RLCCO will not be endorsing in the governor’s race. Candidates are either not strong enough on our principles, or don’t have a voting record to draw from in order to guarantee their commitment to limited government, free markets and personal liberty.
That aside, we offer the following analysis of each gubernatorial candidate on the primary ballot.
State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is widely thought to be the frontrunner in this race. With name recognition, family pedigree (he’s a 2nd cousin of George W. and Jeb Bush) and strong fundraising abilities, Stapleton will most likely prevail in the primary, unless he has some major missteps (always a possibility in politics).
Stapleton’s educational background is impressive: graduate of Williams College, Masters in business economics from the London School of Economics and an MBA from Harvard.
Stapleton has worked in the private sector as an investment banker, and has served as State Treasurer for two terms. He defeated Cary Kennedy by a narrow margin in 2010 and was reelected in 2014.
Stapleton is considered to be strong on border control and earned the endorsement of Tom Tancredo for that reason. He has tried to be a strong voice for PERA transparency, but as only one of 15 PERA Board members, he hasn’t been able to accomplish much on that front.
Stapleton took some heat in 2015 when he came out in support of House Bill 15-1388. The bill, which failed in a Senate committee, would have authorized issuance of Pension Obligation Bonds to lower the cost of PERA’s debt. Stapleton drew sharp criticism from Dustin Zvonek of Americans for Prosperity who considered this a risky solution to shoring up PERA’s unfunded liabilities. Stapleton eventually backpedaled his support of the bill.
Because the office of Treasurer has had little direct affect on public policy in the past, it’s difficult to predict how Stapleton might perform as governor. It is largely for this reason RLCCO is not comfortable endorsing him.
The former Mayor of Parker was the surprise addition to the primary ballot when he garnered 32% of the delegate vote at the State Assembly in April. Lopez was a relative unknown going into the vote, but gave an inspirational speech, focusing on his experience running the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and his time as Regional Director of the Small Business Administration. He emphasized his ability to attract minority and unaffiliated voters and his commitment to limited government and reduced regulations that would allow small businesses to grow and thrive.
Lopez is a charismatic and articulate speaker. He met with the majority of our Candidate Review Committee when he came to our March meeting. His answers to our Liberty questions were on point and it was agreed that he would be a consideration for endorsement, except for the fact that his public service career dates back to the 90’s and he too has no voting record that would indicate his commitment to Liberty principles when push comes to shove.
Lopez’s fundraising has been anemic, even after his Assembly performance. In the May 3-16 reporting period, Lopez had only $12k cash on hand to Stapleton’s $590k. While this doesn’t disqualify a candidate for our support, it indicates lack of a ground game.
It is notable that Greg Lopez came out strongly against House Bill 18-1436, the so-called “Red Flag” bill that would allow law enforcement to confiscate a person’s guns should a family or household member declare to law enforcement that that person was mentally or emotionally unstable. Walker Stapleton took a less-emphatic stance against the bill, while Victor Mitchell and Doug Robinson supported it. Most Liberty-leaning folks agree that the bill is ripe for abuse and one of the worst bills considered by this year’s legislature. It was killed in senate committee but will no doubt be resurrected in the future.
A former State House Representative from Douglas County, Victor Mitchell is a successful entrepreneur, having started or turned around multiple businesses over his career. Mitchell served one term in the state legislature and declined to run for second term, citing the inability of the minority party to pass meaningful legislation. He returned to the private sector, while also lending his political influence to assist the Romney and McCain presidential campaigns.
Mitchell has put $3 million of his own money into his campaign, while only raising an additional $6k in the last reporting period. He chose to go through the petition process to gain access to the ballot, but ultimately had to go to court to have some signatures approved.
Mitchell has some innovative ideas on the delivery of health care in Colorado. He proposes a West Virginia-style model where nurses and medical para-professionals are given more latitude in administering primary care in rural communities where physicians aren’t readily available. He posits that this will increase access and reduce costs.
As mentioned above, Mitchell came out in support of HB 18-1436 which would allow law enforcement to confiscate firearms on the suggestion of a family or household member for a 72-hour period to be followed by a court hearing.
While we have our own metrics for endorsement, we also consider Principles of Liberty (POL) and Colorado Union of Taxpayers (CUT) ratings in our assessments. POL didn’t exist when Mitchell was in the State House, but CUT measured Mitchell’s voting record on fiscal issues well below average for Republicans during his tenure there.
A retired investment banker, Doug Robinson also hails from political royalty as the nephew of Mitt Romney. Robinson describes himself as an outside businessman who can “get things done” in Colorado. He has said that transportation funding would be his first priority if elected and says he will find a fix without raising taxes.
Robinson has also agreed that RTD and alternative forms of transportation need to be supported although he hasn’t been specific about how much he would allocate to those vs. roads and bridges.
Like Victor Mitchell, Doug Robinson chose to collect petition signatures in order to gain ballot access. The Secretary of State’s office initially rejected Robinson’s petitions because he was 22 signatures short in the 2nd Congressional District. After filing suit, a judge ruled that Robinson should be added the ballot on the grounds that he had collected over 11,000 total valid signatures, which exceeded the 10,500 required overall.
Robinson also came out in support of the “Red Flag” bill, though did some backpedaling recently in an interview with Colorado Public Radio. While he says he supports the idea of removing firearms from mentally ill people, he also supports due process and 2nd amendment rights.