Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Schaffer, Udall throw soft punches at debate

With the stock market a swinging gate, presidential politics at full speed and scores of ballot issues struggling for the voter’s eye, it isn’t surprising that the race for U.S. Senate isn’t center stage.

The University of Denver and 9News did their best to remedy that Monday with a dynamic hour-long, televised debate between candidates Mark Udall and Bob Schaffer. Billed as the Senate Showdown, the clash at DU’s Gates Concert Hall was an unabashed airing of everything from deeply held political philosophies to personal peccadilloes. Schaffer owned up to some bad business decisions over the years and the mistake of making a term limits pledge. Udall admitted to a minor pot bust 35 years ago and early support for the Iraq war.

But the major differences boiled down to party distinctions, with Democrat Udall maintaining that Washington can help America “regain our footing as beacon to the world” and Republican Schaffer insisting that all the nation’s capital produces is “partisan bickering and gridlock.”

“Most people just want to be left alone,” he said, arguing for “targeted tax relief” and pledging to shrink government and reduce spending. “I can make the tough decisions,” he said. “I want to keep your debt low, taxes low and freedom boundless.”

Udall insisted he could solve problems with his experience and pledged legislative efforts to improve health care, strengthen the Social Security system, end the war in Iraq and craft a bailout package that puts “taxpayers at the head of the line.”

The debate largely was conducted with a high degree of civility, unlike the fierce clashes that erupted during a previous debate. Even so, Schaffer bristled that Udall had mischaracterized him as unwilling to “reach across the aisle” and accused Udall of having “one of the most partisan records in the House of Representatives.”

Udall countered that when Schaffer served in Congress, he voted with President Bush 83 percent of the time and “the other 17 percent he was to the right of President Bush.”

Both candidates had small, loyal cadres of supporters outside the hall, where demonstrators waved signs along University Boulevard and T-shirts were available for anyone wishing to pledge support.

Schaffer, 46, served three terms in Congress from 1997 to 2003. He represented the 4th Congressional District, which includes the eastern Colorado plains plus the cities of Fort Collins, Greeley, Loveland and Longmont. He owns a small marketing business serving the tourism industry.

Udall, 58, currently represents the 2nd Congressional District, which includes north-central Colorado including the city of Boulder. His father, Morris Udall played for the Denver Nuggets and served in Congress for 30 years and his uncle, Stewart Udall, was secretary of the Interior under presidents Kennedy and Johnson.

The debate was aired live on KUSA and will be repeated on Oct. 12 from 1–2 p.m. For more information go to

Comments are closed.