Who’s running for governor of Colorado? Republican edition

Have you declared yet?

2016 GOP watch party at the Double Tree Hotel in Greenwood Village on Nov. 8, 2016. (Jessica Taves/For Denverite)

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Have you declared yet? It seems like everybody and their brother is running for governor of Colorado. Me, I’m taking calls, talking to my family and carefully weighing my options. I’ll announce my decision soon.

The pending departure of term-limited Gov. John Hickenlooper has Republicans and Democrats alike eager to try their luck. So far, 10 Republicans have announced their candidacies, and this has the potential to get weird.

“It’s interesting to me at this moment that so many qualified candidates are running for governor of Colorado,” said Bob Loevy, professor emeritus of political science at Colorado College. “This really has not happened before.”

Comparing this group to the 2016 Republican presidential field — we all know how unexpectedly that worked out — Loevy said, “The real threat to the qualified candidates is that there are so many of them.”

These candidates can collect signatures to petition onto the ballot or go through the caucus process controlled by party members. Once candidates are on the ballot, though, unaffiliated voters can choose to participate in the primary now, inserting one more uncertain factor into the race.

Here’s the list of all the declared Republican candidates to date:

Tom Tancredo holds an issue of the Denver post with a lead story about a terrorist attack the day prior in New York City as he announces his run for Colorado governor, Nov. 1, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) tom tancredo; election; Independence Institute; denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty;
Tom Tancredo holds an issue of the Denver Post with a lead story about a terrorist attack the day prior in New York City as he announces his run for Colorado governor, Nov. 1, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Tom Tancredo is a former Republican congressman who played a spoiler role as a third-party candidate for governor in 2010, the year Hickenlooper was elected. He also ran for governor in 2014. Tancredo is known for his anti-immigrant views, including his recent association with VDARE, a white nationalist group. He started talking about running this time after other Republicans failed to adequately defend VDARE’s ability to hold a conference in Colorado Springs. A former state GOP chairman described Tancredo as the immediate front-runner and a candidate who will pull others to the right.

George Brauchler addresses the Western Conservative Summit, July 22, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) western conservative summit; copolitics; politics; denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty;
George Brauchler addresses the Western Conservative Summit, July 22, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Update: Brauchler is out of the governor’s race and running for AG.

George Brauchler is the district attorney in Arapahoe County, where he prosecuted the Aurora theater shooter. He’s been critical of the state’s more liberal jurisdictions for protecting unauthorized immigrants. Brauchler says he’s running to fix our roads and schools. But! He’s now reportedly considering leaving the governor’s race to run for attorney general now that Cynthia Coffman is running for governor. Brauchler is popular with movement conservatives and won a straw poll at the Western Conservative Summit, but he’s struggled to raise money.

Colorado gubernatorial candidate Doug Robinson speaks at the Western Conservative Summit, July 22, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) western conservative summit; copolitics; politics; denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty;
Colorado gubernatorial candidate Doug Robinson speaks at the Western Conservative Summit, July 22, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Doug Robinson is a former investment banker who is seeking office for the first time. Like other candidates without previous political experience, he touts his business credentials and “outsider” perspective. Robinson is a nephew of former presidential candidate and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has financially supported his campaign. He wants to reduce regulations and improve Colorado schools.

Colorado gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell speaks at the Western Conservative Summit, July 21, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) western conservative summit; wcs; protest; cory gardner; healthcare; adapt; medicaid; denver; denverite; kevinjbeaty;
Colorado gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell speaks at the Western Conservative Summit, July 21, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Victor Mitchell is a former state legislator and businessman who wants voters to see him as an outsider. Mitchell did not vote for President Donald Trump, instead supporting third-party candidate Evan McMullin. He pitches himself as conservative but pragmatic. He’s put $3 million of his own money into his campaign while criticizing the fundraising practices of his rivals.

Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton speaks at a U.S. Term Limits rally on the Capitol steps. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) capitol; copolitics; rally; congressional term limits; denver; politics; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite;
Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton speaks at a U.S. Term Limits rally on the Capitol steps, back when he was raising his profile and money but NOT running for governor. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Walker Stapleton is the state treasurer, which means he’s won statewide office already and defeated an incumbent Democrat, Cary Kennedy, to do so. She’s now running for governor on the Democratic side. Stapleton has drawn fire for raising money (a lot of it, with a super PAC called Better Colorado Now) before he became a declared candidate, and he’s expected to continue to dominate the money game. Stapleton is a strong supporter of the oil and gas industry, and as treasurer, he’s pushed for PERA reform. He’s also a cousin of George H.W. Bush.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman speaks at a Stand Up Colorado press conference, Nov. 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman speaks at a Stand Up Colorado press conference, Nov. 17, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Cynthia Coffman, Colorado’s attorney general, announced this week after months of will-she-won’t-she speculation. Potential AG candidates have also been waiting on her decision to seek re-election. Coffman told the Denver Post she’s not worried by the crowded field. “There’s always room for a smart woman,” she said. She’s considered more socially moderate than many Republican candidates, though environmental groups have criticized her ties to the oil and gas industry. Like Stapleton, Coffman has already won a statewide election.

Lew Gaiter is a Larimer County commissioner, and he’s running such a sleeper campaign that he told the Colorado Independent, “I would bet I put less time in this campaign than maybe anybody else.” But he thinks the job of county commissioner is similar to the job of governor and that he’s prepared for this new role. He says he understands the gaps between state and local government and will bring business experience to the role, as well. He’s also a ski patroller.

Greg Lopez is the former mayor of Parker. He’s an Air Force veteran, and he ran the state’s Small Business Administration from 2008 to 2014. If elected, he would be the state’s first Latino governor. He currently runs a restaurant in Aurora and wants the state to remove regulations that make it harder for small businesses to succeed. His parents were migrant farm workers, and he used to be a Democrat.

Jim Rundberg is a person some media outlets are calling an activist. I would just encourage you to read this piece he wrote about the theme of his campaign: “Are you trustworthy, Colorado?”

Colorado gubernatorial candidate Steve Barlock at the Western Conservative Summit, July 21, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) western conservative summit; wcs; protest; cory gardner; healthcare; adapt; medicaid; denver; denverite; kevinjbeaty;
Colorado gubernatorial candidate Steve Barlock at the Western Conservative Summit, July 21, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Steve Barlock served as co-chair of Donald Trump’s Denver campaign, and he’s running against the “globalist Bushes” and the “globalist Romneys” as much as he’s running against a future Democratic opponent. That would be Stapleton and Robinson. Barlock is a big supporter of the president but says he’ll work for the common man.

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.