- Associated Press - Friday, October 24, 2014

DENVER (AP) - Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper said Friday he was dumbfounded by a television ad from Republican challenger Bob Beauprez referencing the death of state Corrections Director Tom Clements in an effort to criticize Hickenlooper’s public-safety record.

In their eighth and final gubernatorial debate, Beauprez said it was not his intent to politicize Clements’ death or offend his widow, who asked the campaign to stop mentioning her husband’s death. Beauprez has since changed the ad to remove the reference to Clements.

In its original form, the ad mentioned the case of Evan Ebel, who spent much of his sentence in solitary confinement before being released. Authorities say he killed Clements. Clements was trying to reduce the use of solitary confinement, and after his death, his department implemented a policy to stop placing mentally ill inmates in solitary.

“The problem that was being raised has been solved,” Hickenlooper said. “I think the whole thing is unfortunate and really dumbfounding.”

With less than two weeks before Election Day, the race is still too close to call. The ad comes at a time when Beauprez is making a push to highlight what he says have been missteps by Hickenlooper’s administration. The ad cites reporting from The Denver Post that found prisoners who completed their sentences were released even though they threatened to commit violence.

Although he modified the ad, Beauprez maintained during the debate that he thinks “public safety is a critical issue” in the race.

Hickenlooper defended this administration’s policies, saying the goal is to keep the state safe and also find ways to rehabilitate inmates. Beauprez’s ad also mentions a policy to grant death-row inmates four-hours of leisure time.

“The things that seem overly lenient are trying to goad people into better behavior within the prison,” Hickenlooper responded during the debate.

The candidates also reiterated their belief that Colorado’s recreational marijuana industry should be tightly regulated. Beauprez said he would advise other states considering legalizing the drug to be cautious, while Hickenlooper said Colorado needs “to make sure we keep it out of the hands of kids.”

The matter of land-disputes between residents and energy companies over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, also came up, with Hickenlooper arguing that a commission he assembled to study the issue is a path to compromise. The governor formed the commission in a deal to get groups to drop dueling ballot initiatives that supported or opposed fracking.

Beauprez argues the commission will lead to more regulation and continued uncertainty for energy companies.

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