Lynne, Lopez, Stapleton Say To Hell With Transparency

Walker Stapleton.

A story from the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins today documents a considerable break with the longstanding practice of Colorado gubernatorial candidates releasing their tax returns for public scrutiny:

“I don’t think it’s appropriate. I don’t think it’s relevant,” said Democratic Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, when asked if she would release the past three years of her tax filings for public view. “I don’t know what relevance it is in a gubernatorial election,” she said.

Before becoming the state’s second-in-command, Lynne, a first-time candidate, was an executive vice president of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan. She has put $100,000 of her own money into her campaign so far, and was the only candidate who flat-out said she wouldn’t release her taxes when asked by The Colorado Independent.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Lopez apparently agrees:

Republican Greg Lopez, the former mayor of Parker, said he would have to think about whether to allow a reporter to inspect his tax returns, but also expressed skepticism. “For what purpose?” he asked. “I can understand at the presidential level, but we’re talking about the state level here. So I don’t really know that that really impacts the decisions of voters.”

And finally, GOP fruntrunner Walker Stapleton gets so dodgy about it it’s almost comical:

“I’m happy to release my tax returns but not from what’s in the blind trust because that violates the spirit of setting up the trust to begin with,” Stapleton said in an interview. A Stapleton spokesman jumped in to add that the campaign isn’t prepared to say what it would and wouldn’t release. Stapleton, who has trained most of his fire on Polis throughout his campaign, said he is not interested in seeing what’s in his rival’s returns. Responding to the idea that releasing tax returns before an election could illuminate something important, Stapleton said, “I think that’s stupid and dumb and the only people that care about that are political enemies trying to savage somebody for something.”

Beyond his state income from the treasurer’s office, Stapleton said he has “a lot” of passive business investments that are managed by others. “Do I have alternate sources of income? You bet I do,” he said. [Pols emphasis]

The rest of the major gubernatorial candidates in both parties were generally in support of releasing their tax returns. Jared Polis, the wealthiest candidate in the race by far, says he’ll be happy to do so as long as the other candidates in the Democratic primary do as well. That’s because for many years, the release of tax returns by gubernatorial candidates has been a routine practice. In 2014, both Gov. John Hickenlooper and his opponent Bob Beauprez released theirs. The last time we can remember a gubernatorial candidate refusing to release their tax returns was back in 2010, when ill-fated GOP candidate Scott McInnis earned the wrath of the Denver Post:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis has refused to release his tax returns, a position that breaks from routine campaign practices in Colorado and nationally…

Media outlets routinely request tax returns from candidates because they reveal more than mere income: They show sources of income and potential conflicts of interest, charitable giving, the use of tax shelters, how candidates manage their own money and how their tax rates compare with the average taxpayer’s.

Open-government advocates say it’s especially important that wealthy candidates, who usually have a multitude of investments, be forthcoming with their taxes. [Pols emphasis]

Make no mistake, the refusal of these candidates to participate in a longstanding and uncontroversial disclosure is a very serious breach of trust and longstanding tradition. In the case of Donna Lynne, this nonchalant dismissal of the need to disclose basic financial information should be disqualifying–though with her campaign stuck in single digits anyway, it’s doubtful that will ever be put to the test.

Walker Stapleton, on the other hand, is the Republican frontrunner. It’s been no secret since Stapleton’s election that his financial footprint is extensive and poorly documented. Being shady about one’s finances might slip under the radar in lower elected offices, but a candidate for the state’s highest office has an obligation to demonstrate that he has no disqualifying conflicts of interest.

Instead, Walker Stapleton brags about his undisclosed “alternate sources of income.”

That is not cool. We can only hope there is some outrage to spare for it.

Jared Polis: The Governor Colorado’s Weed Industry Needs?

Rep. Jared Polis (D).

A new story on cannabis culture news site Herb argues strongly that Rep. Jared Polis is the candidate for governor of Colorado best suited to champion he state’s legal marijuana industry–after the current Gov. John Hickenlooper disappointed marijuana advocates with his on-again-off-again support following the passage of Amendment 64 in 2012:

After ten years in Congress, vocal cannabis reform advocate Jared Polis is now looking to become the Governor of Colorado. Polis, currently a representative for Colorado’s second district, is running on an ambitious campaign to provide the state with 100% renewable energy by 2040 as well as implement a single-payer health care plan. But as governor of the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, he would also preside over a cannabis market which has set the tone for the rest of the country.

