Stapleton Taps Sias for LG, Confirms Screwing Up Process Entirely

UPDATE: The jokes write themselves:


As Brian Eason first reported for the Associated Press this morning, Republican gubernatorial nominee Walker Stapleton has selected Arvada Rep. Lang Sias as his running mate and candidate for Lieutenant Governor.

What Sias may or may not bring to the Republican ticket is really a secondary conversation at this point, because this news confirms speculation that Stapleton’s campaign absolutely botched this entire process.

As we recapped earlier this week, Stapleton’s campaign opened the month of July by criticizing Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jared Polis for “rushing” the announcement of his own LG pick — former state Rep. Dianne Primavera. Stapleton’s campaign manager, Michael Fortney, tried desperately to spin this narrative in the face of what seemed to be a fairly obvious reality: That Stapleton’s team apparently didn’t realize that the law requires a gubernatorial nominee to choose a Lieutenant Governor within seven days of the June 26 Primary Election.

Fortney claimed on July 3 that Stapleton had indeed selected a running mate but would not make the announcement for several weeks under the theory that the law gives LG candidates 30 days to officially register their campaigns with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. This story was immediately questioned by several reporters, including longtime political journalist Charles Ashby of the Grand Junction Sentinel. With Stapleton’s spin unraveling, Fortney then told reporters that the campaign was likely going to announce its running mate sometime around July 26 in order to theoretically generate more publicity for the decision.


If Stapleton did not, in fact, select a running mate within seven days of the Primary Election, then he appears to have broken the law. We know that Stapleton’s initial choice for Lieutenant Governor was CU Regent Heidi Ganahl, but Ganahl turned down the offer to be his running mate. Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese was believed to be Stapleton’s second choice, though that has not been confirmed, and the rumor mill on Monday seemed to indicate that Jefferson County Commissioner Libby Szabo was at the top of Stapleton’s list. The point of all this speculation leads in the same direction: If Stapleton had actually selected a running mate as his campaign has claimed, there would not have been this insistent chatter about potential candidates to run alongside him.


Stapleton is apparently going to officially announce Sias at an event today — notice the totally-not-rushed signage in the photo above — and the campaign will cross its fingers that nobody asks for proof that Sias was indeed offered the job and agreed to said offer within the seven-day time limit. This is another terrible look for a bumbling Stapleton campaign that is constantly defending concerns that its candidate for Governor pays no attention to details and couldn’t manage a Taco Bell restaurant.

Get More Smarter on Monday (July 9)

The looonngggg Holiday week(end) has come to an end. For those of you who haven’t really been in front of a screen since June, keep reading for a special “Things You Might Have Missed Because of That Ridiculously-Long Holiday Week” section. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.



President Trump is expected to announce his nominee for a vacant spot on the U.S. Supreme Court late this evening. As the Washington Post reports:

President Trump said he was “close” to choosing a Supreme Court nominee Sunday after a weekend at his New Jersey golf club evaluating four leading candidates and mulling the likely response of key senators and his core supporters to each prospect, according to White House officials and Trump advisers involved in the discussions.

Over rounds of golf with friends, meals with family, and a flurry of phone calls and meetings with aides, Trump remained coy about his final decision, which is expected to be announced Monday evening from among the four federal judges atop his shortlist: Brett M. Kavanaugh, Thomas Hardiman, Raymond Kethledge and Amy Coney Barrett.

“I’m very close to making a decision,” Trump told reporters Sunday afternoon. “Have not made it official yet. Have not made it final.”

He added: “It’s still — let’s say it’s the four people. But they’re excellent. Every one. You can’t go wrong.”

In a tweet Monday morning, Trump said: “I have long heard that the most important decision a U.S. President can make is the selection of a Supreme Court Justice.” He indicated he would stick to plans to make the pick public in a 9 p.m. news conference.

As Aaron Blake writes in a separate story for the Washington Post, there is plenty of potential for some late fireworks in Trump’s announcement.


► Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen is signaling clearly that he plans to speak out about President Trump — and that it won’t be good news for the Big Orange Man. From CNN:

Michael Cohen, the President’s former fixer and ultimate loyalist, is sending a clear signal to President Donald Trump and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, that “the truth is not you(r) or your client’s friend,” according to sources with knowledge of Cohen’s thinking.

Two sources familiar with Cohen’s thinking say he has “hit the reset button” and is continuing his commitment to speak the “real truth.”

In particular, the same sources say Giuliani is wading into dangerous territory when he asks Cohen to “tell the truth” about the Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Russian meddling in the election.


► Republicans have a new message for the 2018 election that involves being sad that social media companies don’t tolerate fake right-wing news. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) tries on the tinfoil hat and finds that it fits quite nicely.



Get even more smarter after the jump…


It’s a Polis/Primavera Ticket

Dianne Primavera.

UPDATE 5:00PM–the news that apparently couldn’t wait is official, former Rep. Dianne Primavera is Jared Polis’ pick to serve as lieutenant governor of Colorado, as CPR’s Sam Brasch reports:

Dianne Primavera will join Jared Polis as his running mate for governor.

The Democratic candidate chose a former state lawmaker with a track record of fighting for health care access to join him on the ticket. Polis shared his decision in an exclusive interview with Colorado Matters. Political watchers are still waiting on Walker Stapleton’s choice.

“Coloradans and Americans are just getting ripped off on health care,” Polis said. “Dianne, far and away, will be the best partner in helping to fix this here in Colorado and save families money and expand coverage.”


UPDATE 4:55PM: Polis’ last clue has prompted a number of political insiders to speculate that the pick is Dianne Primavera, former state representative who meets the requisite criteria of being a Colorado native who recently became a grandparent, loves dogs, and cuts a rug regularly.

We’ll all know soon enough.


UPDATE: 4:35PM: Curiouser and curiouser:


Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jared Polis will announce his pick for lieutenant governor at 6PM today–and until then he’s subjecting the Colorado political water-cooler class to a positively agonizing guessing game:

We thought we had it, but two subsequent hints have thrown us off–apparently Polis’ running mate has two dogs and two fish, and recently became a grandparent. We’ll update as more hints come in…and of course if you know the answer for whatever reason, and/or want to look like a Colorado politics ninja by guessing right, you should get that in the record before the clock strikes six.

Huerfano County GOP: Jared Polis is “openly gay” and “against our American values”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

POLS UPDATE 2: As of late evening on July 2 the post has been deleted. The Huerfano GOP has still not replied to inquiries.

POLS UPDATE: Colorado Democrats jump in:


In a June 27 Facebook post published the morning after Colorado’s primary election, Huerfano County Republicans urge anyone considering not voting for GOP gubernatorial nominee Walker Stapleton to “rethink” their decision. They explained their reason for supporting Stapleton instead of his Democratic opponent in the next sentence.

“Jared Polis is an openly gay congressman who is very much against our American values.”

Included with the text of the post is a link to Congressman Polis’ voting record. It is unclear whether the Huerfano GOP believes him to be “very much against our American values” because he is “openly gay” or because of his voting record.

A call to Huerfano County Republican Chair Debi Sporleder was not returned. Sporleder has previously signed her name to Huerfano County Republicans Facebook posts. This story will be updated with any statements received.

The party account also liked a commenter’s claim that Polis “would head us willy nilly down the socialist anti-Christian path” and who criticized Polis for not mentioning “his gayness” in any campaign ads, despite “purporting to be proud of it.”

Huerfano County is southwest of Pueblo. It is part of House District 62, represented by Rep. Donald Valdez (D – La Jara) and Sen. Larry Crowder’s (R – Alamosa) Senate District 35.

The full text of the Facebook statement reads as follows.

