Just as we did with last week's debate among Republican candidates for Governor, Colorado Pols will be live-blogging the GOP debate among U.S. Senate candidates.
*IMPORTANT NOTE: Unless indicated by quotations, everything below is paraphrased in the interest of time.
FINAL ANALYSIS: There was quite a contrast among the main contenders here (Buck, Hill, and Stephens), and each seemed to be charting a different narrative path forward. Hill started out strong but showed his youth and inexperience by going all gooey with heavy rhetoric — he sounded more like a caricature of a Senate candidate than an actual person. Stephens did okay at times, but she wasn't very animated and really struggled to answer some of the questions after droning on with platitudes.
Overall, this was a pretty clear win for Buck. Not only did he come off as the most polished and professional of the candidates, he also offered some surprisingly substantial and well-thought-out answers to tough questions. Buck also gave a little bit away about how he is feeling about his campaign at this point; his answers were much more targeted at a General Election audience than a Republican Primary audience.
7:27: Closing Statements!
Buck: I asked my daughter, and she said "Freedom." "If she wants to have a 90/10 ethanol gas mix, she can do that." AMEN! (Buck really said that, BTW).
Hill: We must follow the Constitution and empower people with freedom and opportunity. Is Hill running for Senator in Venezuela? The rhetoric meter is off the charts.
Coin flip: Is Tom Janich crazier than Jason Clark?
Stephens: Mentions that she is a middle-class mom right off the bat. Says "I have a little feistiness."
Trujillo: Did he just say that 4 million people in Colorado had their health insurance cancelled?
7:21: What would you do on immigration reform?
Stephens: I want to take my Party to task. Marco Rubio worked for 8 months, and our Party tore him apart.
Trujillo: Says we should deport everyone with a Hispanic-sounding last name…[just kidding]. But seriously, why is he here? He'll be a Senator when Wiley Coyote catches the Road Runner.
Buck: Fairness. Unfair to people who are trying to become citizens the "right way." Unfair to immigrants. Businesses need access to "legal labor." Another strong answer by Buck.
Hill: "The immigration bill was a boondoggle." Which bill? Hill then goes off on a rant about how Mark Udall isn't holding Barack Obama accountable. Pretty soon Hill will be blaming the Broncos' Super Bowl loss on Udall.
7:15: Do you support changing federal laws to allow banks to deal with marijuana businesses?
Stephens: Has a concern that there is going to be a "Big Marijuana" like the "Big Tobacco" companies. Stephens hems and haws, and ultimately doesn't say anything.
Trujillo: Says he thinks banks should give out joints instead of lollipops [just kidding]
Buck: "Are you going to say my name?" Lynn Bartels: "Mr. Buck?"
Says he supports changing the laws for safety and security reasons. The federal government should respect Colorado's decision. It's an experiment. These businesses have an obligation to pay taxes. As a prosecutor, difficult to follow cash trails. Great answer by Buck. Clear and concise.
Hill: "The more the government regulates, the more we are shifting control away from local banks to the Big Five." Says it's a state's rights issue. What a stupid answer to a question that really isn't difficult.
7:09: What are the top issues that need to be addressed?
Hill: Obamacare. Lower taxes. 50 different states with 50 different problems — give states back their money. WTF? Not only does this not make any sense, how does this appeal to average voters?
Janich: I am the only candidate with a plan to balance the budget in 5 years. He's also the only candidate in short-sleeves. Sorry — it just looks so weird. Janich says we're going bankrupt in 2025, or something.
Stephens: Welfare right now is our biggest issue.
Trujillo: "There's no incentive anymore to work." I remember going down the street seeing a billboard that you can qualify for food stamps. "We have to stop advertising our money away." That might be the quote of the night — whatever it means.
Aspiri: Says something about "safety nets, not hammocks." What about cargo nets?
Buck: "We can only cut spending so much." We need to deal with, "I call them benefits, not entitlements" like Social Security. "We also need to grow our economy…and increase revenue." Lower the corporate tax rate so that corporations don't move out of the country. Definitely the most straightforward answer of all the candidates.
7:07: If you can't win the Primary, who would you support?
Trujillo: "Randy Baumgardner is a true American." It would have been awesome if he would have said, Because his mustache is fantastic.
Aspiri: We as a Republican Party let Ken Buck down last time. I will stand behind whichever GOP candidate is chosen.
Janich: I'm looking for the candidate who shows the timeline and the plan for getting out of debt, and I'm the only one who is doing that. If I don't do it now, I'll be back in 2016. Is that a threat?
7:03: For Stephens: How do you overcome GOP anger about Amycare?
Stephens: I disagree with your premise that Republicans are mad about Amycare. Um…yeah. How's the view with your head in the sand, Amy? She's defending her bill alright, but pretending like people aren't mad at her is absurd.
Hill: The defining issue of this campaign will be Obamacare. "No IRS agents are going to make you more healthy when you get sick." Probably could have answered that more better.