Since Colorado legalized in 2012, reform advocates have cited Colorado’s tax revenues and falling crime rates as a reason to legalize nationally while opponents have claimed that out of state smuggling has flooded surrounding states with organized crime. As a result, the success or failure of Colorado’s recreational market could define national policy and a pot-friendly governor like Polis could make all the difference…

“We also need to make sure that Colorado’s businesses encourage diversity and provide economic opportunities to every qualified individual,” says Polis. “The cannabis industry is attractive to men and women of all backgrounds and races.”

The solution, Polis has suggested, is a commission of lawmakers, citizens, and industry professionals to audit the effectiveness of Colorado’s current regulations. It’s no doubt that Polis will be missed among reform advocates in Congress, but if he’s able to smooth out the kinks in his state’s cannabis industry, he could still have an impact nationwide by setting a precedent for all the states looking to legalize in the next two years.

When Colorado became the first state to legalize the sale and use of marijuana by adults without any license or medical prescription, it was risky territory for the state. The initial reaction from Gov. Hickenlooper and many other local political leaders in both parties was one of caution, with great doubt over whether the federal government would ever allow the legal retail sale of marijuana to begin.

Six years after Amendment 64, Colorado’s nervous foray into legal marijuana sales has become a model that other states have followed–most prominently the state of California, whose retail marijuana operations began at the beginning of this year. Today, the rush of larger states to legalize marijuana has taken the pressure off Colorado as a petri dish for an uncertain experiment. The explosive growth and maturation of the marijuana industry has unquestionably validated the wisdom of legalization in 2012, and makes Gov. Hickenlooper’s recent well-publicized fumbles on the issue seem terribly out of touch.

In the first post-Hickenlooper gubernatorial election, it will be very interesting to see how much influence the marijuana business wields. Whatever Hickenlooper says from day to day, public support for legal weed remains strong–so we don’t see Republicans campaigning in 2018 on a Reefer Madness platform of recriminalization. That means candidates will be jockeying to be the industry’s friend–and Polis has the bonafides here.

Big Endorsements Bracket Dem Governor’s Race

Cary Kennedy, Jared Polis.

Denver7’s Blair Miller reports on big endorsements for the two frontrunners in the Democratic gubernatorial primary: former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar backing Cary Kennedy, and former Rep. Pat Schroeder endorsing Jared Polis–two of Colorado’s best-known senior Democratic statespeople on opposite sides of this red-hot race:

Two of Colorado’s Democratic candidates for governor picked up big endorsements Tuesday from former members of Congress from the state, and another candidate showed off her new tattoo.

Cary Kennedy won the endorsement of former U.S. senator and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Tuesday morning, while former U.S. Rep. Pat Schroeder endorsed Jared Polis in the race…

Salazar is the former state attorney general, served as a U.S. senator from 2005 to 2009, and was the Interior Secretary under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2013.

Schroeder, who endorsed Polis Tuesday, became Colorado’s first female member of Congress when she was elected in 1972 to serve the state’s 1st congressional district at age 32.

In both cases these are endorsements that will carry real weight among Democratic primary voters. It’s tough to say which candidate benefits more from their respective endorsement. Ken Salazar is one of Colorado’s most celebrated Democratic lawmakers, and was considered a likely gubernatorial contender himself before the field took shape. Pat Schroeder, on the other hand, is an icon of the women’s rights movement and a fixture in Colorado politics spanning decades.

We’ll let readers hash out the relative merits, but they both have plenty to celebrate.

