A gubernatorial candidate hasn’t bypassed the Club 20 debate for decades, if ever, and folks on the Western Slope aren’t taking Jared Polis’ decision lightly.

Monday Colorado Politics reported the debates that Polis, the Democratic nominee, and Republican Walker Stapleton were willing to do between now and Election Day. Polis is sending Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, a candidate he beat in the primary, in his stead to the Sept. 8 event.

“There are lots of great invitations and events heading into the fall,” said Polis’ spokeswoman, Mara Sheldon. “We just can’t make this one work. There are going to be plenty of opportunities to watch debates. That’s why we committed to 13 debates and forums over the course of the next 98 days.

“Jared opened his first campaign office in Grand Junction. His first public event after becoming the nominee and announcing his lieutenant governor was also in Grand Junction. And he is excited to be participating in a Grand Junction Sentinel debate later in the fall. He is committed to talking with the voters of Western Colorado.”

For 30 years Club 20’s election-year debates have been held the Saturday after Labor Day, signaling the final run to the November elections.

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Christian Reece, the organization’s executive director, said she was surprised when she learned the 30-year tradition for gubernatorial debates had been upended. She said she learned about it from Polis’ press release, not from a direct conversation with the campaign. While Western Colorado hasn’t been fertile ground for Democratic votes, Reece said she’s hearing from Democratic members who are concerned the decision might hurt the ticket in local races.

Club 20 is the high-profile coalition of business and local government from 22 Western Slope counties.

The campaigns chose five debate sponsors in common, but the final calendar is not yet set. Besides a face-off in Grand Junction, the campaigns separately chose one in Pueblo and three televised debates in Denver.

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Stapleton and Republican groups piled on the Club 20 issue, saying Polis doesn’t care about rural Colorado, even though Polis agreed to debate in Grand Junction at a different event on a different day.

And most, if not all, of the TV-sponsored debates will air statewide.