Buck: Asks to restate the question. Did he fall asleep? Buck avoids attacking Stephens and says her public career — the depth of it — is more important than just one bill. Good move to kiss up to her a bit, since she might not have the money to stay in this race for too long.
7:00: Hill responds to a question by saying that armed services members are looking for more to do…kind of sounds like he's proposing more aggressive foreign policy with military might?
Stephens: Says she's been endorsed by Assistant Undersecretary to the Air Force. Okay. Great.
Buck: Wisely talking about debt and unfunded liabilities, and says military can't be spared from budget cuts. Buck making sure he comes across as the fiscal conservative candidate among the group.
6:55: Now we're moving to more individual questions. For Buck, question is about how he screwed up his infamous Meet the Press appearance in 2010 and what makes him a different candidate now.
Buck: "I will not implode, and I disagree with the premise that I did implode." Great quote…but not for Buck's campaign. "I lost in the closest U.S. Senate race in the country….to say it was game-changing isn't fair."
Kurtis Lee says Hill and Stephens can also respond to this question. Interesting.
Stephens: It does matter who is on the top of the ticket. When Ken had his Meet the Press appearance, it hurt a lot of candidates in Colorado.
Hill: The real game-changing event in 2010 was that after the primary, some Republicans felt they could just kneel on the ball and ride to victory. Says Udall agenda is to take away from people. Very interesting that Hill is responding to questions as though he is the GOP nominee, and not attacking his GOP opponents.
6:50: Question about Mark Udall's work to shut down NSA spying on Americans.
Buck: I disagree with the premise that Udall has done enough…
Kurtis Lee of the Post asks Buck what Udall could have done that would be stronger. Buck says he could have proposed amendments to bills…or something.
Hill: Hammering on the theme of "duplicity" with Udall. So far Hill is the only one who seems to be on a consistent message regarding Udall.
Janich: Says he hasn't paid enough attention to what Udall has done on this issue to answer. Then he answers…and doesn't make a lot of sense. Probably should have taken his own advice. And maybe worn a long-sleeved shirt.
Stephens: "The job of the Senate is oversight, and this man [Udall] has not done oversight." This is a really weird answer by Stephens. The job of the Senate is oversight?
6:47: What current U.S. Senator do you most identify with?
This is a really good question — a different approach.
Buck: "I would say Senator Ted Cruz." What. The. F***?
Hill: Rand Paul.
Stephens: "Kelly Ayotte is extremely compelling to me." Also Tom Coburn.
Trujillo: "Ted Cruz is a fighter who reminds me of myself." Is Trujillo also Canadian?
6:42: What is the biggest mistake Mark Udall has made?
This is an interesting question for Buck, Hill, and Stephens to see what their polling is telling them.
Buck: Udall's biggest mistake was running for public office. Cites a bunch of statistics about the economy and joblessness. Apparently Mark Udall has single-handedly destroyed America.
Hill: Going to D.C. and doing something different than what you said you would do in Colorado. Looks like Hill will go with the "he doesn't represent us" line of attack.
Stephens: It's a travesty that Mark Udall is on some of the most important committees in the Senate. We have our first Benghazi sighting! Stephens says Udall votes 76% of the time against small businesses and entrepreneurs.
6:38: Candidates are asked about the biggest mistake in their life. Surprisingly, nobody says, Running for Senate.
Mark Aspiri talks about growing up on a small island? Long? Easter?
Buck: biggest mistake was buying my wife a gun on Valentine's Day. Now she has a much more attentive husband. Good call on the sexist joke when you're trying to shed the label that you are "anti-woman."
Tom Janich says he regrets his driving record when he was young. Says thanks to the police officer "at the heart of that" who recently passed away.
6:36: All candidates say they don't believe in Global Warming. All candidates oppose Same Sex Marriage. It's starting to look like we could have just written this entire live-blog from inside a dark closet.
6:36: Did you support Personhood in 2012? Yes for all but Janich. Kind of a necessary answer in a Primary, but this will be a killer in a General Election.
6:35: Did you support Amendment 64? Only Hill said Yes.
6:34: Support for Raising Minimum Wage: No across the board. Also a "no" across the board for "Path to Citizenship."
6:33: Yes or No question round. First up: Repeal of the Affordable Care Act. All candidates answer yes.
6:32: Looks like we're going straight to the questions — no opening statements for anyone. This is being streamed on the Denver Post website, BTW.
6:29: There's Tom Janich. He's the only candidate not wearing a business suit — opting for the polo shirt.
6:28: Ken Buck and Amy Stephens are here. There is also something called a Mark Aspiri and a Floyd Truijllo.
6:26: Looks like everyone is here except for the Moustache (Sen. Randy Baumgardner). Owen Hill is standing up at the front table taking video of the audience…no, really.
6:15: The auditorium at the Denver Post building is beginning to fill up. Much more activity and energy tonight than there was during last week's Gubernatorial debate.