Longtime candidate Lang Sias is continuing a recent Republican tradition in Colorado of running for the office of State Treasurer without really running for the office of State Treasurer.
We haven’t heard much from Sias as a candidate for State Treasurer. He hasn’t raised much money for his campaign, and on the race occasion when we do see something with his name attached, it’s usually for a negative reason. Sias is basically running for Treasurer in 2022 because he likes being a candidate (even though he usually loses) and because no other Republican showed much interest in this race.
And as we saw from last weekend’s Club 20 debate, Sias can’t articulate a reason as to why voters should elect him State Treasurer, let alone much of an understanding of what the job even entails.
Before we dive into that debate, a little more background on this trend is required: Back in 2010, Republican Walker Stapleton ran for State Treasurer primarily as a way to increase his name ID for a future gubernatorial run. Stapleton’s two campaigns for Treasurer, in 2010 and 2014, were mostly about airing his grievances with the administrations of Democratic Governors Bill Ritter and John Hickenlooper.
Stapleton’s performance as State Treasurer mirrored his indifference as a candidate. Stapleton rarely bothered to show up to his Capitol office for months on end. His out-to-lunch approach to the job ended up costing Colorado taxpayers millions of dollars because of funding delays that he tried to avoid discussing. Stapleton did little to reform PERA, the public employee’s retirement fund, and rarely even showed up to meetings (Stapleton’s penchant for missing these meetings even came up in a debate question last weekend when the moderator asked, “Will you attend all of the meetings?”)
Stapleton’s indifference/incompetence made it easy for Democrat Dave Young to campaign for an open seat in 2018. Young defeated super-shady Republican Brian Watson, a man who was just recently charged with securities fraud and deceiving hundreds of investors in a real estate scheme. When Young took over as Treasurer in January 2019, his first order of business was essentially to clean up the mess that Stapleton left behind. For example, Young needed only about 90 days to clean up a backlog of claims from the Great Colorado Payback that Stapleton failed to take care of in eight years.
Young is seeking re-election in 2022 and has a lot of impressive accomplishments to discuss. Sias, meanwhile, seems to be basing his entire narrative on the idea that you should vote for him because he is not a Democrat. But don’t take our word for it: Watch the Club 20 debate yourself.
In his opening statement, Young focuses on two programs implemented during his first term in office: The Colorado Secure Savings Program, which helps lower-income Coloradans save for retirement, and the CLIMBER loan fund for Colorado small businesses.
Sias, meanwhile, talks about being a pilot in the Navy and a Top Gun instructor. Sias says he wants to “restore balance” to Colorado’s statewide leadership (he says there are too many Democrats) and closes by saying that he will “not engage in any empire building” in the State Treasurer’s office, whatever that means.
Sias really starts to show his complete lack of a campaign narrative in response to an early question about the Treasurer’s office supporting small businesses in Western Colorado:
SIAS: As the Treasurer, I will be charged with running the same two statewide programs that Treasurer Young referred to, and I will do those with enthusiasm and I will do it with a real attention to detail.
In other words, Elect me, and I will do the same thing that Dave Young is already doing!
Sias concludes his answer by saying that he will “weigh in” on economic and taxation issues, which allows Young to begin his response to the question with this:
YOUNG: Actually, I’m currently weighing in on tax policy. I’m a member of the tax policy task force. We just met a couple of days ago. We continue to look at comprehensive changes to tax policy.
Again, the same takeaway here: Sias pledges to do something that Young IS ALREADY DOING.
A bit later in the debate, a question about PERA creates another bad comparison for Sias:
Sias talks about supporting a 2018 bill to make changes to PERA and criticizes Young for voting against that bill. Young then fires back with an explanation that crushes Sias:
YOUNG: The reason I voted against that bill is because the actual details of the bill were not available to legislators — the financials were not available to legislators in the 11th hour when the vote was being taken on the last day of the 2018 session.
It’s my commitment to make sure that [we do] the due diligence that is necessary in the Treasury to ensure that decisions are made that are appropriate and that we don’t have a repeat of the bad decision making that we had in 2000 that caused this steep decline in the funding of PERA.
Sias next runs into more trouble on a question about “debt issuances”:
Sias pledges to “keep all politics out of investment decisions,” which is an answer that has nothing to do with the question. Young asks for the question to be repeated, and then makes Sias look ridiculous:
YOUNG: I believe that this was not about investment but about debt issuance. Representative Sias may not be aware, but we have a very wide range of professionals that we tap in the financial services community.
Young goes into a bunch of details about how debt issuance is handled in the Treasurer’s office, then concludes with this:
YOUNG: This work is very intense on debt issuance. I’m not sure that Representative Sias was really dialed in on the question.
In response? Sias says, “Oh, I’m quite well dialed-in.”
Lang Sias wants to be elected as State Treasurer because…Lang Sias wants to be elected as State Treasurer (or, really, to any office). It’s the same reason that Walker Stapleton once wanted to be elected as Treasurer, and we saw how that turned out.
As you can see from this debate, there is one candidate for State Treasurer who seems to really understand the job and how to execute those responsibilities. It ain’t broke, and Lang can’t fix it anyway, so maybe we should just stick with Dave Young.
Two of my rules about Colorado politics:
To paraphrase an old axiom about teachers (which I hate): "Those who can't get schooled." Probably best not to bet against Dave Young, either.