Yet Another Petition Signature Mess in Colorado

Artist rendering of the inside of the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

Corey Hutchins of the Colorado Independent reported yesterday on the latest news from the Colorado Secretary of State’s (SOS) office regarding the validity of petitions for access to the June Primary ballot. The key points in the story are buried a bit by a broader headline and lede about the April 27th deadline for the SOS to verify signatures and finalize the ballot, but there’s no question that this is another 2016-esque mess:

Rules in the petition-gathering game stipulate that if a voter signs petitions for two candidates, the signatures only count for the candidate who hands in his or her petitions first. On the Republican side, Stapleton handed in petitions just before Robinson, but then last week (because of Robinson— long story) he wound up admitting fraud in his gathering process and asked the Secretary of State’s office to scrap them. Stapleton’s only shot for the ballot was to go through Saturday’s assembly, which he successfully did. In a way, that sounded like good news for Robinson— Stapleton’s signatures might not count against his.

Not so fast.

Even though Stapleton asked for his petitions to be pulled, the signatures on them still count since the Secretary of State already had determined they were sufficient, said Secretary of State spokeswoman Lynn Bartels. [Pols emphasis]

That leaves a slimmer margin of error for the Robinson team as workers in an office building in Pueblo double-check his signatures to make sure they are valid and don’t include Republicans who already signed for Stapleton.

What???

Republican gubernatorial candidates Victor Mitchell (left) and Mitt Romney’s Nephew have a significant stake in the latest ruling from SOS Wayne Williams.

According to the SOS office, signatures for Walker Stapleton are still officially valid even though Stapleton raised his own alert about potential signature fraud and asked that his name be withdrawn as a candidate seeking ballot access through the petition process (Stapleton will be on the June Primary ballot anyway after capturing top-line at the Republican state assembly last weekend). Stapleton formally asked Secretary of State Wayne Williams to remove his name from the petition process just last week, which came a few days after Stapleton got word from the SOS that his campaign had in fact gathered enough valid signatures for ballot access.

Williams spun hard to cover his own ass after Stapleton’s campaign essentially admitted that many of its signatures were probably fraudulent…but now he’s saying that all of those signatures will still be counted as valid. This ruling is completely absurd in its own right, but the logic breaks down even further in regard to the gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Donna Lynne:

On the Democratic side, the same rules are working in Lynne’s favor.

Polis, whose campaign fanned the state and hoovered up some 30,000 signatures— far more than the 10,500 he needed— seemed like he could have been also creating a bit of a defense shield with them. Remember, signatures of voters who sign only count for the first candidate to turn them in. Polis turned his in before Lynne, slimming her margin of error.

But.

Polis then decided to also go through Saturday’s assembly, where he earned himself a spot on the ballot by getting more than 30 percent of the vote among delegates. Polis’s signatures were still being counted at the time he won, and as soon as he made the ballot through the assembly, the Secretary of State’s office stopped counting them.

That means all of Polis’s 30,000 signatures are back in circulation— and are now able to count for Lynne.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R-Disaster).

Let’s recap what we’ve learned here. The SOS’ office is saying that Walker Stapleton’s petition signatures are still valid — even though he’s on the ballot through the assembly process — which is relevant because it means that Republican candidates such as Mitt Romney’s Nephew (Robinson) and Victor Mitchell cannot use any of those names for their own signature verification needs. In the same breath, however, the SOS says that signatures for Jared Polis will not be considered valid — because Polis is also on the ballot through the assembly process — which means that Donna Lynne doesn’t have to worry about signatures being double-counted from Polis’ submissions.

How does this make any logical sense whatsoever?

For his part, SOS Williams is passing the buck, telling the Independent that he was only following rules that say a candidate’s signatures must be counted if…they were already counted? “That is a bright line rule and that’s what we’re following,” says Williams in a comment that would only make sense if, in fact, there were any “bright lines” to be examined in this mess.

What Williams has really done here is to issue a ruling that completely upends the signature counting process for a number of statewide campaigns. We would expect to see a barrage of lawsuits coming — both from Republicans and Democrats — because Williams’ ruling could very well keep one or more gubernatorial candidates off the June Primary ballot altogether. The state legislature, meanwhile, probably needs to add another bill to its to-do list in an effort to prevent this lunacy from happening again in 2020.

Did we mention that the June Primary ballot is supposed to be certified seven days from now? We did?

Ugh.

State Assemblies End; The Big Line Updates

With both the Democratic and Republican state assemblies/conventions now behind us, we’ve made a multitude of updates to The Big Line. If you’re looking for information on who made the ballot and who didn’t, you’ll find those updates in The Big Line. If you’re looking for a good restaurant in Colorado, you will not find that information in The Big Line. If you’re looking for an analysis of the 2018 races for Governor, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Congress…it’s in The Big Line.

