Where the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate stand on key Colorado issues ahead of primary

Rivals John Hickenlooper and Andrew Romanoff are offering distinct choices for voters ahead of the June 30 election


Andrew Romanoff


Andrew Romanoff

Former state House speaker and director Mental Health Colorado



Background: The Trump administration has aggressively promoted energy production on public lands, including in Colorado. The state is among the leaders in drilling on public lands, and the effort is expanding. In 2017, the federal Bureau of Land Management wanted to limit oil and gas production on 190,000 acres in eastern Colorado, but in 2019, the BLM suggested granting protections to fewer than 2,000 acres. This has riled wildlife conservationists who want to protect habitats, including those for the sage grouse, and also those who want to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Proponents counter that the lease proceeds can help fund national parks.


Concerned about move’s impact on agency

A: Romanoff said he’s always glad for jobs in Colorado but is concerned about what the move signaled. “I don’t support an effort to dismantle the BLM or drive the workers to quit so you can shut down the agency,” he said. If that was the motivation for relocating the headquarters, he added, “I’m not for that.”




Do you support the SAFE Banking Act (H.R. 1595) to make it easier for marijuana businesses to bank and obtain loans in states where it is legal?

Background: One major consequence of the federal-state split on marijuana legalization is the difficulty of banking. The U.S. House passed the SAFE Banking Act in 2019 to allow marijuana businesses access to financial services like loans, lines of credit and even bank accounts. These financial services are currently difficult to obtain because the drug is illegal at the federal level. The measure won bipartisan support, but has stalled in the U.S. Senate.


He’s supportive

A: Romanoff calls it “absurd” that businesses in the marijuana industry that are legal in Colorado and many other states can’t conduct banking. He says the current system is “an invitation to mischief and crime” and supports the legislation and other efforts to allow marijuana businesses to do interstate banking.


Background: Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, the first of 11 states. Medical marijuana legalization has spread to 33 states. But the drug is illegal under federal law, creating barriers for the industry.


Supports the legalization of marijuana at the federal level

A: Romanoff says the nation’s drug policies put a disproportionate burden on African Americans and people of color, and wants to see urgent action on the issue. In 2010 he supported medical marijuana and the need for the federal government to allow states to pass their own laws.


Background: The political conversation in the Democratic Party is focused on renewable energy, but reaching 100% would require major changes at the regulatory and consumer level. In Colorado, just 23% of the state’s power is generated from wind, solar and hydroelectric power, with the rest coming from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. The national picture looks similar. Achieving the goal will mean financial pain for a fossil fuel industry that employs more than 30,000 workers in the state, among oil, gas and coal. Colorado’s Democratic governor set a goal to reach 100% renewable energy by 2040.


Supports net-zero emissions by 2040

A: As a supporter of the Green New Deal, Romanoff backs plans to cut in half the total greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors, including transportation, industry and construction by 2030; replace fracked gas, coal and other fossil fuels with clean energy sources by 2035; and reach net-zero greenhouse gas emission by 2040. His campaign laid out a multi-step plan to achieve the goals, including ending fossil fuel industry subsidies and putting a price on carbon. Romanoff has previously backed measures to protect the quality of Colorado’s air and water, bring wind power to schools and spur large-scale solar projects, biomass development and geothermal research.


Background: Student debt is emerging as a bigger problem in Colorado than other states. About 734,000 Colorado borrowers are paying off student loans, totaling $26 billion, a 2019 study found. The amount of student loan debt increased 176% in a 10-year span that ended in 2017.


Supports student debt relief

A: Romanoff wants to free students from college debt, a move that would essentially forgive all existing loans. He believes that this would spur economic growth and allow young people to start saving for retirement.


Background: Colorado is home to many beautiful places, and each person seems to have a favorite go-to spot.


Mesa Verde

A: Mesa Verde in southwestern Colorado is Romanoff’s favorite spot. It was one of the first places he ever visited in that part of Colorado and it holds meaning for him. “It’s a very spiritual and beautiful spot,” he said.


Background: The fierce debate over who can use Colorado’s federally owned public lands -- and for what purpose -- is a constant fault line in Colorado politics. The U.S. House last year passed the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act -- a massive public lands measure that would designate roughly 100,000 acres for new wilderness and recreation in the state, and remove more than 200,000 acres from oil and gas development. The measure has stalled in the GOP-led Senate and faces a veto threat from the White House. Meanwhile, some Colorado Republicans are pushing for changes, like protections for water rights and grazing for local farmers and ranchers, before they’re willing to support it.


