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A showdown over showing up: Stapleton, Polis trade digs on absenteeism

Author: Joey Bunch - August 29, 2018 - Updated: September 13, 2018

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis gestures after accepting his nomination for governor at the 2018 Colorado Democratic State Assembly at the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield on April 14. (Photo by Andy Colwell for Colorado Politics)
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) at the 2018 Colorado Democratic State Assembly at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield on April 14. (Photo by Andy Colwell for Colorado Politics)

Democrats allege Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton is a guy who doesn’t show up for work, but their party’s nominee, Jared Polis, has a record of missing roll-call votes in Congress that’s “much worse” than the norm, a nonpartisan vote-tracking website says.

GovTrack, which compiles data on congressional votes, said Polis has missed 375 of 6,879 roll call votes since he became Boulder’s congressional representative in 2009. His rate of missed votes — 5.5 percent — is “much worse than the median of 2.4 percent among the lifetime records of representatives currently serving,” the site says.

Stapleton, the state treasurer, takes knocks on attendance from the left mainly because he has sent administrative staff to represent his office in meetings of the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association, despite making PERA’s operations a focus of his tenure as treasurer.

The howls grew louder last month after he sent staff to a Democrat-requested meeting with a legislative committee to field their questions and criticisms. Democrats also allege he rarely shows up at his office at the Capitol.

Meanwhile, from April to June this year — during the heart of his Democratic primary race — Polis missed 61 of 184 roll call votes, GovTrack says.

“Congressman Polis’ attendance record in Congress is abysmal,” said Stapleton spokesman Jerrod Dobkin. “He’s an absentee congressman having missed 33 percent of House votes earlier this year. What’s worse is that he has only passed two minor bills in an entire decade in Congress. Even when Congressman Polis shows up, it’s like he’s not even there. Coloradans deserve better.”

According to GovTrack, Polis has been the prime sponsor of just two pieces of legislation that became law: The Lake Hill Administrative Site Affordable Housing Act and the Sugar Loaf Fire Protection District Land Exchange Act. However, Polis has been a co-sponsor of 90 other bills that passed, the site says.

“Jared commutes thousands of miles to Washington and has made 94.5 percent of his 6,879 votes, and was even on a flight to D.C. at 6:15 a.m. the morning after he won the Democratic primary,” said his spokeswoman, Mara Sheldon.

Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton addresses the 2018 Colorado Republican State Assembly while accepting his nomination for governor at the Coors Events Center on the campus of the University of Colorado Boulder in Boulder on April 14. (Photo by Andy Colwell for Colorado Politics)

“Walker Stapleton — who bragged on tape that he’ll stay in bed if it’s raining or snowing — has a 10-mile commute, and has managed to miss almost half of his 74 PERA board meetings, often times to play golf and meet with lobbyists and donors,” she added. “In fact, Cary Kennedy went to more PERA board meetings in four years than Stapleton has in eight years. If Stapleton wants to make this campaign about who shows up and who doesn’t, then bring it on — that is, if he manages to make it out of bed.”

Sheldon is referring to a piece of video captured by the liberal Colorado Times Recorder in which Stapleton told a group how traffic had lengthened his commute from south metro Denver from 15 to 45 minutes in the two terms he’s been state treasurer. “And if there’s rain or snow, I might as well stay in bed for an extra hour or hang out at home,” he said in the recording.


Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.