DENVER - An early debate pit some, but not all six, of the Colorado Republicans hoping to challenge Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) against each other.
The two candidates widely considered the frontrunners by political observers skipped a debate hosted by the Denver Post on Tuesday night.
Former congressman Tom Tancredo and Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler both told 9NEWS they will attend campaign events instead of debating.
State Sen. Greg Brophy, former legislative leader Mike Kopp, Adams County GOP chairman Steve House, and businessman and former unaffiliated gubernatorial candidate Jason Clark attended the debate.
The four candidates talked about marijuana, taxes and the woes of the state Republican party.
Each candidate said they have the best chance to beat Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Kopp poked fun at the pair of candidateswho skippedthe debate by posting an image of empty chairs with their campaign logos attached.
While both Gessler and Tancredo cited GOP infighting as a justification for their planned absence, they also both left open the possibility of debating fellow Republicans if and when the list of contenders shrinks.
"I won't rule it out," Gessler said. "If the field narrowed to people who truly have a the opportunity to win this."
"I'd contemplate it," Tancredo told 9NEWS, who also listed the organizer of Tuesday's debate as a reason to skip it. "The Denver Post is not our friend. They're not doing this to help the Republican candidates."
When asked about the idea that the debate could be a help to Republican voters, Tancredo said "Republicans generally know who I am and what I'm about."
He and Gessler both pointed out that they are hosting public events throughout the campaign cycle, providing GOP voters the opportunity to get a sense of who they are as candidates.
From a practical standpoint, it is unlikely that all six declared candidates will appear on the GOP primary ballot in June.
A maximum of three can gain ballot access through the party's statewide assembly in April, others can attempt to get on the ballot by gathering at least 10,500 signatures from registered Republicans.
While the frontrunners may have avoided potential awkward moments in the debate, they also gave an opportunity to the underdogs in the field.
"Hey, we're talking about them right now," said Democratic expert James Mejia. "Brophy and Kopp already have good name recognition. Now it's going to get even better."