Supports using public lands for renewable energy

A: Romanoff favors banning oil and gas development on public lands and offshore. He supports the CORE Act and backs a proposal from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren to use public lands for renewable energy.



Need to address broader issues

A: He supports efforts to accelerate the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. But he says the pandemic demonstrates a need for “Medicare for All” because everyone’s health is interconnected. He suggested stronger action to address climate change is important, too, because outbreaks are more likely to occur and spread in warming global temperatures.




Do you support Colorado's ability to import prescription drugs from other countries, and how will you lower prices for consumers?

Background: The Democratic-led General Assembly in Colorado approved legislation in 2019 that would make the state one of the nation’s first to import prescription drugs from other countries. The Polis administration is delaying implementation amid the budget crunch, but the measure requires federal approval. President Donald Trump supports drug importation, but even if the state received the go-ahead by the end of 2020, the next presidential administration could play a role.


Voted to reduce prescription-drug prices

A: He supports drug importation. “There’s no reason for Americans to be paying 10 times as much for the same prescription drugs as people in other countries do,” Romanoff told The Sun. In his legislative tenure, he voted to reduce Coloradans’ prescription-drug prices by pooling Colorado’s purchasing power with other states. He also invested in local health clinics and expanded the use of telemedicine.


Background: The Electoral College picks U.S. presidents by awarding electors to the candidate who wins each state, rather than the one who wins the most votes nationwide. It’s become a target of the left in recent years as critics argue the system gives disproportionate political power to rural states and allows just a handful of swing states to decide national elections. Still, supporters say it ensures small-states’ rights are not overshadowed entirely by a few massive population centers in states such as California and New York. Colorado has been at the forefront of the debate in recent years, and home to the “faithless elector” movement in 2016, a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, and a controversial 2019 bill to join a national popular-vote movement that faces a repeal vote in November.


Electoral College should be abolished

A: Romanoff believes the national popular vote -- not the Electoral College -- should determine who wins, so the candidate with the most votes would become president.


Background: Colorado likes to think of itself as the “state of craft beer.” It’s also home to two large brewers, MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch, and about 400 small independent breweries. The Beer Institute, a trade association for the global beer companies, forecasts the direct economic impact at $5.3 billion and suggests the industry contributes to a broader $13.6 billion in commerce. The Boulder-based Brewers Association estimates craft brewers alone contribute $3.3 billion to the state’s economy.


Whatever Hickenlooper makes next

A: He doesn’t drink beer (or alcohol). But he offered this: “I am looking forward to Hickenlooper returning to that line of work (if he loses in the primary) and I'm sure he’ll come up with something I'd like to taste.”


Background: The U.S. House in May approved a $3 billion package designed to stimulate the economy amid the coronavirus and help people make ends meet. Republicans opposed the legislation, dubbed the HEROES Act, and the Senate has not acted on it.


Supports additional federal stimulus

A: Romanoff says it takes more than a $1,200 check in the House-passed legislation to keep families afloat. He believes in larger and more sustained support -- increasing the amount and keeping it going throughout the pandemic. He also wants changes to the Paycheck Protection Program to help businesses left out in the first rounds of loans.


Background: The rules in the U.S. Senate necessitate 60 votes to pass legislation, rather than a majority vote of the 100-person chamber. If Democrats retake the chamber, some in the party want to abolish the rules to require a supermajority vote. The current Republican majority now uses a simple majority to approve Supreme Court nominations.


Eliminate the filibuster

A: Romanoff supports the elimination of the filibuster, saying it’s important to accomplish necessary policy changes related to climate change.


Background: The use of hydraulic fracturing technology allows energy companies to drill miles-long horizontal wells and extract oil and gas deposits by fracturing shale rock. In Colorado, fracking has led to a boom in the energy industry in Colorado, which counts $30 billion in economic impact and thousands of jobs. However, the proliferation of wells and their location near Front Range communities is generating conflict. A shift in political power in 2019 led to a host of new regulations through Senate Bill 181, and some environmental activists want to go further with a ballot initiative to increase the buffer between communities and drilling operations.