You may now commence with your complaints…

(P.S.: The Big Line)

Colorado Democratic Assembly Results

Colorado Democrats assembled at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield from Friday, April 13, to Saturday, April 14, 2018. The crowd of almost 4,000 Democrats were enthusiastic, engaged, yet civil (in contrast to the stunning back-stabbing and skullduggery at the Republican assembly) . The CDP Assembly was superbly well-organized, with balloting completed in about a half hour, and counted in less than two hours.  Kudos to Chair Morgan Carroll and all of the CDP staff and volunteers.

All of the  congressional districts held their own assemblies; many candidates had primary challengers or Democratic challengers to Republican incumbents. In this “blue wave” year, no office held by the GOP can be considered to be off-limits. Democrats in Colorado put forward a slate of phenomenal candidates.

The official results from the Colorado Democratic Party (CDP) for statewide offices are:

CU Regent-at-Large
Lesley Smith: 3,229 votes (100.00%)

Based on these results, Lesley Smith has qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for CU Regent-at-Large.

Treasurer
Bernard Douthit: 1,074 votes (31.50%)
Charles Scheibe: 557 votes (16.34%)
Dave Young: 1,778 votes (52.16%)

Based on these results, Bernard Douthit and Dave Young have qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Treasurer.

Secretary of State
Jena Griswold: 3,352 votes (98.44%)
Phillip Villard: 53 votes (1.56%)

Based on these results, Jena Griswold has qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Secretary of State.

Attorney General
Amy Padden: 360 votes (10.54%)
Joe Salazar: 1,249 votes (36.58%)
Phil Weiser: 1,805 votes (52.87%)

Based on these results, Joe Salazar and Phil Weiser have qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Attorney General. Amy Padden can qualify for the ballot if the Secretary of State determines that she has collected the requisite number of valid signatures.

Governor
Cary Kennedy: 2,101 votes (61.65%)
Jared Polis: 1,120 votes (32.86%)
Erik Underwood: 187 votes (5.49%)

Based on these results, Cary Kennedy and Jared Polis have qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Governor.

NOTE: These are not all of the candidates that are running for these particular offices. Some candidates have chosen to qualify for the ballot by submitting petition signatures instead of going through the caucus-assembly process.

Here are the CD results in order: ( rounded to nearest 1%). I’ll update this list with numbers as I find them.

I’ve included my notes on the assemblies I attended and on the speakers I heard.

CD1: (Denver metro)Diana Degette – 61% . Her primary opponent, Saira Rao , got 37%, and  will be on the ballot. Rep. Degette has been a reliable Democratic vote for many years in a safe district – I think Rao’s candidacy will be a needed wake-up call to be more progressive and to offer better constituent services. Rao is sharp, a great speaker, and has energized the progressive base. Degette attended her CD1 assembly on April 13 , did not attend nor speak at the state assembly April 14.

CD2: (Boulder area – Jared Polis vacated the seat to run for Governor) Joe Negeuse – 91% Joe gave a helluva speech, as he always does. His personal story touches many people. Boulder will be well represented by him, as he’ll certainly win the primary, and almost certainly the general election. His primary opponent, Mark Williams, did not make the ballot.  The GOP has put up a couple of “Nicks” against Neguse: Nick Thomas and Nicholas Morse. I don’t know who won the GOP assembly vote, but they won’t beat “the Goose”.

CD3: (most of the western slope and SW CO – currently held by Scott Tipton) Diane Mitsch Bush had the highest delegate vote with 56%; Karl Harlon also cleared the 30% threshold with 41%, and will be on the ballot.

CD4: (Mostly NE CO – current incumbent Ken Buck) The Doctors were in the house! Veterinary doctors Karen McCormick and Chase Kohne each had throngs of energetic supporters on stage for their nominations. Each gave a rousing speech:

Kohne’s best line, in my opinion: “If you want to shoot an AR15, go down to the recruiting office and join the military.”