If you are unsure about voting in the November elections or think you don’t want to vote for Walker Stapleton, rethink…..Jared Polis is an openly gay congressman who is very much against our American values. A no vote for Stapleton is a yes vote for Polis. Check out his voting record. I’ll make posts about Stapleton, too.

This story was originally published by the Colorado Times Recorder.

PPP: Polis 46%, Stapleton 38%

Jared Polis (L) and Walker Stapleton

A press release from Colorado Democrats announces the results of a new poll from Democratic-aligned but reliable Public Policy Polling, showing Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jared Polis opening an eight-point lead over Republican Walker Stapleton:

This morning, PPP released a poll commissioned by the Colorado Democratic Party showing Jared Polis with a 46%-38% lead over Walker Stapleton among likely general election voters, and a 43%-31% lead over Stapleton with unaffiliated voters.

The poll also shows that Walker Stapleton’s statewide favorability rating is 15 points underwater — worse numbers than Trump’s job approval — with a favorable rating of 27% and an unfavorable rating of 42%. Meanwhile, Polis starts the general election campaign in positive territory.

“Jared is in a very strong position heading into the general election as Democrats and unaffiliated voters unite around his bold vision for Colorado,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chair Morgan Carroll. “By contrast, Stapleton’s allegiance to Trump and the special interests that bankroll his campaign has turned off Colorado voters.”

Here’s the details on the poll. There’s very little here in terms of good news for Colorado Republicans, with Stapleton behind outside the poll’s margin of error even though President Donald Trump’s favorability among the same voters is steady at 44%. Folding in leaners shaves very little off Polis’ lead, and the gender gap between the candidates shows that Polis’ lead among women voters is several points greater than Stapleton’s lead among men. Those are all boxes you can check under “good for Democrats.”

Other than the usual carping about the pollster, the only thing Republicans can really say about these numbers is that they could be worse. And, well, we suppose that’s right.

Please clap!

Winners and Losers from Colorado’s Primary Election

The 2018 Colorado Primary Election is finally over – even the GOP race for State Treasurer – so it’s time for us to run through our list of Winners and Losers. Let’s get to it…



Jared Polis
This is an obvious takeaway from the Primary, but there’s more to it than just calling Polis a “Winner” because he won the Democratic nomination for Governor. Polis cruised to victory by a 20-point margin in what was expected to be a much-closer race. Perhaps more impressively, Polis should end up with in excess of 30,000 more total votes than Republican gubernatorial nominee Walker Stapleton. That’s not a good sign for Colorado Republicans.


Rep. Doug Lamborn (R) as a fictional character.

Doug Lamborn
You can make a compelling argument that Lamborn is the dimmest bulb in the entire Congress, but when it comes to winning Republican Primary elections, he’s a proven commodity in Colorado. Lamborn captured nearly 53% of the vote in what appeared to be shaping up as a difficult race, and he’s a lock to win re-election in the fall in an overwhelmingly-conservative CD-5. Various Republican factions have tried for years to squeeze Lamborn out of office; it might be time for potential challengers to concede that Lamborn is here until he decides otherwise.


Joe Neguse
The Boulder-area Democrat cruised to an expected victory in a CD-2 Primary, which means he will almost assuredly become the first African-American elected to a federal office from Colorado.


Michael Dougherty
Dougherty had been among the Democrats seeking the nomination for Attorney General until Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett stepped down from his post in the spring. Dougherty left the AG’s race after being appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper to serve the remainder of Garnett’s final year, and on Tuesday he was handily elected to a full four-year term as Boulder DA in an anticlimactic battle with state Rep. Mike Foote. It’s not often that a candidate for one major race is able to make a late change and still emerge victorious. Dougherty won’t likely be leaving the Boulder DA’s office anytime soon, but he will certainly have plenty of options in his political future.


Dave Young
The Democratic Primary for State Treasurer might have been the least-discussed race of the Colorado Primary season. Young always seemed to be the favorite over Democratic challenger Bernard Douthit, but the lack of interest in this campaign made it difficult to handicap. In the end, Young walked away with the nomination with 68% of the Democratic vote.


