Two former Colorado governors gave the state’s gubernatorial candidates a public job interview Monday, grilling the three hopefuls on their ability to lead the state before coming out with their picks for the position.
Former Govs. Bill Owens and Dick Lamm quizzed Democrat John Hickenlooper, Republican candidate Dan Maes and American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo on issues ranging from Colorado’s estimated $1 billion revenue shortfall next year to illegal immigration.
Owens and Lamm asked all three candidates what qualifications they have to be governor.
Owens got into testy exchanges with Maes and Tancredo, a former Republican congressman who switched parties after saying Maes was unqualified to be governor. Owens, who held the governor’s job from 1999 to 2007, asked Maes how his political experience as head of a homeowners association qualified him to be governor, and he asked Tancredo about his loyalty to the GOP.
Maes acknowledged having little political experience, saying he had to concentrate on his telecommunications business and credit company.
“There was not a lot of time for civic duties,” he told a coalition of suburban Denver chambers of commerce and lobbyists.
Tancredo said his loyalty is to principles, not political parties. And he said the GOP strayed from its principles with overspending and refusing to crack down on illegal immigrants.
Lamm, a Democrat who served as governor from 1975 to 1987, asked Hickenlooper how he would deal with state employee unions. Hickenlooper replied that the state can’t afford to antagonize unions and should work with them.
Hickenlooper added that if he rescinded Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter’s executive order to allow union deductions from state paychecks, “organized labor would be outraged.”
Lamm warned Hickenlooper that union demands “become the floor” and they will only accept increases.
In a testier exchange, Owens asked Tancredo if he read the entire American Constitution Party platform, and Tancredo asked Owens if he read the entire GOP platform.
“I’ll ask the questions here,” Owens shot back to a round of applause.
After interviewing each candidate, Lamm said he would hire Hickenlooper for the governor’s job “because of his experience.”
Owens, a Republican who has stayed on the sidelines, said coyly he will vote Republican. Asked if that meant he plans to vote for Maes, Owens said: “No, there’s still (former GOP Sen.) Hank Brown.”
Brown refused to run, and Maes refused to withdraw after other top Republicans said he wasn’t qualified to be governor.
Brown withdrew his endorsement, along with a number of other prominent Republicans, including U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck. Buck cited character issues after Maes unsettled business leaders by telling them that as governor he would fire 2,000 state workers “just like that” – a move that might be illegal.
Maes also claimed he was fired by the police department in Liberal, Kan., because police and politicians were corrupt. He said he worked undercover for state investigators, but the Kansas Bureau of Investigation denied Maes ever worked for them, and Liberal’s police department won’t talk about Maes.
Maes says there was no report because he was acting as their informant at their request and then was fired for associating with “bad characters.”