Club 20 is trying again to organize a debate between Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and Democratic former Gov. John Hickenlooper.

But this time the Western Slope advocacy group is partnering with its two counterparts from elsewhere in the state — Action 22, which includes counties in southern Colorado, and Progressive 15 on the Eastern Plains.

The debate, which Gardner has agreed to do but Hickenlooper hasn’t yet, would focus on rural issues.

The executive directors of the three groups — Club 20’s Christian Reece, Action 22’s Sara Blackhurst and Progressive 15’s Cathy Shull — said they decided to join forces because they don’t want the U.S. Senate race to go by without the candidates talking about issues important to rural Colorado.

“The voices of rural Colorado deserve to be heard,” the three said in a joint statement. “We will not stand by while our candidates focus their efforts on Denver issues and events on the I-25 corridor.”

Reece said the questions at the debate, if it happens, are to be developed by members of the three groups, and a panel of other members will moderate. Those questions are to focus on issues impacting rural Colorado, such as water rights, land use, health care and the economy.

The debate is to be held Sept. 26 at Adams State University in Alamosa, and is to be live--streamed on social media.

The debate is being organized, in part, because Hickenlooper has declined to appear at Club 20’s fall conference for its traditional debates, which are to be live-streamed from Colorado Mesa University.

The Gardner campaign confirmed that the senator has agreed to appear, and called on Hickenlooper to join, too.

“As the only statewide elected official living more than 30 miles outside of the Front Range, I understand the unique challenges our rural communities face,” Gardner said in a statement.

Gardner lives in Yuma, about 35 miles from where Kansas and Nebraska border Colorado.

To date, the only debate where the two candidates have mutually agreed to appear together is in Pueblo in October.

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