McCormick’s nominators are emphasizing Dr McCormick’s support for Dreamers and immigrants. Karen McCormick emphasized Cannabis, immigrant rights, healthcare, union support, bipartisan cooperation to get laws passed. Full disclosure: I live in CD4. I’m voting for McCormick, will be fine with Kohne as well.

CD5 (El Paso area, currently held by Doug Lamborn) Stephany Rose Spaulding won the delegate count and will be on the ballot. I don’t know about the other CD5 candidates, whom you can read about at the EPCO Young Dems site.  It’s great to see so many young Democrats running from what has6been the Tea Party GOP’s bastion in Colorado.

CD6 Aurora / Arapahoe County area, currently held by Mike Coffman. Jason Crow won top ballot with 64% , while Levi Tilleman will also be on the ballot with 35%. I saw Crow speak to the assembly, and found his persona to be authentic and appealing. PPP surveyed 761 voters, and found that Crow polled 44-39 against Coffman in Febrary 2018.

CD7 Ed Perlmutter, the Democratic incumbent, did not attend the Assembly as far as I know. Ed, a very popular Congressman in his district,  is not  being primaried in this election.

 

Author’s note – this diary started as an open thread based on my  live blogging at the Colorado State Assembly. I’ve updated it with ballot results.

 

 

Walker Stapleton Makes Primary Ballot…Barely

Walker Stapleton

The Colorado Secretary of State’s (SOS) office announced this afternoon that Republican Walker Stapleton submitted just enough valid signatures to get his name on the June Primary ballot in the race for Governor.

Here’s the district-by-district breakdown of Stapleton’s petition signatures, which shows a validity rate of about 59%. In order to qualify for the Primary ballot, candidates for Governor need 1,500 valid signatures from each of Colorado’s seven Congressional districts (for a total of 10,500). The SOS office counted 11,325 valid signatures for Stapleton, and it was a close call in two congressional districts: CD1 (1,589) and CD7 (1,553).

We wrote last month that Stapleton’s campaign was sweating it out on the signature front, and these numbers prove that out. Stapleton’s campaign submitted just 19,214 total signatures on February 23 (after telling the media that they had collected 21,000) — two days after Democrat Michael Johnston became the first statewide candidate to turn in petitions. Johnston found out that he had qualified for the ballot on March 16, but it took three more weeks for Stapleton’s signatures to be approved.

As we explained a few weeks ago, Stapleton’s close call with petition signatures despite a massive advantage in financial resources does not speak well for his campaign operation.

Like We Said: It’s a Two-Person Democratic Primary for Governor

Cary Kennedy, Jared Polis.

The Denver Post’s John Frank reports on a poll of the Democratic gubernatorial primary field from GOP-aligned Magellan Strategies that nonetheless describes what we think is an accurate picture of the race as of this writing:

Democratic candidate Cary Kennedy is primed to make the party’s ballot for governor in Colorado just as a new poll shows her closing the gap with front-runner Jared Polis…

Polis, a five-term Boulder congressman, remains in front with 27 percent, but Kennedy sits at 23 percent — a statistical dead-heat within the 4.8 percent margin of error, according to a primary forecast from Magellan Strategies, a Republican polling firm based in Colorado.

Former state Sen. Mike Johnston received 8 percent and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne received 5 percent in the survey conducted last week. Another 36 percent of likely primary voters are undecided.

In a memo discussing this new poll, Cary Kennedy’s campaign manager Aaron Bly was ebullient:

We are in a great position for State Assembly on April 14th, which is the final step in the process to set the primary ballot.

This polling and her decisive wins in the Democratic nominating process show her strong base of support with the key demographics in Colorado politics – women and the suburbs.

The plurality of voters in this poll who are undecided obviously means there is plenty of room for movement, but this poll reflects the overall dynamic we’ve been observing in the Democratic gubernatorial primary toward a two-person race between Rep. Jared Polis and former Treasurer Kennedy. Basement numbers for Mike Johnston and Donna Lynne underscore the challenge those candidates face as the race focuses on the top two, and it may not be long before both Johnston and Lynne are relegated to the role of spoilers.

