DENVER (CBS4) – Candidates in Colorado’s three most hotly contested races had a chance to talk about their vision at a forum hosted by the Asian community on Saturday.

The candidates running for governor, U.S. Senate and Congressional District 6 each had 20 minutes to explain their vision for Colorado.

In the governor’s race Republican Bob Beauprez is challenging incumbent Democrat John Hickenlooper. They painted dramatically different pictures of the state’s economy.

“According to Business Insider we are the number one fastest growing economy in America. I think a big part of it is getting everyone pulling on the oars at the same time, that we are really going to try to make this state pro-business, but with high standards,” Hickenlooper said.

“A whole lot of economic measures, opportunity that would historically come to Colorado, has been going to other states around us,” Beauprez said. “Believe it or not, employment in the five states surrounding us – Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Utah – all five of those states’ employment numbers are better than Colorado’s. Five years into recovery, as a life-long Coloradan, that doesn’t make any sense.”

In the Senate race Republican Rep. Cory Gardner is challenging Democratic incumbent Mark Udall. It’s considered a key race if Republicans are to regain control of the Senate. Both candidates addressed the issue of immigration reform with Udall saying it’s a matter of economic growth.

“Immigrants have made extraordinary contributions to Colorado’s businesses and communities. They help spur economic growth through increased innovation and starting new businesses,” Udall said. “What do these new businesses mean? Well they mean new customers for the companies that supply them, more tax revenue for local communities, and more job opportunities for Coloradans.”

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“Does it start with border security? Does it include border security? Yes. But what we have to make sure that we do at the same time is understand that border security alone isn’t sufficient – that we have to pursue a meaningful guest worker program,” Gardner said. “Without the meaningful guest worker program border security will never work.”

The congressional district that covers Aurora and much of the southern metro area is also a closely watched race. Democrat Andrew Romanoff is taking on incumbent Republican Mike Coffman. Romanoff criticized Congress for failing to take action on proposed bills regarding immigration.

“My challenge to them and to all of us is this – if you believe in comprehensive immigration reform as I do, as most Americans do, and you don’t like the Senate bill or the House bill … what’s your plan?” Romanoff said. “I think it is a fair challenge. Unfortunately we haven’t gotten an answer, not from this Congress, and time is running out.”

“I think we need comprehensive immigration reform. I think we can have a comprehensive approach without one single massive bill. I believe in a step-by-step approach,” Coffman said. “I think we’ve got to secure our borders and enforce our laws, but I think we have to have immigration policies that grow our economy.”

The Asian Community Public Policy Forum was held at the Denver Athletic Club in downtown Denver.

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