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In interview, Hickenlooper offers new anti-death penalty stance, light support for Keystone

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DENVER -- Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who faces reelection in the fall, told FOX31 Denver Sunday that he is officially anti-death penalty.

Hickenlooper told voters in 2010 that he supported capital punishment, but granted a temporary reprieve last May to convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap.

In a wide-ranging interview on #COpolitics: From The Source Sunday morning, Hickenlooper talked about his reversal and defended his consensus-driven leadership style.

"My whole life I was in favor of the death penalty," Hickenlooper told host Eli Stokols. "When Nathan Dunlap was being tried, it was a couple years after we opened the Wynkoop [Brewery] and it was like a family. We all watched it on TV. Everyone but one person I think felt he should be executed without question.

"But then you get all this information: it costs 10 times, maybe 15 times more money to execute someone than to put someone in prison for life without parole. There's no deterrents to having capital punishment.

"And I don't know about you, but when I get new facts, I'll change my opinion. I didn't know all of this stuff. There might be legitimate reasons why the U.S. -- there's not a single country in Europe or South America or Mexico or Israel or Australia -- none of these countries support the death penalty any more, and there are good reasons for it."

Republican Bob Beauprez, who is challenging Hickenlooper this fall, released a statement Monday reacting to Hickenlooper's comments.

"The issue of capital punishment is a difficult one that we wrestle with as a society. That's why it's hard to understand John Hickenlooper's actions in light of these new statements," Beauprez said. "If he truly does oppose the death penalty, he should have commuted Nathan Dunlap's sentence instead of leaving the decision to the next governor. As Colorado's next governor, I will see that justice is served.

"Most troubling in John Hickenlooper's statement is his disregard for the impact his comments have on the families of those slain by Nathan Dunlap. These families have waited decades for justice, and today we hear more words and no action that brings them closure to the horrific events of December 14, 1993."

On other issues, however, Hickenlooper was less decisive, outlining reasons why he likely supports the building of the Keystone XL pipeline but stopping short of firmly expressing his support for the project.

"That pipeline is certainly less expensive than shipping it on freight trains, and to some extent it's safer," Hickenlooper said. "Pipelines are a safer and less expensive way to move oil."

But Hickenlooper wouldn't go as far as calling for the Keystone project to go forward, largely because the White House has yet to take a position on the matter.

"His whole administration is very invested that they haven't taken a position yet," the governor said. "No one's ever told me I shouldn't take a position, but generally, if you have relationship and a partnership -- look at the partnership we got with the federal government in terms of the flood recovery, when they allowed us to reopen Rocky Mountain National Park.

"You talk to people in Estes Park, that saved businesses. That was the federal government going above and beyond to help us. If I came out and was more direct saying the Keystone pipeline was a great thing, would we still have those opportunities? I don't know. I think it's a possibility that they would be a little -- they might think twice."

In the first segment of Sunday's show, Hickenlooper defended his compromise-focused approach to policy-making in general, arguing that the compromise around local control that came together earlier this month and averted a costly fight over several ballot measures came about by engaging with people on both sides.

And in the final segment, Hickenlooper noted his accomplishments in improving Colorado's economy in the first term and hinted that constitutional reform might be something he tackles in a second term.

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