Sunday, August 05, 2018

Colorado Governor- Race of the Day

93 Days Until Election Day

Colorado Governor

Status: Democrat Open
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (West)

Outlook: Tossup (D)

The results of this year's Gubernatorial contest in Colorado will go a ways towards determining if the Centennial State is a true "purple" battleground or a state that continues to evolve towards a bluish future, especially on social issues, consistent with its reputation as being the first state in the Union to legalize weed.

Due to a variety of factors, and before such developments as candidate debates, I do not think this race can be characterized beyond the Tossup label. It is more likely than not though, that Democrats will win this office for the fourth consecutive time. Republicans have had high hopes of victory the past two cycles but have fallen short. If the contest is to ultimately wind up decided by a solid margin, it will probably be in favor of the Democrat.

Incumbent Governor John Hickenlooper, who was a successful businessman before entering politics, is term-limited. Some believe he has his sights set on a Democrat Presidential bid, though some believe his profile in the party no longer fits the mood of it, and in fact, he has been talked about and denied any interest in a potential Independent national bid with his friend, outgoing Ohio Governor John Kasich. Democrats will hope that Hickenlooper will consider a 2020 U.S. Senate run, as he leaves office with slightly elevated job approval numbers, from when he survived reelection with 49 percent of the vote in 2014.

Colorado is a state that has a somewhat complex series of caucuses and party conventions, held before the late June primary, designed to narrow the field to only the candidates with the strongest support. A whole lot of people made noise about running for the open Gubernatorial office this cycle but not everyone stayed the course. For Democrats, Congressman Ed Perlmutter was thought about as someone who would have a decent chance of winning the nomination, but when his Congressional colleague, the younger and very wealthy Jared Polis entered the contest, Perlmutter determined his path to a primary win was more difficult and jumped back into a race for his U.S. House seat. For Republicans, at least three major candidates were eliminated or withdrew before the primary. They were District Attorney George Brauchler, who decided his better option was to run for the open Attorney General position being vacated by Cynthia Coffman. She also entered the race for Governor, amid her divorce from Congressman Mike Coffman, but she fell well short of receiving enough votes to advance at the party assembly.

Many Republicans also breathed a sign of relief when former Congressman Tom Tancredo dropped out of the race. A surprise late-entrant, the polarizing and very right-wing Tancredo was candid when he said he saw no path of winning a general election. In 2010, the one time GOP Presidential candidate had finished second in the race for Governor, as the nominee of the Constitution Party, after the formal GOP nominee saw his candidacy implode.

For the Democrats, Polis, for his significant campaign spending was seen early on as the frontrunner but party activists at the convention expressed a serious preference for former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, who was seeking to become Colorado's first female Governor. She had been narrowly turned out of office by the Republican frontrunner for Governor this cycle, during the strong GOP year of 2010. Polis, who would be the first openly gay person ever elected Governor, became a multi-millionaire by his mid 20s, by virtue of his founding the websites Bluemountain and ProFlowers. After leaving his businesses and getting heavily involved in educational issues in the state, Polis won a seat in Congress in 2008. While the party appreciated his fundraising skills, he was stymied in his efforts to advance in the Leadership.

Also competing for the nomination among Democrats were State Senator Mike Johnston, who chose to petition his way onto the primary ballot instead of competing in the convention process, and who was considered the most moderate of the candidates, as well as Donna Lynne, who was appointed to fill the vacant Lt. Governor position. 

Polls showed that the primary might be close between Polis and Kennedy, but the Congressman's resources allowed him to capture 44 percent of the vote and a 19 percent victory. Johnston was hot on Kennedy's heels for second place, while Lynne failed to get out of single digits.

The Republican field that remained for the primary featured four candidates. The frontrunner was State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a former investment banker. Though his family had long ties to Colorado, Stapleton grew up in tony Greenwich, Connecticut. His mother also happens to be the first cousin of President George H.W. Bush via the Walker Family for which the Colorado candidate was named. Stapleton's cousins, George W. and Jeb have been helpful to him in his efforts in statewide Republican politics, including this race for Governor. Unlike them though, Stapleton would go on to support the Presidential candidacy of Donald Trump.

His ties to the Bush Family alone there were enough for some Republicans to hold him in suspicion .Greg Lopez, the former Mayor of Parker, received considerable conservative support at the party assembly meeting and clinched the second spot on the primary ballot, despite some embarrassing past instances in his personal life. Victor Mitchell, a wealthy real estate businessman, originally from the East Coast, who also served one term in the Colorado House, focused on his outsider status and compared himself to Donald Trump despite the fact that Michell did not vote for Trump for President. He called himself the "nice Donald Trump", and made note of his efforts to defeat both a Bush cousin and another relative of an establishment Republican. The fourth primary candidate was investment banker Doug Robinson who had to prevail in a challenge to keep him off the primary ballot for not having enough signatures. His uncle is Mitt Romney, who came to the state to raise money for him, despite the fact the two men also went a different way in November of 2016 on Trump.

Robinson would finish in last place in the primary though, ending any chance that he would be running in the same general election as his uncle from neighboring states. Lopez also did not perform very well among the primary electorate. The final result had Stapleton beating Mitchell 48 percent to 30 percent.

The general election was set and the first order of business was the candidates picking their running-mates for Lt. Governor. Polis selected former State Representative and non-profit executive  Dianne Primavera while Stapleton joined up with current State Representative Lang Sias, a pilot and Iraq War veteran.

Polling has been fairly scant thus far, but what has been released, including by the Polis campaign, show the Democrat with a lead, but not an overwhelming one. The fundamentals of this race, in the Presidential midterm year of 2018 should certainly favor Polis, but Stapleton has been the candidate who has won statewide twice before, albeit narrowly in strong GOP years. If there is a strong Democrat turnout, in this midterm, the path to victory for him may be impossible, but it remains to be seen if Democrats will turn out in very high numbers in any Colorado midterm. (Let's not forget many of them may simply be too stoned.)

In all seriousness, Stapleton is going to need some luck to prevail, but cannot be counted out. Polis, from Boulder, may possibly be seen as too liberal for the statewide electorate, and his personal style can come across as a bit aloof or arrogant. In the age of Trump, Stapleton's connections to the Bush Family could actually be seen as a good thing among moderate voters. If enough of those voters are angry enough at Trump himself though, Polis will win, and maybe with a bunch of votes to spare.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

2 D,  (1 Safe. 1 Tossup) 4 R (2 Safe, 1 Leans, 1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

9 D (7 holdovers, 1 Safe, 1 Tossup), 11 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Leans, 1 Tossup)


At 2:06 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

I see this as DEM HOLD & the Dems keep the CO Governor's Mansion for another 4 more years.

Remember: the CO Dems held the Governorship for 24 years from 1975 to 1999 & now again from 2007 to present.


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