Less-Overtly Racist Republican Candidates
Two of the most outspokenly racist members of the Republican House caucus were handed their walking papers on Tuesday. In HD-47 (Southern Colorado), Rep. Judy Reyher lost a Republican Primary to Don Bendell. In HD-56 (Adams County), something called a Rod Bockenfeld positively destroyed incumbent Rep. Phil “Maybe Japanese Internment Camps Weren’t Bad” Covarrubias. Reyher and her Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat were responsible for many ridiculously-racist utterances, though there will always be a special place in our heart for her fantastical claim that she couldn’t be a racist because she once went to a wedding in China. Covarrubias was a general train wreck in his brief time in the legislature – earlier in the 2018 legislative session he also equated abortion with prostitution – and the Republican Party is certainly better off without him among its ranks. Perhaps Bendell and Bockenfeld will prove to be as bigoted as their predecessors, but at least they had the good sense to not talk about it so openly.


Television Stations
The 2018 race for Governor should be the most expensive statewide (non-federal) battle in Colorado history. That’s great news for people who sell advertising.


Mitt Romney’s Nephew
Doug Robinson faded from the Republican race for Governor in late May, but he kept his sense of humor and displayed admirable class throughout the campaign. Mitt’s Nephew had trouble making his own name for himself, though we’d posit that he’s well-positioned to make another run for office in the future. Colorado Republicans would be smart to find a place for Robinson (which means they probably won’t).


Honorable Mention: Lois Landgraf, Emily Sirota, Diane Mitsch Bush, Jason Crow, and Diana DeGette.



Owen Hill
Things looked pretty good for Hill in late April when incumbent Rep. Doug Lamborn appeared to have failed to make the ballot, but once Lamborn had squeezed his way into the Primary, Hill was in trouble. Hill would certainly have done better in a GOP field that did not include the longtime incumbent Republican, but his disappointing finish behind Lamborn and 2016 U.S. Senate nominee Darryl Glenn probably ends his future hopes of higher office. The Colorado Springs State Senator ended up being a complete non-factor in the race once voters started returning ballots.


One-Named Candidates
The Lakewood City Council member known as “Shakti” – that’s her full legal name – was soundly defeated in a Democratic Primary for State Representative in HD-28. Kerry Tipper doubled-up Shakti’s vote total with a strong campaign and deserves plenty of credit here, but going by one name works much better for pop stars than for politicians.


Fake Polls
In advance of Tuesday’s Primary we saw a rash of “fake polls” touting Cary Kennedy, Mike Johnston, or Victor Mitchell as the great bearers of momentum in their respective races for Governor. This was all predictably silly, but the campaigns nevertheless managed to convince a handful of journalists and observers that there might be some merit to their madness. More news outlets should err on the side of caution and heed an Associated Press decision to stop promoting poll results that might even have some truth to them.


Donna Lynne

Donna Lynne
Colorado’s Lieutenant Governor pledged not to seek the top job in the state after being appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in early 2016. She should have listened to herself. Lynne’s campaign was a disaster from the very beginning; the bulk of her campaign staff jumped ship in early May; and Democratic debates exposed her as woefully unprepared for the spotlight. The best thing you can say about Lynne’s campaign is that she kept Mike Johnston from the ignominy of a last-place finish.


George Brauchler
The Magnificent Putz” hoped he would be the Republican nominee for Governor at this point, but that was before Brauchler completely imploded as a statewide candidate with even the slightest of hurdles in front of him. Brauchler is still relevant thanks to Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s decision to not get elected Governor, and he was really, really hoping that Joe Salazar would win the Democratic Primary for AG instead of Phil Weiser. Brauchler has demonstrated a baffling inability to raise money, which will be a serious problem in a General Election against Weiser’s insatiable fundraising.


