis and Stapleton were asked to give yes or no answers on whether they support various ballot initiatives, and Polis refused to take a position on Proposition 110 and Amendment 73. "I don't know how you can not take a position when you're running for governor," Stapleton shot back twice.
When Stapleton was asked if the state should spend more on education funding, he went ’round and ’round about transparency in the state budget. Trujillo attempted to interrupt three times, but he kept going. Finally, Garcia ended it with, "We're going to move on." Later, when Stapleton was asked how close he'd like to see oil and gas well drilling next to his home, he answered with talking points until Trujillo pressed him. He finally answered: "Exactly where it is right now," which is kind of a non-answer.
2. Climate change, homelessness, affordable housing, the gender wage gap and more
The questions from Denver Post readers, Denver7 viewers and the moderators were quite creative and got into topics that don't often take center stage. Candidates were asked about climate change and what they would do to address the looming crisis outlined in a recent United Nations report; what they think of the #MeToo movement and its place in government; gender equality; and whether legalized marijuana plays any role in crime or homelessness. (Stapleton thinks it does; Polis pointed out again that he has never smoked pot.)
3. Polis and Stapleton brought the laughs
Polis and Stapleton each cracked a few jokes that actually landed, which helped liven up an otherwise stiff debate. At one point, Stapleton whipped out a lottery ticket. "I have with me a Mega Millions ticket. I don't even know if I won because I'm at this debate," he said before pointing out that the lottery winnings still wouldn't be enough to pay for Polis's campaign promises. Polis responded: "I can tell Walker's been practicing to try to land that line."
When asked if the candidates would guarantee 50 percent of their staff would be women and 32 percent of staff be people of color to reflect the state population, Polis wouldn't really make a guarantee, but he ended his response with: "I guarantee there will still be some role for white men in my administration."
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In response to a question about how Stapleton and Polis practice empathy in their everyday lives, Stapleton responded by saying he teaches empathy to his three kids, including his two daughters. "My two daughters are probably playing with slime now and wrecking our house. But they've learned how to approach every individual with dignity and respect."
When Stapleton tried to compare Polis to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Polis pointed out how they are different, ending it with a punchline: "While my hair is thinning I still have more hair than Bernie Sanders."
4. Filing Cabinet-Gate only came up one time!
This was surprising. At last week's debate, Stapleton would not let go of the 1999 incident in which Polis pushed a former employee into a filing cabinet (after she hit him with her bag and tried to steal documents). This time, Stapleton seems to have dropped it for good. It came up once, in a question from a Denver7 viewer who asked if the incident was the reason Polis changed his name from Jared Polis Schutz to Jared Schutz Polis. Polis said it was merely to reflect the close relationship with his maternal grandmother and was not related to "the 1999 incident," as Trujillo referred to it.
5. The candidates repeated themselves a lot
Is that different? Not really, but it was hard not to notice. Again, Stapleton was playing offense just as he did last week. There were several times the candidates brought up the exact same talking points they did last week, over and over. Luckily for them, only reporters taking notes probably noticed. Stapleton again referenced the fact that everyone from "Pizza Hut to Merrill Lynch" won't want to do business in Colorado if Polis wins the election. Polis again pointed out that he launched his campaign from Pueblo, the first city in the country to have a 100 percent renewable-energy goal by 2035. Stapleton again said Polis would bankrupt Colorado. Stapleton again said he would not defend President Trump's personality. Thankfully, this was the final debate, and Election Day is exactly two weeks away.