State Treasurer Walker Stapleton finally made it official over the weekend that he will seek the Republican nomination for Governor in 2018. We noted the announcement on Saturday, but it’s worth taking an extended look because the campaign rollout was so…strange.
According to Joe St. George at Fox 31, Stapleton had originally planned to formally announce his gubernatorial bid on October 2. Stapleton’s camp had to scrap this idea when Gov. John Hickenlooper called for a special legislative session to begin on that same day — you don’t want to be competing for headlines when virtually all of Colorado’s political reporters are covering the legislature — but that doesn’t explain why Stapleton’s team would decide to instead roll-out their campaign on a Saturday afternoon. The only reason to announce anything on a Friday or Saturday afternoon is if you are hoping it will get buried by the press and overlooked by everyone else. If Stapleton’s goal was to just get a small mention in the Denver Post two days later, it seems to have worked out well.
He is the grandson of Benjamin Stapleton, the former mayor of Denver who had ties to the Ku Klux Klan, and is also related to the Bush family. Some have raised eyebrows at his fundraising methods in the run-up to his announcement.
In a video announcement, Stapleton said he would “put the people of Colorado above politics.”
Putting “people above politics” is a standard generic line for political candidates, but in Stapleton’s case, it doesn’t mesh with what he told Joey Bunch of the Colorado Springs Gazette in that story on Saturday. Here’s what Stapleton said to Bunch about why he is running for Governor:
“The exact reason I’m running for governor is because we need a governor who can responsibly develop Colorado’s natural resources with the industry [Pols emphasis], while protecting the environment and recognizing what a vital contribution this industry makes to Colorado’s economic future,” Stapleton said.
“The exact reason” Stapleton says he’s running for Governor is to be a champion for the oil and gas industry. That’s a very weird thing to say out loud, let alone in a story announcing your candidacy for Governor.
Perhaps Stapleton was not supposed to present himself as the “oil and gas candidate,” because his Twitter account has a different message:
“I will put taxpayers first, not bureaucrats and special interest [sic].”
Stapleton’s bungled entry into the Governor’s race is particularly baffling because he and his advisors have been preparing for this moment for years; it’s not like Stapleton just decided to run for Governor a couple of weeks ago. His announcement video is full of talking points that have obviously been tested in polls and focus groups, including this statement targeting CDOT:
And most of all, we’re tired of wasteful spending, like our Department of Transportation, which has spent $150 million of our money on new offices instead of new roads, leaving us all sitting in traffic.
Stapleton is presumably talking about the fact that CDOT is building a new headquarters near Mile High Stadium (or whatever it’s called now), but this is a questionable approach to addressing transportation issues. The reason CDOT is building a new office is because they are currently working out of buildings that are really old and not intended to accommodate a huge state government office. As Denver7 reported last year:
“We have, obviously, significant needs in the transportation system here in Colorado, and at the same time, we also use some of that budget to maintain up to 1,500 facilities around the state, so that we can provide transportation services,” said CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford. “Most of our buildings were built in the 30s and the 40s and the 50s and we have to maintain them.”
The headquarters building near Colorado Boulevard and Arkansas Avenue was originally supposed to be a Denver Public School. CDOT said the boiler needs to be replaced, asbestos issues exist and other unsafe working conditions in that building and the facility it owns near Holly Street and Evans Avenue.
Stapleton is insinuating that CDOT is choosing to build office space instead of fixing roads, but the funding comes out of an entirely different pot of money dedicated to facilities maintenance. As Colorado’s State Treasurer, we would think this is something Stapleton would understand.
Despite this very weird announcement strategy, Walker Stapleton is still the likely frontrunner for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. What that ultimately means for Colorado Republicans is self-explanatory.