Not a wealth of coverage of yesterday’s appearances by gubernatorial candidates John Hickenlooper and Scott McInnis at the annual meeting of the Colorado Rural Electric Association, but the Durango Herald has a good story up today:
Republican Scott McInnis took swipes at Democrat John Hickenlooper on Monday over taxes and climate change in their first joint appearance of the gubernatorial campaign.
Hickenlooper stuck mostly to the biographical stump speech he has been using as he introduces himself around the state…
McInnis took aim at bills that repeal tax breaks, eight of which Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law last week.
“Those are job killers,” said McInnis, who served as U.S. representative for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District from 1993-2005.
He criticized Hickenlooper for not opposing them. “He has refused to say he won’t raise taxes,” McInnis said.
Hickenlooper, Denver’s mayor since 2003, said he would not weigh in on bills until after the legislative session is finished. It is likely to run until late April or early May.
“We’ve already got one governor. If we have two, or congressman McInnis and I are opining on every piece of legislation, I don’t think it helps the situation,” Hickenlooper said.
However, he said he would think hard about where to cut government, instead of making across-the-board cuts, like Republicans in the Legislature want.
“No business would ever do that,” Hickenlooper said…
As we’ve said before, there’s nothing unreasonable in expecting candidates for the state’s highest office to have an opinion on the issues of the day, and we’ve criticized McInnis for not offering alternatives when he criticizes this tax credit suspension or that budget cut.
But that’s a difference worth driving home again and again: Scott McInnis freely criticizes budget actions he doesn’t like, throwing bombs from the stump, but then says he can’t offer any alternatives until he’s elected. Hickenlooper, on the other hand, is deferring to legislative leadership until the session is over, citing its ongoing uncertainties–we hope for more, as always, but we acknowledge the lack of two-facedness in the meantime.
Now at some point, there are going to be joint appearances by McInnis and Hickenlooper that don’t occur in front of the energy or mining industries, right? Similar to his recent speech before the Colorado Mining Conference, Hickenlooper framed the issue of climate change in a way that might raise some hackles on the left:
McInnis spoke directly to the Rural Election Association audience to call out another bill, House Bill 1098, which would set statewide standards for REA elections. Environmentalists have tried in recent years to get elected to REA boards.
McInnis greeted several REA members by name – including La Plata Electric Association’s Tom Compton – and spoke fondly of attending past REA meetings and elections with them.
“Those days are over. There are other people who in my opinion do not share the same vision we do,” McInnis said…
“I get in trouble every time I say this, but I’m not 100 percent absolutely sure that climate change is occurring at the rate that some people fear it is and is going to be as catastrophic,” Hickenlooper said.
However, he added, most of the top scientists in the world see climate change as a major risk, so governments should prepare. It will be important to balance coal – “a remarkable resource” – against natural gas and other fuels that burn cleaner, he said.
“We know that asthma is increasing dramatically, year by year by year, and science so far is stumped,” Hickenlooper said. “But there are indications that some of it may be a result of coal-burning.”
McInnis criticized Hickenlooper for attending last year’s summit on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“I’m not going to be giving commitments on behalf of Colorado energy policy or the citizens of Colorado at the global warming conference in Copenhagen,” McInnis said.
Here’s our word of advice for Hickenlooper: as you can see, equivocating in this limited way on climate change doesn’t slow McInnis down a bit–Hickenlooper is still lambasted as the guy “giving commitments” at the dreaded Copenhagen summit. Since it doesn’t matter what Hickenlooper says, McInnis is going to respond with the same canned attacks regardless, we would suggest a choice of words that doesn’t rile the Democratic base quite so much.
But you can compare Hickenlooper’s imperfectly-worded comments about the issue, which nevertheless do acknowledge scientific consensus on the danger of climate change–and point out unbidden the suspected relationship between Tri-State’s coal plants and increasing rates of asthma–to McInnis’ blanket denials and scoffing, and still have a perfectly clear distinction. Conceding the limited ground he did will mollify more people in the energy industry than it will upset environmentalists. In fact, you could call it closer to the mainstream voter’s opinion than either McInnis and the energy industry on the right or the strident enviros on the left, which is a political sweet spot in our independent-plurality state.