DENVER— Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) says allies of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis went “below the belt” by using his image in an attack ad against fellow Democrat Cary Kennedy.

“Seeing my face used in a negative ad after I had pretty clearly stated what I thought about it, I thought that was hitting below the belt,” Hickenlooper said in a Wednesday news conference at the state Capitol. “I didn’t think it was fair.”

9NEWS asked him about an ad from an outside spending group called “Bold Colorado,” which accurately quoted Gov. Hickenlooper as saying he was “disappointed” by a previous attack made by a similar spending group intending to help Kennedy.

Hickenlooper did, in fact, express his disappointment with the pro-Kennedy ad that attacked Polis and fellow Democrat Mike Johnston. Now he’s expressing disappointment that his quote is being used to counter it.

“We almost got through [the Democratic primary] with a positive race. And I think that would have said a lot about Colorado,” Hickenlooper said. “That counterattack is exactly what we see all the time. I don’t think it’s beneficial. I don’t think it helps [Polis.]”

Hickenlooper has donated money to all four Democratic candidates running for governor. (Public records show he gave the maximum $1,150 to Kennedy, Johnston, and Lynne. Polis has capped his own donations at $100, which does not require the same kind of public report to be filed. The Polis campaign confirmed it received a $100 donation from the Hickenlooper family.).

Polis is polling in a 13-point lead, followed by Kennedy, Johnston, and Lynne.

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Hickenlooper went on to draw a business parallel about negative campaigning, saying that there’s a good reason car companies like Ford and Chevy don’t run ads that tear each other down.

“You depress sales in the entire product sales of the entire product category of automobiles,” Hickenlooper said. “What we’re doing with these attack ads is depressing the product category of democracy.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story highlighted Hickenlooper’s donation to one candidate. It has been updated to reflect the fact that he has donated to multiple Democrats running to replace him.