Less-Honorable Mention: Walker Stapleton, Polly Lawrence, Levi Tillemann, and Victor Mitchell’s bank account.


What to Watch for in Colorado Primary Results

Election Day is here! After months and months and months of campaigning, tonight we will finally find out Colorado’s General Election matchups.

To get you prepared for Primary Day, here’s a brief list of where our attention will be focused:


Do the favorites hold in the race for Governor?
For many months, we’ve had Democrat Jared Polis and Republican Walker Stapleton as the frontrunners for their respective Party nominations. Colorado Pols readers appear to agree with that assessment. The biggest unknown may turn out to be the margin of victory for each candidate — particularly on the Republican side, where there appears to be some late concern about the strength of Stapleton’s bid.


Republican gubernatorial candidates Victor Mitchell (left) and Mitt Romney’s Nephew.

Kumbaya…or Nah?

Stapleton will likely win the GOP nomination despite a pretty awful campaign that has generated a fair amount of bad blood among Republicans in Colorado. Both Victor Mitchell and Mitt Romney’s Nephew have regularly blasted Stapleton for one reason or another, but will Republicans unify together no matter the result on Tuesday? There will also likely be some hurt feelings among Republicans in the race for State Treasurer and in CD-5. 

Democrats don’t appear to be as bitter with each other as Republicans; it would be a bit of a surprise if the Democratic candidates for Governor don’t coalesce around the Primary winner. The most acrimony of any Democratic race is probably in CD-6, but Jason Crow will likely win by a significant-enough margin that any lingering complaints from Levi Tillemann will smell like sour grapes (though Tillemann might no longer have the ability to smell anything).


Actually, don’t.

Will Unaffiliated voters make a significant difference?
Don’t let anybody tell you they know what is going to happen in Colorado’s first experiment with allowing Unaffiliated voters to participate in Primary Elections. We know there will be a lot of spoiled ballots because many Unaffiliated voters didn’t actually read anything and just robotically returned both Democratic and Republican ballots (in which case both ballots are invalidated). We also know that Unaffiliated voters will contribute to the largest voter turnout in a Colorado Primary Race since at least 2010.

What we don’t know is what effect Unaffiliated voters will have in changing the outcome of key races. There is a long-mistaken belief that Unaffiliated voters could “moderate” the Primary results under the assumption that voters with no party affiliation are inherently more middle-of-the-road Coloradans. But an “Unaffiliated” status just means that a voter hasn’t aligned with a particular political party — it portends nothing about their natural political leanings, and plenty of research has indicated that Unaffiliated voters may vote as party-line as their affiliated counterparts.


Phil Weiser

Will the race for Attorney General still be a top battle in November?
By just about any metric, Democrat Phil Weiser has outperformed fellow Democrat Joe Salazar in the race for Attorney General, but Salazar may still win the Democratic nomination on the strength of his last name alone. Republican George Brauchler is rooting hard for a Salazar win because the Adams County Democrat has been utterly incapable of raising any real money for his campaign. A Salazar victory will lead to some tough questions for Democrats about delegating resources in the General Election and might well open the door for a relatively-easy election for Brauchler.


Winning the Primary means winning the General Election for these candidates…
Three of Colorado’s seven Congressional spots will essentially be filled tonight. Because of overwhelming voter registration advantages in these districts, tonight’s winners in CD-1 and CD-2 (Democrat) and CD-5 (Republican) should cruise to victory in November. In CD-2 (Boulderish), Democrat Joe Neguse is poised to become the first African-American elected to a federal office from Colorado.

The most interesting numbers to watch here will be in CD-1, where longtime Rep. Diana DeGette is in a real battle with Saira Rao. DeGette will likely win because of her superior name recognition, but if Rao can keep it close, DeGette is probably looking at a much more difficult Primary challenge in 2020.

There are also a number of legislative seats that will be decided tonight, for all intents and purposes. Several acrimonious races in Denver hold particular interest.


