Colorado’s economy and job growth are already shaping up to play a central role in the November gubernatorial race. Both candidates are using their own figures to assess how the state is faring as it recovers from the recession.
According to non-partisan legislative economists, the state’s economy is gaining steam. Governor John Hickenlooper is quick to point out that at 5.8 percent, the unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in years.
“We’re all on the same side when it comes to creating jobs, and how do we do that most effectively," asked Hickenlooper. "How do we create an environment, communities, an ecosystem where there’s enough capitol, the workforce is reading and trained?"
Hickenlooper has made it a major focus of his administration to try and foster a welcoming place for entrepreneurs. He created the Colorado Innovation Network or COIN, a privately funded entity that aims to bring together businesses and academia to create new ventures. He’s also behind efforts to build a new state brand and logo to attract companies and startups.
“You’ve got to create an environment, an ecosystem, where entrepreneurs are celebrated,” said Hickenlooper. “Bob Beauprez comes with the perspective that everything government does is pretty much wrong. There’s a difference there, that being said, once the election is over, I think Republicans, Democrats and Independents, everybody’s got to work together.”
Republican gubernatorial challenger Bob Beauprez, the former two-term congressman, acknowledged the state is on an upward economic trajectory – but said he wants it to be even better.
“When did good become good enough? I mean even the raw number 5.8 percent unemployment, five years into a supposed economic recovery? We ought to be talking full employment right now. We ought to be talking an economy that’s growing twice the rate it is right now. But if you ask people what’s holding us back they’ll tell you… government,” Beauprez said.
Colorado State University Political Science Professor John Straayer said he thinks economic attacks against Hickenlooper could be a tough sell for Beauprez to make, in part because the state’s economy is doing better than the nation’s.
“Things really look pretty good. I think the argument serves Hickenlooper better than Beauprez,” said Straayer. “You could also argue whether or not the economy is improving whether Hickenlooper did that. I think it’s always reasonable to ask whether or not the chief executive all by himself or herself, is responsible for either an uptick or a down tick in the economy. There are so many other factors that complicate that.”
Beauprez is also criticizing Hickenlooper for keeping unnecessary regulations on the books and pushing for stricter rules against the oil and gas industry, such as efforts to curb methane emissions. Overall there is little daylight between the two when it comes to oil and gas policy. Both oppose proposed local control ballot questions on drilling and each is a strong advocate for responsible drilling and fracking.