DENVER — Leave it to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, fresh off his best political week in months, to say something controversial on stage at Monday’s debate with Republican Bob Beuprez, the fifth debate between the gubernatorial candidates to date.
Hickenlooper, a Democrat seeking a second term, withstood pressure from Beauprez over his administration’s ongoing sentencing reforms amidst a new Denver Post report about the Dept. of Corrections releasing a violent inmate after he made threats to go on a shooting rampage after getting out of prison.
But when the debate turned to a question about Colorado’s implementation of recreational marijuana, Hickenlooper ad libbed, saying that it would be “reckless” for other states to legalize pot before allowing more time to judge how things are going here.
Asked if he thought it was reckless for Colorado voters to approve legal marijuana in 2012, Hickenlooper kept going.
“I think for us to do that without having all the data, there is not enough data, and to a certain extent you could say it was reckless,” he said. “I’m not saying it was reckless because I’ll get quoted everywhere, but if it was up to me, I wouldn’t have done it, right? I opposed it from the very beginning.
“In matter of fact, all right, what the hell — I’ll say it was reckless.”
The riff — trademark Hickenlooper — drew laughter from the room; but it’s not likely to endear the Democrat to pro-marijuana voters, many of whom are already inclined to vote for independent candidate Mike Dunafon, who’s running on a pro-legalization platform (as outlined in his recent rap video featuring Wyclef Jean and a number of local marijuana activists).
Beauprez, for his part, came across far more measured than in the previous gubernatorial debate last Thursday night, when he raised Hickenlooper’s ire for attacking him on his administration’s sentencing policies — an indelicate allusion, intended or not, to the murder of former Dept. of Corrections Chief Tom Clements by a recently paroled inmate last March.
Beauprez pressed Hickenlooper to say whether his office or a DOC staffer pressured the Post not to run the story about the violent parolee being released.
“This is a very serious public safety issue and I think sentencing and parole policies in Colorado do need a review,” Beauprez said.
Hickenlooper said that Colorado is addressing solitary confinement reform “more aggressively than any state in the country.”
Hickenlooper also said he believes it was someone in the Dept. of Corrections, not his office, who spoke with the Post.
Of the inmate’s threat, Hickenlooper said it “should be taken seriously, but is very hard to prosecute.”
“Deliberation isn’t necessarily a weakness,” Hickenlooper continued. “Some people see it as a strength.”