Between Kennedy and Polis, the question becomes much more difficult to forecast confidently. Both candidates have good name ID and deep bases of support among the party rank-and-file. Unknown variables like the role of unaffiliated voters add further uncertainty. Kennedy’s ability to remain competitive in fundraising is crucial going into the heat of primary season, in which Polis can be expected to own the airwaves and reach out effectively to every likely primary voter. Financial superiority as well as a highly disciplined campaign advantage Polis, but not enough for him to run away with it given Kennedy’s demonstrated strength so far.

It’s still early enough for anything to happen, but this poll is consistent with what we see unfolding.

Democrat Noel Ginsburg Ends Gubernatorial Campaign

So long, Noel Ginsburg

In December 2016, Denver businessman Noel Ginsburg became the first official Democratic candidate to enter the 2018 race for Governor.

Today, Ginsburg is ending his campaign.

Ginsburg would have been the fourth Democratic candidate to attempt to petition his way onto the Primary ballot before today’s deadline; when Ginsburg wasn’t able to beat Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne to the Secretary of State’s office, his campaign was likely dead.

Thanks in part to his ability to write big checks to his own campaign, Ginsburg held on as a candidate for longer than we would have expected. Ultimately, it seems that Ginsburg tired of hitting himself up for more money.

In an open race for Governor with no shortage of quality candidates, the little-known (politically, anyway) Ginsburg was always going to have trouble standing out in the crowd — particularly with his not-so-inspiring message — but he gave it a good run.

Oh, Hey, Donna Lynne is Still Running for Governor

Fresh off the Twitter machine this morning:

Lynne submitted her petition signatures one day before the deadline, which puts her behind Democrats Michael Johnston and Jared Polis but potentially ahead of Noel Ginsburg in the line for verification from the Secretary of State’s office. Lynne’s campaign didn’t specify a number for how many petition signatures were submitted, but they’re going to need every one of the “more than double” of the required amount if she’s going to sneak her name onto the June Primary ballot.

Johnston First Candidate for Governor to Make Ballot

Phew, that was close.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s (SOS) office announced today that Democrat Mike Johnston is officially on the June Primary ballot for Governor…but just barely:

Johnston on Feb. 21 became the first gubernatorial candidate to turn in petitions to the Secretary of State’s office for review. As a statewide candidate, he was required to gather 1,500 valid signatures from Democratic voters in each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts for a total of 10,500 signatures.

He submitted 22,585 signatures and 12,698 were deemed valid.

Johnston’s signature validity rate was just 56%, which is another reminder of how dicey it can be for statewide candidates to attempt to make the ballot via the petition route. The SOS breakdown of signatures per congressional district shows that Johnston just squeaked by in CD-5, Colorado’s most Republican-heavy district, with 1,543 valid signatures.

Johnston’s validity rate should be frightening to other gubernatorial candidates who may soon be dealing with a Jon Keyser-level problem. Republican Walker Stapleton submitted about 21,000 signatures — approximately 1,500 less than Johnston — and a similar validity rate would have Stapleton teetering on the edge of not making the ballot.

Ruh-roh, Donna Lynne

Keep in mind that Johnston and Stapleton were the first members of their respective political parties to submit petition signatures; each successive candidate must have enough valid signatures beyond those already deemed sufficient for candidates before them. For someone like Republican gubernatorial hopeful Mitt Romney’s Nephew, who turned in just 17,000 total signatures, there is very little margin for error. Republican Victor Mitchell (26,000 signatures) and Democrat Jared Polis (33,000 signatures) have a bit more breathing room, though Mitchell is in more trouble because he’s third in line for signatures on the GOP side.

The deadline to submit petition signatures for ballot access is March 20 (next Tuesday). Two other Democrats — Donna Lynne and Noel Ginsburg — have been circulating petitions but have yet to turn anything with the SOS office. Both Lynne and Ginsburg are probably in big trouble at this point, but there’s still hope for the campaign that gets their signatures submitted first; it’s unlikely that the fourth-place Democrat will have enough extra signatures beyond those already scooped up by Johnston and Polis.

Gubernatorial candidates can still make the ballot through the caucus/assembly process if they fail to meet the signature threshold, but only Polis and Stapleton have been making any real effort to court delegates thus far (Democrat Cary Kennedy is going the caucus/assembly route only). The campaigns for Mitt’s Nephew, Mitchell, Lynne, and Ginsburg are essentially over if they fail to meet the petition requirements.

