Election 2018News

Colo. Republicans hit the road on a unity tour

Author: Joey Bunch - June 29, 2018 - Updated: June 29, 2018

Greg Lopez unity
Former gubernatorial candidate Greg Lopez called on former Republicans to rally behind Walker Stapleton on the GOP Unity Tour stop in Lakewood Thursday afternoon. (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

They quarreled like politicians on the campaign trail before Tuesday’s primary. On Thursday, Republican candidates for governor applauded nominee Walker Stapleton in a series of small rallies up the Front Range.

To try to gum up the GOP unity, the state Democratic Party emailed reporters a list of quotes his GOP primary rivals said about Stapleton on the trail. The Democrats, however, wound up refereeing their own political mud fights, even though all its candidates signed the party’s Clean Campaign Pledge. That’s politics.

Democrats on Thursday afternoon announced a rally to support gubernatorial nominee Jared Polis, the congressman from Boulder, on the steps of the state Capitol at 9:30 a.m. Friday. Top Democrats were set to attend, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, House Speaker Crisanta Duran and U.S. Reps. Ed Perlmutter of Arvada and Diana DeGette of Denver, though Polis’ three primary opponents were not. (A party spokesman stressed that all three have given Polis their hearty endorsements.)

At the Republican rally in Lakewood, Doug Robinson, who finished fourth  on Tuesday, said he maxed out his donation to Stapleton after the primary and expects to support the term-limited state treasurer when he can on the campaign trail through November. Third-place finisher Greg Lopez told Colorado Politics he would entertain a conversation with the Stapleton camp about how he could be part of the campaign, including as a running mate.

“This is what it’s all about now for us, as the Republican Party, to stand together,” Lopez told about 100 candidates, operatives and party officials at the Jefferson County GOP headquarters. “We have a great man in Walker Stapleton, and he’s going to be the next governor of Colorado.”

GOP Unity
Walker Stapleton, center, was backed by fellow GOP candidates, party officials and operatives Thursday on the Republican Unity Tour stop in Lakewood. (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

Robinson said “the stakes are too high” to let Polis become governor.

“He has to win,” Robinson said, motioning to Stapleton. “And we have to do everything in our power to see that he does.”

Stapleton told the Republicans he would need their support in a tough election year.

“This isn’t just symbolism,” he said of the tour. “This is about the Republican Party coming together like it never has before for the future of our state and the future of our kids.”

Businessman Victor Mitchell, who finished in second place, about 17 points behind Stapleton, had been on the tour earlier in southern Colorado but dropped out and sent a surrogate to other stops. The rolling, day-long rally started in Pueblo then went to Colorado Springs, Greenwood Village, Lakewood, Longmont, Fort Collins and Greeley.

Brian Watson, the GOP nominee for state treasurer, was on the tour, as well as a handful of congressional and legislative candidates.

“We have a phenomenal group of candidates,” Watson said. “I think, frankly, it’s the best slate — and I may get in trouble here and make somebody mad — but the best slate we’ve maybe ever hard.”

The two state legislators Watson beat in the GOP primary — Reps. Polly Lawrence of Roxborough Park and Justin Everett of Littleton — weren’t on hand, but Watson thanked them in absentia for being fierce competitors.

“As Republicans, what do we believe in? That competition makes all things better,” Watson said. “And for that they made me a better candidate.”

He will face another legislator, Democratic Rep. Dave Young of Greeley, in the general election.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams called Jefferson County a “backstop against a far-left agenda.”

He characterized Stapleton as a mainstream, pragmatic Republican.

“And Democrats chose the person who is farthest to the left in Colorado history,” Williams said, teeing up campaign-trail hyperbole to an welcoming crowd. ” Someone who … well, I’ll let Walker talk to you about just how far to the left he is.”

In other races, including his own, Williams said, “So Democrats have nominated a (candidate for) secretary of state who’s never run an election, and an attorney general (candidate) who has never had a trial.”

Williams was referring  to his opponent, first-time candidate Jena Griswold, an attorney, and Phil Weiser, the former dean of the University of Colorado Law School and Obama administration alum. Although his academic resume is extensive, Weiser, Westword reported this week, has only tried six cases. He’s facing Republican George Brauchler, the Arapahoe County-area district attorney, in the race for attorney general.

“We are just getting so much good vibrations,” said state party chairman Jeff Hays of Colorado Springs. “We started down south, and we’re winding out way up north.”

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.