Supports a ban on fracking

A: Romanoff has expressed concerns about fracking, particularly so close to homes and neighborhoods, and wants to see the practice end. He is backing the Green New Deal proposal, which would work to replace fracked gas, coal, and other fossil fuels with enough clean energy to meet all electricity needs by 2035. This means banning all fracking and ending the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure.


Background: The Green New Deal is a resolution authored by progressive members of Congress to tackle climate change and further economic equity. Unveiled in 2019, the resolution is short on details and not actual legislation, but it lays out broad goals.


Supports the Green New Deal

A: In the race, Romanoff has called the Green New Deal the heart of his campaign. He says climate change is “a clear and present danger to life on Earth.” And he’s called for urgent action, including the creation of a New Deal-esque Civilian Conservation Corps to help speed the transition to renewable energy in America.


Background: The topic of gun regulations is prominent in Colorado, dating back to the Columbine High School shooting and more recently the attack on the Aurora theater. The state instituted universal background checks and lawmakers recently approved “red flag” legislation to try to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental health issues.


Supports stricter firearms control

A: Losing a family member to gun violence makes this a personal issue for Romanoff. He supports stricter firearms controls, including requiring background checks and waiting periods on all gun sales; strengthening the enforcement of existing gun laws, including the ban on straw purchases and bump stocks; and funding local, evidence-based strategies to prevent gun violence.


Background: Both Democratic candidates favor universal health care coverage but differ on how to accomplish the goal. In Colorado, about 93.5% of people have health insurance coverage, a recent survey found, but the number of people who are uninsured is rising at the national level. The reason is mostly the cost of insurance. At the state level, a bill to create a public option died in the legislature in 2020 and a government single-payer failed at the ballot in 2016.


Supports single-payer, government plan at federal level

A: Romanoff supports Medicare for All, a system that would make government the single payer of health care costs. The coverage would include mental health and substance use treatment, prescription drugs, vision, dental, hearing, maternity and long-term care. Romanoff has not discussed how he would pay for the plan, which would cost about $30 trillion, but a plan put forward by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders would make employees and employers pay the bulk of the cost and include increased taxes to cover the most of the remainder.


Background: The aggressive efforts of the federal immigration agency known as ICE is prompting states like Colorado to explore limits on their authority. Federal authorities say such moves amount to sanctuary policies.


Wants to abolish ICE

A: He supports abolishing ICE and wants to protect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees. As Colorado House speaker, he supported a bill at the state level that cracked down on immigrants in the country illegally -- as a way to avoid a harsher ballot measure -- but said he now regrets making that political compromise.


Background: The nation’s immigration system is a major topic for the candidates amid the Trump administration’s efforts to close the border with Mexico and build a wall. The status of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, for people brought to the U.S. unlawfully as children also remains in limbo.


Supports immigration reform

A: Romanoff calls for comprehensive immigration reform of a broken system. This reform would work to reduce current backlogs; provide clear and fair rules for employers and employees; protect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees; and establish a swift process to bring millions of immigrants in the country illegally out of the shadows. Romanoff says those who are willing to work hard, pay taxes and obey the law should be able to achieve legal status and citizenship in a timely manner.


Background: The U.S. Senate voted down two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump in January, a decision that split Colorado’s two senators along party lines.


Vote to remove Trump from office

A: Romanoff believes the Senate should have voted to remove Trump from office because he violated the constitution and committed impeachable offenses, such as inviting a foreign government to investigate a political rival and obstructing Congress.


Background: The wealth gap in the U.S. continues to grow, recent studies show, and the same is true in Colorado. The state’s median income in 2018 was $68,811, according to Census figures. The recession is only expected to exacerbate the problem, experts say, and the economic divide between urban and rural Colorado remains an issue.


Expand prosperity

A: Romanoff pledges to ensure equal pay for equal work, including full equality for LGBTQ+ people. His plan includes raising the minimum wage to keep pace with the cost of living, restoring overtime pay and protecting against wage theft, providing job training for dislocated workers and more.


