Gov. Jared Polis has joined the fray in Colorado's U.S. Senate race, vouching in a series of ads for Democratic nominee John Hickenlooper's character and dismissing attacks on his immediate predecessor by Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and his allies as "partisan nonsense."
"I have a simple message," Polis says in a 30-second TV ad that hits airwaves Tuesday. "Don’t believe these ridiculous attack ads about John Hickenlooper. They're just partisan nonsense. John Hickenlooper is one of the most decent public servants I’ve ever known."
Polis adds that he's seen Hickenlooper give his personal cell phone number to flood victims and lauds the Democrat for "expanding health coverage when no one else thought it was possible."
"John Hickenlooper is one of the most effective and compassionate leaders I know," Polis concludes. "And we need that right now."
The popular governor is also featured in radio and digital ads for the Hickenlooper campaign delivering similar messages.
Gardner, seeking a second term, has been on the airwaves with attacks since June, when Hickenlooper was found by the state's Independent Ethics Commission to have twice violated a constitutional gift ban by accepting travel on a private jet and a ride on a fancy airport shuttle when he was governor.
In addition, national GOP groups — first the National Republican Senatorial Committee and lately the Senate Leadership Fund, both tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — have been spending millions of dollars on scorching attack ads aimed at Hickenlooper over the ethics violations and other incidents they claim add up to portrait of corruption.
The barrage has dented the former two-term governor's favorability with Colorado voters, but Hickenlooper still holds an advantage on that front over Gardner, according to a Colorado Politics/9News poll released last week that found Hickenlooper leading Gardner among likely voters by 9 points as Coloradans start voting mail ballots.
The same poll found 61% of likely Colorado voters approve of Polis' handling of the coronavirus pandemic, compared to just 39% who approve of President Donald Trump's response to COVID-19.
The candidates meet for their final debate Tuesday night in Fort Collins. The hour-long debate, sponsored by 9News, Colorado Politics and other media outlets, will be televised statewide and streamed on digital platforms starting at 6 p.m.
In three earlier forums, Gardner has kept up a constant stream of attacks on Hickenlooper, claiming the former brewpub founder and owner of a restaurant empire is only in politics for himself.
"Cory Gardner can't defend his record, so he's going to keep attacking me all night," Hickenlooper said Friday at a debate in Denver.
A Hickenlooper spokesman took it a step further Monday in a release pushing back on Gardner's latest ad.
“Over the course of 3½ hours of debates, Sen. Cory Gardner has tried, and failed, to distract from his toxic record by desperately attacking John Hickenlooper,” said Ammar Moussa, the Hickenlooper campaign's press secretary.
“The truth is, Coloradans see right through these attacks whether it’s on the debate stage or on their TV screen. Cory Gardner has brought Washington’s dirty politics to Colorado to try to cover up his record of selling out Coloradans to rubber stamp Trump’s failed coronavirus response and attacks on our health care and clean air.”