The toughest race to call is the fight for State Treasurer
We honestly have no idea who is going to win the Republican nomination for State Treasurer. In an under-the-radar battle for a race that most people don’t care much about, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Brian WatsonPolly Lawrence, or Justin Everett emerged victorious. On the Democratic side, state Rep. Dave Young is a slight favorite over lesser-known challenger Bernard Douthit, but either candidate could conceivably capture the nomination.


Remember, friends, that it is wayyyy too late to put your ballot in the mail if you have not already voted. Go to for more information on where to take your ballot before 7:00 pm.

Check back often here at Colorado Pols for updates as results become available tonight.

This is Who You Think Will Win Tonight

Jared Polis (L) and Walker Stapleton

Over the course of about 10 days we’ve posted four separate online polls on the race for Governor. We asked you to tell us who you think is going to win the Democratic nomination for Governor and the Republican nomination for Governor.

We’ve added up all of the results* as of this morning, and this is who you think is going to win tonight…

Jared Polis will win the Democratic nomination, according to 53% of Colorado Pols readers. A whopping 70% believe that Walker Stapleton will win the Republican nomination.

Now…let’s see if you’re right.

Democratic Nomination for Governor

Total Votes: 1,798

Candidate Total Votes Percentage
Jared Polis 950 53%
Cary Kennedy 632 35%
Mike Johnston 129 7%
Donna Lynne 87 5%


Republican Nomination for Governor

Total Votes: 1,139

Candidate Total Votes Percentage
Walker Stapleton 802 70%
Victor Mitchell 243 21%
The Nephew of Mitt Romney 53 5%
Greg Lopez 41 4%

*Note: This is absolutely, positively not a scientific survey whatsoever.

Who Will be the Democratic Nominee for Governor? (Round 4)

This is it!

With the Primary Election finally at hand on Tuesday, this will be our last online poll for gauging the perceptions of politically-astute observers (like you) on the state of the race for Governor.

Remember: We want to know who you think will be the winner in this race — not who you support or who you would prefer to see emerge victorious. Cast your vote below.

Who Will be the Democratic Nominee for Governor? (Round 4)
Jared Polis
Cary Kennedy
Mike Johnston
Donna Lynne
View Result



June 14, 2018

♦ June 18, 2018

♦ June 22, 2018


Who Will be the Democratic Nominee for Governor? (Round 3)

We continue to post these online polls every few days until the June 26th Primary as a way of gauging the perceptions of politically-astute observers (like you) on the state of the race for Governor.

Remember: We want to know who you think will be the winner in this race — not who you support or who you would prefer to see emerge victorious. Cast your vote below.

Who Will be the Democratic Nominee for Governor? (Round 3)
Jared Polis
Cary Kennedy
Mike Johnston
Donna Lynne
View Result



June 14, 2018

♦ June 18, 2018

Walker Stapleton: The Candidate Nobody is Afraid to Face

Walker Stapleton

Walker Stapleton will almost certainly be the Republican nominee for Governor.

This is almost certainly not great news for Colorado Republicans.

We’re just days away from the June 26 Primary, and the overwhelming favorite for the GOP gubernatorial nomination is running a campaign that has Republican observers positively terrified.

“I’m starting to worry that Bill Owens might be the only Republican governor in my lifetime,” said Dick Wadhams in a recent interview with the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Wadhams is the Republican strategist and former State GOP Party Chair who was pulling many of the strings that helped elected Owens in 1998 (and again in 2002) and Sen. Wayne Allard in 1996 and 2002. Things have not gone well for Republicans (or Wadhams) ever since. Cory Gardner is the only Republican candidate to win a race for U.S. Senate or Governor in Colorado in the last 16 years, and it sure doesn’t look like he’s going to have any company this fall.

As Wadhams recently suggested to Mike Littwin of the Colorado Independent, Stapleton is earning a new nickname: “Walker Stumbleton.”