Background: The Trump administration has aggressively promoted energy production on public lands, including in Colorado. The state is among the leaders in drilling on public lands, and the effort is expanding. In 2017, the federal Bureau of Land Management wanted to limit oil and gas production on 190,000 acres in eastern Colorado, but in 2019, the BLM suggested granting protections to fewer than 2,000 acres. This has riled wildlife conservationists who want to protect habitats, including those for the sage grouse, and also those who want to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Proponents counter that the lease proceeds can help fund national parks.


Opposes oil and gas extraction on public lands

A: Romanoff supports prohibiting new fossil fuel extraction on public lands and offshore.


Background: The topic of paid family leave became a dominant conversation at the state Capitol for the past two years, but Democratic leaders recently abandoned their attempt to create a program. Instead, the idea’s supporters are pursuing a ballot measure in November. In the meantime, state lawmakers developed legislation to provide paid sick time to workers.


A supporter of paid family and medical leave

A: Romanoff has said he supports paid family and medical leave, suggesting it's more important than ever amid the pandemic. However, he has not outlined specific elements of what he would support.


Background: The death of George Floyd ignited conversation about racism in America and in the campaign, forcing the candidates to draft plans for how to address inequities and structural barriers for people of color.


Eliminate discrimination

A: Romanoff released a plan to address systemic racism by creating an equitable justice system that calls for strengthening the enforcement of federal civil rights laws. He also released a detailed proposal to increase police accountability that includes the elimination of racial profiling. He supports reducing funding for police departments and diverting the money to other community programs. He also supports reparations for African-Americans and indigenous people.


Background: The economy went into a recession in February as the coronavirus began to spread and led to lockdowns across the country. In Colorado, more than 500,000 people have filed for unemployment and the state is facing billions in lost revenue.


Consumers need more protections

A: He is focused on pocketbook issues and backs an immediate freeze on evictions nationwide, as well as efforts to block foreclosures and utility shutoffs. He supports a suspension for student loan payments and additional financial support for families and small businesses. Other efforts that are needed, he says, include paid family, sick and medical leave, and food and housing assistance.


Background: Rural Colorado continues to face shortages of critical professions like doctors and teachers. A stunning 98% of new jobs in the past decade have been created along the urban Front Range, leaving wide swaths of the state behind. Recent federal assistance has come in the form of a farm bailout and tax incentives, but produced mixed results.


High-speed, broadband access to rural America

A: Romanoff aims to extend high-speed, broadband access to rural America and other underserved communities.


Background: An issue that once didn’t receive much attention is getting new interest amid the 2020 election: increasing the number of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. It comes as Republicans in the U.S. Senate have used their majority to appoint conservatives to the federal court system.


Impose term limits on justices

A: Romanoff didn’t express support for adding members, but he favors a plan to impose limits on the numbers of years justices can serve and staggering them across presidential terms. This would ensure that each president would get a number of appointees. He did not offer specifics on how it would work.


Background: Colorado ranks near the bottom in terms of teacher pay and per-student funding and the current state budget crisis is only making the situation worse. Colorado lawmakers will underfund education by $1 billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year, compared to the constitutional requirement for classroom spending.


Ensure teachers have training, resources and compensation

A: Romanoff wants to get more mental health professionals in schools, such as nurses, psychologists and social workers. He supports more training for teachers and school staff to better spot earlier warnings about troubled students.
To address education at the federal level, he supports guaranteeing universal, high-quality preschool and full-day kindergarten; equipping public school teachers with training, resources and compensation they need, including professional development and learning from master teachers; ensuring students have individualized attention; and removing barriers from accessing a 21st-century education for students of color.


Background: President Donald Trump received bipartisan congressional approval for a rework of NAFTA -- now known as the USMCA, or United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The deal includes new protections for auto manufacturing and labor and the environment, and it relaxes market restrictions on dairy products to encourage trade. It came as a welcome relief to many Colorado farmers and manufacturers. But if elected, a new president also would inherit strained relations with China and other countries subjected to punitive Trump administration tariffs in recent years.


He declined to take a position

A: Romanoff would not say whether he supported the agreement. But in terms of other trade deals, he said they must respect the rights of workers in the U.S. and abroad and include human rights and environmental standards.


The Candidates

Click a candidate to see where they stand.


John Hickenlooper

John Hickenlooper

Former Colorado governor and Denver mayor   

Andrew Romanoff

Andrew Romanoff

Former state House speaker and director Mental Health Colorado