Annnddd…Here Comes Victor Mitchell

Look at all them boxes

Republican gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell submitted his petition signatures for access to the GOP Primary ballot today. Here’s a section from the press release, which takes pointed shots at fellow Republican candidates Walker Stapleton and Mitt Romney’s Nephew:

The Victor Mitchell campaign today turned in 26,085 petitions to the Secretary of State, more than any other Republican running for Governor. Previously, media reports said that incumbent State Treasurer and Bush family scion, Walker Stapleton, submitted 21,000 petitions. Doug Robinson, the wealthy retired investment banker and relative of George and Mitt Romney, reportedly submitted 17,000 petitions.

Four boxes of signed and notarized petitions were wheeled into the Secretary of State’s office by the Mitchell campaign’s legal representative, Attorney John Snow, of the Hackstaff and Snow law firm that supervised the petition drive, with the assistance of the Lincoln Strategy Group.

Here’s what the candidate himself had to say about his petition drive:

I saw the petition drive as an outstanding opportunity for grassroots politics that engages with real voters. We wanted to collect the most petitions to show our commitment to winning this campaign, just as we’ve approached our Facebook social media campaign,  where we have more friends and followers than any other gubernatorial candidate, by a wide margin. We did it and there will be many more big wins in the days ahead. Just watch.

Is “just watch” a new slogan, or just an oddly-abrupt way to end a statement? Either way, Mitchell appears to have been very careful in making sure they had enough signatures for ballot access as the third Republican campaign to drop off boxes with the Secretary of State’s office. On the Democratic side of the race, only Michael Johnston has submitted petition signatures thus far; Jared Polis and Donna Lynne (and Noel Ginsburg) are expected to submit signatures, although Polis is also going through the caucus route for ballot access.

For Mitchell, turning in more than 26,000 signatures is an important validation of a campaign that has been relatively quiet thus far (except for that excellent appearance on “The Get More Smarter Show“). Mitchell has already committed $3 million of his own money to his campaign, the bulk of which is likely now earmarked for a barrage of television and digital media ads in advance of the June Primary.

Cary Kennedy’s Big Night Narrows Democratic Primary

Cary Kennedy.

AP reporting via Denver7 on the results of yesterday’s Democratic precinct caucuses, in which former Treasurer Cary Kennedy outperformed–and solidified her position in what is increasingly a two-person primary:

Democratic voters attending Colorado’s non-binding party caucuses have selected former state treasurer Cary Kennedy as their top choice for governor.

The Colorado Democratic Party said Wednesday that Kennedy received 50 percent of more than 23,000 votes cast Tuesday night.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis followed with nearly 33 percent. Former state Sen. Mike Johnston had nearly 9 percent, according to preliminary results.

Kennedy’s campaign was rightfully jubilant in a press release last night:

With support of 50% of the statewide caucusgoers, Kennedy’s total was higher than all the other candidates combined. With this victory, Kennedy is in a strong position to win the primary and receive topline at the State Assembly. Kennedy won 9 of the 11 biggest counties: Denver, Boulder, Jefferson, Arapahoe, EL Paso, Douglas, Weld, Mesa and Pueblo. Kennedy won the majority of delegates in key rural and suburban counties, showing her ability to win not only the primary, but to win the general election in November.

“I am so grateful for the incredible showing of support. I could feel the momentum building as I traveled the state.” said Kennedy.

It was a great night for Kennedy, who chose the assembly route to the ballot instead of a petition campaign and frankly needed to own her chosen path to the ballot–against what would still be well-organized caucus campaigns from her challengers taking the petition path. Getting to 50% in a five-candidate field indicates momentum for Kennedy among base Democrats that can’t be ignored.

By contrast, Mike Johnston’s paltry 8.8% showing in yesterday’s caucuses shows how little relative momentum he has in the primary among Democratic base voters, despite the fact that he has consistently raised respectable amounts of money. Johnston’s alienation of public education supporters in particular during his time as a state lawmaker is clearly reflected in his poor results last night, and further defines Johnston as a candidate with narrow, insider, and (dare we say it) corporate appeal.