Congressman Jared Polis remains the likely frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for Governor, and Colorado Republicans have long expressed their desire to challenge the Boulder-area Congressman in a General Election. But here’s something you might not have heard: Stapleton has always been the candidate that Democrats hoped to face in November. It’s not hard to see why…



Who Will Be the Democratic Nominee for Governor, Round 2

We asked Colorado Pols readers to weigh in on this question last week, and we’ll continue to post these online polls until the June 26th Primary as a way of gauging the perceptions of politically-astute observers (like you) on the state of the race for Governor.

Remember: We want to know who you think will be the winner in this race — not who you support or who you would prefer to see emerge victorious. Cast your vote below.

Who Will be the Democratic Nominee for Governor (Round 2)?
Jared Polis
Cary Kennedy
Mike Johnston
Donna Lynne
View Result



June 14, 2018


Who Will Be the Democratic Nominee for Governor?

The Primary Election is less than two weeks away, so it’s time for our very wise readers to start prognosticating.

As always, we want to know who you think will be the winner in this race — not who you support or who you would prefer to see emerge victorious. The point of this exercise is to gauge the current perception of this race through the eyes (and mouse clicks) of politically-astute observers like you, so we’re more interested in your gut feeling than anything else. Vote away!

Who Will be the Democratic Nominee for Governor?
Jared Polis
Cary Kennedy
Mike Johnston
Donna Lynne
View Result

You Call This a “Nasty Primary?” Puh-leeze

Oh noes! Candidates…campaigning!

9NEWS reports that outgoing Gov. John Hickenlooper is terribly upset about the “negative campaigning” in the Democratic gubernatorial primary to succeed him–this being the second such admonishment from Hickenlooper, after a PAC supporting Cary Kennedy “went negative” attacking two of her opponents for their stands on education:

Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) says allies of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis went “below the belt” by using his image in an attack ad against fellow Democrat Cary Kennedy.

“Seeing my face used in a negative ad after I had pretty clearly stated what I thought about it, I thought that was hitting below the belt,” Hickenlooper said in a Wednesday news conference at the state Capitol. “I didn’t think it was fair.”

9NEWS asked him about an ad from an outside spending group called “Bold Colorado,” which accurately quoted Gov. Hickenlooper as saying he was “disappointed” by a previous attack made by a similar spending group intending to help Kennedy.

Early on in the governor’s race, all Democratic candidates signed a voluntary pledge to avoid “unnecessary personal and negative attacks” against one another. The “violations” of this pledge have so far, and this is an important point, generally not been carried out by the candidates themselves–rather by “independent” message groups that are legally prohibited from coordinating with the candidate they support. That makes these calls for candidates to “put a stop” to ads being run by independent groups either disingenuous or a tacit admission that there is no real separation between PACs and candidates.

The latter seems to be the case for Republican candidate Walker Stapleton, whose SuperPAC was openly supported and pitched by the candidate before he was technically in the race. Democratic candidates should keep this in mind as it could be an important issue in the general election–and avoid opening themselves to charges of hypocrisy if it does.

Which leads us to the most important point: the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary, in any objective sense, isn’t all that “negative.” The Clean Campaign Pledge signed by Democratic candidates obliges them to refrain from “unnecessary personal and negative attacks.” But is an ad outlining the candidates’ records on a key issue like education really “unnecessary?” We’d say that’s exactly what campaign ads should be about. Debating education policy isn’t something you would call “personal,” not in the manner of (for example) GOP gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell’s acrimonious attacks on Stapleton’s Bush family lineage.

In the end, there’s more hand-wringing going on about the notion of “going negative” in this race than there is, well, anyone actually going negative. Tame issue-based exchanges like what we’re seeing between the Democratic candidates on education do not a “smear campaign” make. Not even close. And even if it was, it isn’t the candidates doing it.

This is why we’ve been here since 2004, folks. To help keep this perennial silliness in perspective.