Colorado’s crowded contest for governor attracts 18 major party candidates

Randy Wyrick
Vail Daily
Vail native Mike Johnston jumped into the race for Colorado governor a year ago this week, one of the first to declare his candidacy.
Special to the Daily |

EDWARDS — The sheer number of Colorado governor candidates might be partially to blame for Interstate 70 traffic congestion.

So far, Colorado voters will get to choose from among nine Republicans and nine Democrats, and that does not include various third-party hopefuls and vanity candidates.

The Vail Valley is dissected by Interstate 70, which makes it easy to get to. And because lots of potential voters and donors live there, many of those candidates will certainly drop by.

So, if you want to joke with Mike Johnston or Jared Polis, reach out to Doug Robinson, give tips to Tom Tancredo, sail along with Cynthia Coffman or stroll with Walker Stapleton, this is your year.

GOPers go first

GOP hopeful Doug Robinson started a swing through the Western Slope when he stopped on his way to Edwards and played ping pong in the Vail Daily offices. He’s pretty good, and while that might not qualify him to be governor, other things might.

Robinson built one of Colorado’s most successful investment banks, as well as other businesses and nonprofits. A survey asked business executives how many would want to run for public office and serve. Only 2 percent raised their hands. Robinson was one of them.

“The perception that government operates differently than business is not necessarily true,” he said.

This is Doug Robinson’s first run for public office, but he’s not a political neophyte. He’s a nephew of Mitt Romney, former presidential candidate and Massachusetts governor.

Robinson declared his candidacy the last week of April, one of the first Republicans to get in.

“I need as much time as possible to meet people. I realized that early, and I’m using a long runway,” he said.

Cynthia Coffman, Colorado’s attorney general, has already won a statewide election as a Republican. She tested the governor campaign waters as long as she said she needed to and dove into the crowded Republican field.

“There’s always room for a smart woman,” she said. “Western values have fueled Coloradans for over 141 years, but I am very concerned that a lack of leadership by policymakers in Washington, D.C., and Denver has put our core values at risk.”

Tom Tancredo has run for governor twice, and lost, once as a third-party candidate in 2010 when Hickenlooper won and again in 2014. This time around, Tancredo decided to run after he said other Republicans did not defend VDARE’s ability to hold a conference in Colorado. VDARE describes itself as “The voice of the historic American nation.” Tancredo was supposed to speak at that conference.

“I think people really are ready for somebody who is not a part of the establishment, and that is certainly yours truly,” Tancredo said when he announced his candidacy.

Republican Walker Stapleton and Democrat Jared Polis do not appear to care much for each other. Polis said something relatively unflattering about Colorado’s oil and gas industry and about Stapleton’s reported ties to that industry.

Stapleton, Colorado’s state treasurer, lashed out and accused Polis of trying to destroy 230,000 oil and gas industry jobs and the $30 billion the industry pumps into Colorado’s economy and accused Polis of trying to “appease his base of Bernie Sanders acolytes at the expense of hardworking Coloradans.”

Among the other Republicans:

• Victor Mitchell proudly said he voted for third-party presidential candidate Evan McMullin, not President Donald Trump. He said he is a pragmatic conservative and put $3 million into his own campaign.

• Lew Gaiter is a Larimer County commissioner and ski patroller.

• Greg Lopez is the former mayor of Parker and an Air Force veteran. He ran the state’s Small Business Administration from 2008 to 2014. He would be Colorado’s first Latino governor. His parents were migrant farm workers.

• Jim Rundberg is being called an activist by some media outlets.

• Steve Barlock was co-chair of Trump’s Denver campaign. He said he’ll work for the common man.

Democrats doing their own dance

Vail native Mike Johnston was the first to jump in from either party, taking the plunge a year ago this week. Johnston grew up in Vail when his dad, Paul, was mayor. He served two terms in the Colorado Senate, he’s a former Teach for America fellow, founded a program to train principals for urban schools and founded his own school, Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts.

He’s proposing two years of debt-free college or career training in exchange for community service. He said infrastructure and job training will keep the state economically competitive.

Boulder Democrat Jared Polis is serving his fifth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. His 2nd Congressional District includes the eastern half of Eagle County. He said he’s staying with his House job through the campaign to oppose Trump. Because he earned a fortune with a range of online businesses, he says he is not accepting political action committee money, but is accepting donations up to $100. If elected, Polis would be the first openly gay governor of Colorado.

Cary Kennedy jumped early on the “Medicaid for all” bandwagon, establishing universal health care in Colorado, regardless of what the feds do or don’t do. She’s a former state treasurer, but she lost her re-election campaign to Stapleton.

Donna Lynne is Colorado’s appointed lieutenant governor. She said she did not want to be governor, but now she says she does.

She’s a former executive with Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and wants to make health care more available and affordable.

Electing either Kennedy or Lynne would make them Colorado’s first female governor.

Noel Ginsburg and his wife, Leslie, founded the I Have a Dream Foundation, which works to increase Colorado’s high school graduation rate. Ginsberg can do that because he’s the founder and CEO of Intertech Plastics, a custom injection molding company. He’s moderate and warns voters that other candidates are promising things they probably cannot deliver.

Erik Underwood is running for governor as a Democrat. Last year, he ran for U.S. Senate as a Republican but did not make the ballot.

Moses Carmen Humes lost as a Democrat running for mayor of Colorado Springs, and then lost a bid for Colorado 5th Congressional District, a safe Republican seat. On her Facebook page, she said she’s the first transsexual to run for Colorado governor.

Adam Garrity said on his Facebook page that he’s “just a spiritual being having a human experience.” He founded MaryJanecoin, a cryptocurrency for the cannabis industry.

Michael Schroeder is cautious about marijuana, and has told the Colorado Independent that he wants to “end this f—ing drug thing” and make Colorado the top tech state.