In this episode we take an early look at the potential candidates in Colorado’s 2018 Republican Gubernatorial Primary, and how they are positioning themselves in a crowded field, and how President Trump’s policies, and the support he still holds among a large majority of the Republican base, will impact the race.
Republican Candidates for Governor – Colorado 2018
- State Treasurer Walker Stapleton – If one candidate could be called a front-runner at this point, it’s Stapleton. Over the years he has been a public face for several issue campaigns, including No on Amendment 69 and just recently a U.S. Term Limits campaign to put term limits on members of Congress. He has also crisscrossed the state as a leader of the movement to reform Colorado’s Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA), and has long said that the system needs reforming to address the growing unfunded liability of the pension fund. The end result is that he probably has the best name ID among Republican Primary voters, and is seen as a leader on fiscal conservative issues. Throughout the campaign last year, Stapleton was never publicly supportive of President Trump.
- District Attorney George Brauchler – Another candidate who is near the top of every list of potential candidates is Brauchler, the District Attorney for Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln Counties. That position has put him front and center on law enforcement issues in the state, especially as the prosecutor in the Aurora theater shooting case. He is by all accounts a terrific speaker and retail politician, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll have the financial resources to break out of a crowded field. As a sitting District Attorney, Brauchler also may find himself caught up in the battle over President Trump’s immigration policies.
- State Attorney General Cynthia Coffman – From her post as Attorney General, Coffman can take some credit for the fight against President Obama’s regulations, including the Clean Power Plan, which she fought from the beginning. Having President Trump and a Republican Congress in Washington surely makes her life easier, and she has said as much, but a President Hillary Clinton would’ve also provided a pretty effective bogeyman during a Republican Primary campaign. There’s also the complicating factor of her husband Congressman Mike Coffman’s refusal to get fully on board with President Trump – fine for a general election in the 6th Congressional District, but not for a statewide Republican Primary electorate.
- Former State Representative Victor Mitchell – Last week, Mitchell became the first notable Republican to officially enter the race, and his pledge to spend $3 million from his own pocket suggests that he is taking a run seriously. This piece from John Frank at the Denver Post serves as a good introduction to Mitchell’s bid. Since he only served one two-year term in the State House, and it was a decade ago, he can credibly sell himself as an outsider, and he says that he believes that’s what the voters want. He calls Stapleton and Brauchler “traditional establishment candidates” and himself as a “longshot, outsider candidate”, but his political views don’t neatly fit the typical establishment vs insurgent candidate dynamic.
- “I may not be the most conservative candidate,” he says, after noting that he doesn’t believe in “bazookas in schools” a caricature of pro-2nd Amendment groups that probably isn’t going to play very well in a Republican Primary. He also didn’t vote for Trump, saying he “just couldn’t get there.” And he pledges to break up partisan gridlock by getting legislator from both parties to do community volunteer activities together. This all suggests that Mitchell is the most likely candidate to basically run a general election campaign during the primary, which is almost always a losing strategy. Still, his conservative stances on taxes and education (describing teachers unions as the “enemy of the state”) will get him a hearing with primary voters.
- DaVita Healthcare Partners CEO Kent Thiry – Unique among the names currently mentioned in the Republican field, Thiry is not currently a registered Republican. And he spent most of last year funding and advocating for Propositions 107 and 108, to give his fellow Unaffiliated voters more of a voice by allowing them to vote in primaries. A good summary of his argument can be found at the website for Let Colorado Vote. Thiry is on record with the opinion that excluding independent voters from primaries leads to a system where general election voters only get to choose between two “extreme” candidates. What goes unsaid is that if he decides to run in the Republican Primary, he’ll need to win the votes of a whole lot of voters who prefer “extreme” candidates. Or else he’s counting on a huge turnout in the Republican Primary among Unaffiliated voters, which is unlikely.
- State Senator Ray Scott – Scott is on the fringes of the conversation, but his unique position as the only candidate outside of the Denver Metro area makes him worth mentioning. His “Fake News” spat with the Grand Junction Sentinel seems to channel President Trump, and perhaps he could catch fire in a Republican Primary if he’s the only candidate who runs in Trump-like fashion.