Colorado Dem Senate candidates on health care, environment and education
One is a teetotaler, the other a beer-drinking brewery founder. One is a former legislator, the other a former executive. And, perhaps most importantly to voters, one is a liberal and the other a moderate.
Andrew Romanoff and John Hickenlooper, two Democrats who have been in electoral politics for nearly the entire 21st century, square off head-to-head for the first time on ballots dropping Monday for the June 30 primary. At stake is the opportunity to face vulnerable U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Yuma Republican, this November.
The better-known and better-funded Hickenlooper is the favorite among the Democratic establishment, which sees the former governor and Denver mayor as the safe bet to beat Gardner. With control of the U.S. Senate potentially at stake, national Democrats pressured Hickenlooper hard to drop his bid for the presidency and join the Senate primary.
But Romanoff has significant grassroots support among progressives, and Hickenlooper was found Friday to have committed two ethics violations as governor.
Registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters can cast ballots in the U.S. Senate primary between Hickenlooper and Romanoff. Here’s where these two differ on a few major issues.
No topic better underscores the policy differences between Hickenlooper and Romanoff than health care. And before the coronavirus pandemic, no issue was talked about more by the Democratic candidates for Senate.
Hickenlooper supports the Affordable Care Act and worked to implement it as governor. He would add a public health insurance option to the marketplace, which he believes would be more attractive than private health insurance.
“If it’s done well, and it’s successful, it will grow,” Hickenlooper said at a forum May 14. “It will attract more people, it will get larger, the costs will come down, the quality will increase. … You’ll end up with an evolution that allows people, ultimately, to get to a single-payer system. But it will be an evolution, not a revolution.”
Romanoff, meanwhile, supports a single-payer, Medicare for All approach.
“I don’t believe this is a time for timidity,” he said during the May 14 forum, “and telling folks they have to wait for a slow evolution is heartless. Not when 35,000 Americans are dying because they can’t afford to see a doctor, or when half a million families are going bankrupt.”
Romanoff and Hickenlooper agree that climate change is an unprecedented crisis and an existential threat to life on this planet. They disagree on what to do next.
Romanoff supports the Green New Deal, a package of highly ambitious policies aimed at ending the use of fossil fuels for energy by 2035 and reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. He believes new buildings and vehicles should be carbon-free, that there should be fees for carbon emissions, that fracking should be banned, and that a Climate Conservation Corps should be created, similar to the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps.
“It’s the heart of my campaign,” Romanoff has said of the Green New Deal, “and it is the profound moral test of our time. I describe this as the last, best chance to rescue life on Earth.”
Hickenlooper, a former petroleum geologist, supports a less ambitious — and less expensive — plan, with a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. His plan calls for large government investments in climate technology, moving to a 100% electric vehicle fleet over time, transitioning workers away from the fossil fuel industry and toward renewable energies, and rejoining the Paris climate agreement.
“We need to pull all of this together, but with innovation, it’s going to create jobs,” he said at the May 14 forum. “It’s going to drive our economy and, at the same time, save the future of our planet.”
Since Hickenlooper joined the race in August, the two have routinely been asked at forums whether they support tuition-free higher education and student loan debt forgiveness. It is another area of ideological difference.
“I’m not sure that we want to be writing off everybody’s debt,” Hickenlooper told a crowd at Metro State University of Denver in November. “And I’m not sure the children or grandchildren of billionaires should have their debt written off or should have free college. But I do think there should be a sliding scale … for people who are struggling to make ends meet.”
Romanoff supports free higher education as well as student loan debt forgiveness.
“If you were to forgive that debt, you would see more revenue coming in than you would sacrifice by forgiving it in the first place,” he told a crowd at MSU Denver on Feb. 17. “In other words, student loan forgiveness turns out to be a net gain for the economy and it’s a step I believe we should take.”
You can learn more about the candidates at their websites, AndrewRomanoff.com and Hickenlooper.com.
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