“Honestly, it wouldn’t take a lot.”
That was George Leing’s response to the question, “What would it take for you to switch parties?” in Wednesday’s CSU Second Congressional District debate. It was a moment that defined the debate, and even the Leing-Polis race, in many ways.
The debate, hosted by Colorado State University’s College Democrats and Republicans, covered many of the same issues as last week’s Estes Park debate, though there was a higher emphasis on local and hot button issues like Glade Reservoir and abortion.
The candidates agreed on the surface of a number of issues – from personhood to campaign finance – but there was a tangible and substantive difference between the two. Polis’s positions stayed firmly within the realm of Democrat views and liberal ideas, while Leing played the role of arbiter he knows so well.
Colorado’s Second Congressional District has been blue for decades, and even after the 2011 redistricting plan, it contains liberal strongholds like Boulder and Fort Collins. Leing’s approach to politics fits with that unique situation – he takes the role of a pragmatist to Polis’ liberal flagbearer.
There were a couple odd moments in the debate. The first was when Polis pointed to beer as a major part of Colorado’s economy, though he underplays the importance of fracking. Beer contributes about 0.35% ($826 million) to Colorado’s economy, while fracking directly contributes 5.07% ($12 billion). Polis had also played up the importance of tourism to Colorado’s economy (about $10 billion) in Estes Park in direct opposition to fracking.
This was in a discussion about water, in which Polis discussed the importance of communities in making water decisions. His opponent noted that Polis had supported increased EPA and the federal government in Colorado’s water decisions.
“Again, I agree with what my opponent says, but not with what he does,” Leing emphasized.
The second was when Polis equated reproductive rights to First and Second Amendment freedoms.
At another point in the debate, Leing was attempting to discuss the documentary Rocky Mountain Heist, the book the Blueprint, and the book Throw them All Out – all of which document Polis’ corruption in congress. Polis interrupted his opponent and diverted the discussion.
The room was full, and the debate was lively. Jared Polis and George Leing will debate one more time before the election, this time at the University of Colorado’s Eaton Humanities Building. This will be the last debate, and will occur on Tuesday, October 28 at 6-7pm.
“I don’t think the name of your party should make a difference,” says Leing. “If the Democrats became the party of the Constitution and getting our debt down … I would switch.”