Republican and Democrat parties of Colorado held their state assemblies Saturday. The results were somewhat surprising
State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and former Treasurer Cary Kennedy won their respective party’s nominations for governor Saturday. The state party assemblies were held in Boulder and Broomfield—and no, it wasn’t the Democrats who went to Boulder.
Neither Stapleton nor Kennedy were alone in getting on to the ballot but both won a significant share of the vote. This race has the somewhat unusual potential to pit two State Treasurers against each other in the governor’s race.
Stapleton said he wasn’t worried about the outcome of such a match-up, as he’d already beaten Kennedy in the 2010 election for Treasurer.
Kennedy won the Treasurer’s office in the blue wave of 2006 in Colorado. That event was orchestrated by a strategy known as The Blueprint and funded by four wealthy Colorado billionaires. She lost to Stapleton in the Tea Party wave of 2010, which saw Republicans take all state-wide offices except governor.
The system in Colorado allows candidates on to the primary ballot by two methods. The first is the caucus/assembly method, preferred by grassroots candidates. More established politicians sometimes use the petition method, where a certain number of signatures are required, the number depending on the office.
Recent legislation has tightened the rules for petition gathering. Signature gatherers and the companies that hire them have residency restrictions placed on them.
In the 2010 Treasurer’s race, four candidates went to the Republican state assembly. With grassroots support, JJ Ament won a place on the primary ballot. Walker Stapleton petitioned on and seemingly came from nowhere to win both the primary and the general elections.
This year Stapleton took the same route to the governor’s race.
But he ran into a problem, as did Congressman Doug Lamborn. Kennedy Enterprises, a firm widely used in Colorado to collect signatures apparently weren’t careful about who they used to collect the signatures.
As the issue came to light early in the week, rival candidate and current Secretary of State Cynthia Coffman made the claim that Stapleton was himself lacking integrity because of the firm’s actions. When she repeated that claim Saturday morning during her time speaking as an elected official, she was loudly booed—the only instance that day of vocal disapproval. She did not repeat the claim during her speech as gubernatorial candidate in the afternoon.
On Tuesday, Stapleton decided to throw out all the petitions and appear at the assembly instead.
This shook up the Republican field for governor. Coffman was expected to easily win the assembly vote. Former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez was another strong grassroots contender along with late entry Barry Farah.
If Coffman didn’t seal her fate with her comment in the morning, then perhaps Barry Farah did in his pitch to the delegates in the afternoon. He said he would not have taken Coffman’s stand against Christian baker Jack Phillips. In that case, now before the U.S. Supreme Court, Coffman sided with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in suing Phillips for not baking a wedding cake for two homosexual activists.
That decision is widely seen among Colorado conservatives as a mistake. Although the Supreme Court decision is yet to be released, it is arguable that the Commission exceeded their authority in punishing Phillips.
In the end, Stapleton received 44 percent of the vote. Greg Lopez also passed the 30 percent threshold to get on to the ballot with 32 percent. Coffman received only 5 percent, behind Farah’s 13 percent and just ahead of activist Steve Barlock at 4 percent.
Many Republicans assumed the Democrat nominee for governor would be homosexual and environmental activist, billionaire and U.S. Representative Jared Polis.
That was not the case, however, as Cary Kennedy pulled 62 percent of the vote to Polis’ 33. Both will be on the Democrat primary ballot.
Kennedy touted the fact that she would be the first woman to become Colorado’s governor. She highlighted traditional Democrat themes of protecting public education, bolstering efforts to protect the environment and increasing health care options and affordability.
Not to be outdone, Polis said he would be the first openly gay governor. He would push the state to use 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2040. He boasted about his vote in Congress to impeach Trump. He also support DACA and opposes the Colorado’s Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR).
The other hotly-contested race on the GOP side was to replace Walker Stapleton as Treasurer. State Representative Justin Everett blew away his three opponents by garnering 48 percent of the vote. No one else reached the 30 percent threshold.
The two best speeches of the day were given by Everett and sole candidate for Attorney General George Brauchler. Both gave impassioned speeches that were also touched with humor and humanity.
The next step for both parties is the June primary which, for the first time, will be essentially open primaries. In addition to party members, people not registered with either party will be able to request a primary ballot for either Democrats or Republicans.