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Rocky Mountain News Endorses Ritter

Democrat Bill Ritter picked up a key endorsement today when the Rocky Mountain News joined The Grand Junction Sentinel and Montrose Daily Press in backing him for governor over Republican Bob Beauprez. From the News:

Bill Ritter for governor.

Yes, you heard right. We believe that the former Denver district attorney, despite his inexperience outside the law enforcement realm, is the better of two good candidates running for Colorado’s top job.

True, our endorsement today is a bit of a gamble given Ritter’s limited experience. It could even turn out to be a major mistake. But based on the Bill Ritter we’ve known over the years and watched on the campaign trail, we don’t think that’s likely. It will be an error only if Ritter himself proves to be a reckless liar, and we’ve seen no evidence for that being the case…

…Our choice was not an easy one, since we also admire Ritter’s Republican opponent, Bob Beauprez. Indeed, we have to believe the 7th District congressman – whom we’ve endorsed both times he’s run – would certainly make a better governor than he has let on during this campaign…

…For us, the tipping point between the two men has to do with their campaigns. To be blunt, Beauprez’s performance during the past 15 months has not been reassuring. It began with his taking an unconvincing stand against Referendum C, one seemed designed to secure his right flank rather than satisfy personal conviction. It continued with his mysterious embrace and then repudiation of Amendment 38, and a couple of verbal gaffes. And for a long time it wasn’t clear why Beauprez even wanted to be governor. Only recently – too late in our view – have his positions begun to gel into a focused, coherent message.

This newspaper has watched Ritter under fire and seen him take on new challenges. In everything he does there’s a certain steadiness that we believe Coloradans will find reassuring.

Eighteen months ago Ritter was an improbable candidate whom few gave a chance of grabbing the Democratic Party’s nomination, given his anti-abortion views. Now he’s poised to defy the odds and become the next governor. Fortunately for Coloradans, he’s shown he deserves it.

Ritter Leads in Latest Public Gubernatorial Poll

From The Denver Post:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter likely would defeat Republican opponent Bob Beauprez if the election were held today, according to a poll conducted for The Denver Post.

In the battle between the two best-known candidates, Ritter leads by 6 percentage points, with 43 percent to Beauprez’s 37 percent. However, with more than eight months left until the general election, 20 percent of the 625 respondents are undecided on that matchup. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

“This race is far from settled,” said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc., which conducted the poll this week. “It appears neither one has really established themselves with voters.”

The poll shows that Ritter, who has been criticized by some in the Democratic Party for his stance against abortion rights, is ahead with female voters. Forty- six percent of women chose Ritter, a former Denver district attorney, compared with 31 percent for Arvada Congressman Beauprez. Among men, 43 percent backed Beauprez, while 40 percent supported Ritter.

Ritter also has siphoned away some Republicans, getting 13 percent of his support from GOP voters. In contrast, Beauprez has garnered only 5 percent of his backing from Democrats. Among unaffiliated voters, Ritter is ahead by 7 percentage points.

This is obviously good news for Ritter, but among the three top candidates (including Bob Beauprez and Marc Holtzman), Ritter is the only one who has yet to really be attacked publicly. More importantly is that Beauprez’s negatives continue to be high, as they have been in previous polls; high negatives are a very hard thing to get rid of and should worry Beauprez’s campaign:

…Beauprez’s favorability ratings in the poll are one point higher than Ritter’s, but his unfavorable ratings are nearly seven times those of Ritter. Coker and others noticed a recent pattern of Republicans getting high negatives from Democrats in polls, mostly due to anger directed toward the Bush administration…

…The poll was commissioned before Hickenlooper announced he would not join the race. As a candidate, he would do slightly better against the Republicans than Ritter. Hickenlooper led the pack in the poll, beating Beauprez 48 percent to 32 percent and Holtzman by 24 percentage points.

Once Beauprez can characterize himself, political watchers say, he should define Ritter before the Democrat can do it himself.

“Beauprez absolutely must define Bill Ritter, but he also must be careful because his negatives are so low,” said GOP consultant Katy Atkinson. “They don’t want Ritter to appeal to the soft Republicans, the ones who voted for Bush and (Democratic U.S. Sen.) Ken Salazar and who supported Referendum C.”

It’s also interesting to note that reports that Hickenlooper was leading by a wide margin — including his own admission of seeing polls that had him far ahead — were probably pretty accurate.

Governor Candidates Weigh Running Mates

The Rocky Mountain News takes a look at prospective running mates for Colorado’s gubernatorial candidates:

The two Republican candidates for governor, Congressman Bob Beauprez and Marc Holtzman, are drawing up lists of possible running mates. Holtzman has discussed the position of lieutenant governor with Lola Spradley, the former speaker of the House, and is talking to other candidates.

His rival Beauprez hasn’t yet talked formally with any candidates, but possible running mates include state Rep. Lynn Hefley, R-Colorado Springs, and Colorado Secretary of State Gigi Dennis. Bill Ritter, the leading Democratic candidate, last week chose Barbara O’Brien as his lieutenant governor. O’Brien is president of the Colorado Children’s Campaign.

Several factors have led the candidates to seek out female running mates. Ritter, who is anti-abortion, sought to reassure pro-abortion rights voters in his party by nominating O’Brien. “Ritter is looking at solidifying his own base,” said GOP political consultant Katy Atkinson.

On the Republican side, nominating a woman is seen as a way to reach out to moderate Republicans in the Denver suburbs, who are often swing voters. “It makes sense for the Republicans to put a woman on the ballot,” Atkinson said. “The swing Republican vote is suburban women.”

Atkinson said Holtzman, who has never served in elected office, might be looking to bolster his candidacy by nominating someone like Spradley, who is a veteran state lawmaker. “She would be a strong candidate and would be good on the campaign trail,” she said.

A candidate like Hefley might help to boost Beauprez in the Republican primary in El Paso County and at the state convention, Atkinson said. Hefley and Dennis did not return calls seeking comment. Spradley confirmed she has talked with Holtzman.

Q&A With Steve Grazier

We are pleased to present a Q&A with Steve Grazier, political reporter for The Cortez Journal. Mr. Grazier will join us LIVE from Noon – 1:00 p.m. to answer your questions.

Mr. Grazier is a Kent State University journalism and mass communications graduate who began his professional career as a public affairs/media specialist in the Air Force (he flew with Army Golden Knights and Air Force Thunderbirds for stories). Grazier moved to the four corners two-and-a-half years ago to work for the Cortez Journal.

You can read our first 11 questions below, and then ask your own in the comments section. As always, we only have one rule: you may disagree, but you may not be disrespectful.

And now, on with the show…

Rutt Bridges Q&A

We are pleased to present another Q&A, this time with Rutt Bridges, one of two Democratic candidates for governor.

This Q&A means that Colorado Pols has now presented Q&As with all four active candidates for governor (you can go to any of our previous Q&As by clicking on the links on the right side of the page).

Rutt Bridges is a businessman, activist, and founder of The Bighorn Center, a political thinktank and advocacy organization.

Bridges_SM.gif Bridges was briefly a candidate for U.S. Senate last spring before pulling out of the race to support then-Attorney General Ken Salazar, who eventually won the seat. On June 2 he announced his candidacy for governor.

Mr. Bridges has answered our first 11 questions, which you can view by clicking on the link below, and he has agreed to answer your questions LIVE between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m.

You can ask a question for Mr. Bridges in the COMMENTS section below, but we ask that you follow our one rule for these Q&As: you may disagree, but you may not be disrespectful in your questions and comments.

Click below to read Mr. Bridges’ answers to our first 11 questions…