In short, there’s still time for the unexpected to occur, but yesterday’s results for us are fully consistent with the trend we’ve been observing for some time in the Colorado Democratic gubernatorial primary: moving toward a two-person race, between a popular, capable, and experienced public servant in Cary Kennedy, versus one of the state’s best-known progressive leaders and innovators, Rep. Jared Polis.

And it’s shaping up to be one of the most gripping primaries Democrats in Colorado have had in many years–maybe since Polis’ own election to Congress back in 2008. Whatever happens, the next few months will make for some lively blue-on-blue interplay.

We’re looking forward to blogging it.

The Petition Race for Second Place

Republican Walker Stapleton (left) and Democrat Michael Johnston.

Last week two candidates for Governor announced that they had submitted petitions for ballot access to the Colorado Secretary of State’s (SOS) office. Democrat Mike Johnston was the first to push his signatures across the finish line on Wednesday, with Republican Walker Stapleton following on Friday. Campaigns on both sides of the aisle are now under significant pressure to submit their own petition signatures; the longer you wait to turn in petitions, the more trouble you will likely have in qualifying for the ballot.

The SOS office still needs to check the signatures submitted by Johnston and Stapleton, so we won’t know for a week or two whether either candidate successfully met the 10,500 signature threshold (1,500 must come from each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts). What we do know is that other candidates seeking to make the Primary ballot through the petition process are already at a disadvantage.

Valid signatures collected by a candidate cannot be counted twice, so anybody whose name gets counted on petitions for Johnston or Stapleton cannot be used toward the 10,500 threshold for other candidates — no matter when the signatures were collected. For example, registered Republicans who signed a petition for Stapleton to gain ballot access can no longer be counted toward the petition totals of other Republican candidates, such as Victor Mitchell or Mitt Romney’s Nephew. To put it another way, Mitchell and friends must now submit valid signatures from 10,500 registered Republicans who were not already on Stapleton’s list. Gubernatorial candidates Jared Polis and Donna Lynne face the same challenge on the Democratic side (although Polis will also likely participate in the caucus/assembly process, giving him another option for ballot access).

Trouble with petition signatures have been major issues for statewide campaigns (particularly Republicans) in recent years. During the 2016 U.S. Senate race, Republicans Jon Keyser and Ryan Frazier nearly failed to make the ballot because of a dearth of valid signatures compounded by the inability to double-count voters who had already signed petitions for Republican Jack Graham. Both Keyser and Frazier ultimately got their names on the Primary ballot after protracted legal challenges, but the uncertainty surrounding both campaigns torpedoed fundraising and organizing efforts and effectively crippled their chances of winning the June Primary. In 2006, Republican Marc Holtzman failed to make the ballot in the Republican gubernatorial primary, which left an open road for Bob Beauprez to become the GOP nominee.

The deadline to submit petitions to the SOS for ballot access is March 20.

Tancredo Wants No Part of the Blue Wave

Tom Tancredo sees the same numbers as everyone else.

Former Congressman Tom Tancredo was the frontrunner for the Republican gubernatorial nomination until this afternoon, when he abruptly dropped out of the race altogether.

If you’re wondering what in the hell just happened, the answer is deceptively simple: Tancredo decided the 2018 race for Governor was not winnable for Republicans. Here’s the money quote via Ernest Luning of the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

“It appeared to me the goal — winning the general, that was the main goal — and it does not appear to me to be feasible.”

The 2018 election is shaping up to be a catastrophic event for Republicans, and everyone sees it coming. In the House of Representatives alone, there are 35 Republicans who are just walking away from office and not even trying to run for re-election — including some of the most powerful and influential committee chairs on Capitol Hill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been open about his concerns that Republicans might lose both the House and the Senate in November.

Here’s another key quote from Luning’s story:

“I can’t do this and risk taking resources away from other Republican races.”

Remember that Tancredo joined the race for Governor well before the November 2017 election that officially started to panic Republicans around the country. Tancredo ran for Governor in both 2010 and 2014; he knows what it is like to run a statewide race more than just about anybody in Colorado, and he is absolutely not afraid of challenging the GOP establishment. But Tancredo is also at the end of his political career, and he doesn’t want to be blamed for a 2018 loss that may be unavoidable for Republicans.