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U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, speaks at news conference celebrating the Rocky Mountain Regional United States Patent and Trademark Office's fifth anniversary on Aug. 30, 2019. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner on Wednesday proposed five debates around the state with his eventual Democratic opponent ahead of the November election.

The debate schedule Gardner outlined includes two statewide televised debates, including the final one hosted by The Colorado Sun, CBS4 Denver and PBS12.

The other debates the incumbent is confirmed to attend:

  • Sept. 1 in Colorado Springs, hosted by NBC-affiliate KOAA News5, The Gazette, and El Pomar Foundation’s Forum for Civic Advancement
  • Sept. 19 in Grand Junction, hosted by Club20, a civic organization
  • Sept. 29 in Denver, hosted by Fox affiliates KDVR (Denver), KXRM (Colorado Springs) and KFQX (Grand Junction)
  • A date to be announced in Pueblo, hosted by The Pueblo Chieftain newspaper
  • Oct. 14 in Denver, hosted by The Sun, CBS4 Denver and PBS12, formerly known as Colorado Public Television

The final debate will take place at the same week that ballots are arriving in mailboxes.

The number of debates is the same as 2014 when Gardner upset incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall to win the seat. Two of those debates also were televised.

Gardner, who has come under fire from critics for not hosting more in-person town halls open to the public throughout his six-year term, said the debates are more important than ever given the pandemic. But his campaign said it will not consider any additional debates until Democrats respond to his proposal.

“At such a crucial time in our state’s and nation’s history, Coloradans must have an opportunity to hear directly from those who wish to represent them as they make their choice for U.S. Senate,” Gardner said in a statement issued by his campaign. “Debate is a pillar of our democracy — especially during a time of national crisis — and I look forward to discussing the issues Coloradans care most about as we approach November and look towards the future of our country.” 

Even as Gardner looks ahead to the general election, his potential Democratic rivals are battling for a place on the ballot in the June 30 primary. 

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper and Andrew Romanoff have not yet set dates for their own debates, despite the fact the election is less than six weeks away.

A month ago, Romanoff challenged Hickenlooper to seven debates, but so far none are confirmed. The two sparred in their first public forum Thursday, streamed live on Zoom, but the rules prohibited them from challenging each other.

Hickenlooper is not yet confirmed to attend any general election debates. Romanoff has agreed to attend two, a spokeswoman said.

Updated 1 p.m. July 24, 2020: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the date of the first debate that U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner has confirmed to attend. It is Sept. 1.

John Frank

John Frank is a former Colorado Sun staff writer. He left the publication in January 2021.