Tom Tancredo and Cynthia Coffman are in, and George Brauchler is out. There’s been lots of upheaval in the 2018 race for Governor in the last couple of weeks, so lets reset the field as we near the end of the year. Here’s our latest look at the State of the Race (for the State).
Democratic candidates are outraising Republican counterparts not named Walker Stapleton by significant margins. Democrats Jared Polis, Cary Kennedy, Mike Johnston, and even Donna Lynne are running strong campaigns as we enter the campaign doldrums of the Holiday Season. Things should start to shake out a bit once we cross into 2018, because there just isn’t room for all four of these candidates to mathematically make the ballot through the caucus/assembly process; remember, any candidate who does not petition onto the ballot must get at least 30% of the vote at the state assembly for ballot access.
Polis has the name ID and the resources to go the caucus route, so at least one of the other three major Democratic candidates will need to spend a great deal of time and money on gathering petition signatures if they hope to see their name on the June Primary ballot. It’s hard to envision a scenario where Lynne does not go the petition route; the bigger question will be about what Kennedy and Johnston decide. Right now, all four major Democratic candidates are essentially rowing in the same direction. Expect that to change in January.
On the Republican side, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and former Congressman Tom Tancredo have pulled away from the rest of a crowded pack. Stapleton is sweeping up one major Republican donor after another, and he likely ends the year with the largest amount of contributions among Republican candidates. Stapleton raised more than $300k just from major donors (contributions of $1,000 or more) in the last six weeks, and wrote himself a $250k check. This doesn’t count the hundreds of thousands of dollars being funneled into a pro-Stapleton PAC, either.
Tancredo, meanwhile, seems to be establishing himself as the [quote-unquote] insurgent candidate for Republicans. We learned from last Tuesday’s election results that incumbency won’t save Republicans in 2018. We saw that the Republican brand is in tatters. And Tuesday’s Democratic wipeout confirmed something many had long expected: That Trumpism doesn’t exist without Donald Trump. Tancredo is not an establishment Republican like failed Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie, nor is he a diehard Trumpian whose political fortunes will be tied to President Twitterer. In 2018, Tancredo may be embraced by national Republican factions – rather than openly opposed – and his strong name ID among Republican voters means that he doesn’t need to compete dollar-for-dollar with Stapleton.
Cynthia Coffman finally entered the GOP field for Governor after nearly a year of publicly teasing the idea. Even with Brauchler out of the race, it’s difficult to see how she might have a path to the GOP nomination in June. Longtime Republican operative/consultant Dick Wadhams told CBS4 Denver that Coffman’s entry into the race probably helps Tancredo more than anything else:
“Tancredo starts off with anywhere from 20 to 23 percent — a rock hard political base,” Wadhams said. “So the more the rest of the vote is divided up by these other Republican candidates, it helps him.
“Now, the challenge for the other candidates is for somebody to break through.”
Coffman is essentially running for Governor because she doesn’t want to be Attorney General any longer; if she’s going to run another statewide race in 2018, she figures that she might as well try for the top prize. Unfortunately for Coffman, she has neither the fundraising chops nor the conservative bonafides to be a top contender in a Republican Primary. Coffman has never been good at raising money; when she was first campaigning for Attorney General in 2013, she failed to surpass $100k in donations in her first four months in the race. It’s fair to say that Coffman would have entered the race for Governor long ago if she knew that the money would be there to sustain a campaign.
As for her conservative credentials, Coffman has lots of explaining to do to a right-wing base about why she issued a ruling in support of legislative efforts to reclassify the Hospital Provider Fee (HPF). Coffman may have been doing her legal duty with the HPF decision, but that won’t make diehard Republican voters feel any better. If you don’t think Coffman doesn’t already realize this problem, take a look at how she answered some straightforward budget questions in an interview with the Durango Herald:
Coffman deflected a question about the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and Gallagher Amendment, which limit tax collections and have been blamed for hampering the state budget and dozens of local government budgets, including special districts.
“We would need to set a longer conversation,” she said. “I don’t want to give it short shrift.”
Nothing demonstrates leadership by refusing to answer questions about the state budget.
Oh, and then there’s the whole “Coffmangate” scandal that will be rehashed repeatedly.
STILL LOOKING AROUND
Colorado Springs entrepreneur/pastor/author Barry Farah was supposedly going to enter the Republican gubernatorial field back in August, but he seems to have vanished since those initial reports. Farah is either playing a complicated political shell game, or (most likely) he just decided that there was no place for him in the 2018 field.
Republicans Victor Mitchell and Mitt Romney’s Nephew are still plugging along as candidates. Both men have the financial resources to make a serious run at the nomination, but thus far neither has been able to grab much of a foothold of support to reach top-tier status. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see both candidates out of the race by the beginning of 2018…nor would it be a shock if one or both made a late push to get into contention.
The longest-running candidate on the Democratic side, meanwhile, is businessman Noel Ginsburg, who officially joined the race last December. But like the Denver Broncos, Ginsburg is going nowhere fast; unless something changes, he is largely inconsequential in this discussion.
Colorado’s next Governor is going to come out of the current field of candidates. There is really no other potential candidate lurking who could make a serious bid for the job at this late date.