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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.