The pair met for the third of four previously scheduled debates, and for the first debate that broadcast live across the state, Friday.
The 90-minute fiery interaction was largely used by Gardner as an opportunity to attack Hickenlooper to highlight the candidates’ stark differences.
But the two found common ground on the issue of the coronavirus, and agreed that relief was needed. They also both dismissed the establishment of a national mask mandate. The consensus stopped there as far as U.S. policy.
Hickenlooper condemned Gardner’s support of President Trump, while Gardner dodged questions about whether or not he agreed with how the president has handled the pandemic.
“President Trump, from the very beginning, his negligence in identifying the real challenge and the risk of COVID-19 and then the incompetence of the response once they finally owned up to it — that has made our consequences more severe than any industrialized — or pretty much any industrialized — country in the world,” Hickenlooper said. “Our economy is upside down and we still can’t get additional relief.”
Gardner pushed back and criticized Hickenlooper for his condemnation of the GOP-led coronavirus relief package in September. Democrats have argued it did not do enough to alleviate or address economic grievances caused by the pandemic.
“He believes it’s more important to play politics than providing relief for the people of this state,” Gardner said. “[T]he relief that the American people need was on the floor with more coming just a few weeks ago.”
Hickenlooper is not in any office, so he did not have any deciding authority on the matter.
Gardner, who has been accused repeatedly by Hickenlooper of blindly following Trump’s orders, also blatantly condemned White supremacy, as did Hickenlooper.
Several GOP members have followed suit after Trump sparked controversy by telling the Proud Boys at the first presidential debate to “stand back and stand by.”
And when asked by a debate moderator if Trump had “inspired domestic terrorism,” Gardner said, “I sure hope not. No.”
Hickenlooper on the other hand believed there was a direct correlation, telling the moderator: “Quite possibly, yes.”
Gardner also took some heat over his change of stance on whether or not a Supreme Court justice should be confirmed during an election year.
Gardner, who rejected President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016 for being “too soon” in relation to the general election, has thrown his support behind Trump’s Supreme Court pick.
“It’s in line with our precedent, and that’s simply what I was referring to in 2016 and what I am referring to today,” Gardner told Fox News.
“Our precedent states that we are under no restriction or prevention…to nominate and confirm a Supreme Court justice,” he added.
But Gardner also pointed to Hickenlooper’s appointment of a Colorado Supreme Court justice at the end of his governorship, calling his stance on rushing the U.S. Supreme Court pick hypocritical.
Early voting began in Colorado Friday, but the two candidates will meet for a final debate Tuesday, before voters head to the polls on Nov. 3.