Assemblies pick Colorado candidates for gubernatorial primaries

Saturday, April 14, 2018 10:01 PM
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, left, shakes hands with Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy E. Rice after Coffman took the oath of office during inauguration ceremony on the west steps of the Capitol in Denver in 2015.
Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, left, sits with his wife, Jenna, in court side seats to watch the Denver Nuggets host the Minnesota Timberwolves in Denver this year.
Cary Kennedy, former Colorado state treasurer and a former deputy mayor and chief financial officer of the city of Denver, poses in Denver last year.
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democratic candidate for governor, speaks during the Democratic State Assembly at 1st Bank Center on Saturday, April 14, in Broomfield.
Rep. Perry Buck, left, and Rep. Ken Buck are on the stage of Colorado Republican State Assembly at Coors Event Center in Boulder on April 14.
Associated Press file

The Colorado Republican State Assembly at Coors Event Center in Boulder on Saturday, April 14.

BROOMFIELD — A former mayor delivered a rousing speech praising President Donald Trump and helped hand a stunning defeat to Colorado’s moderate attorney general in the race to enter the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary Saturday, while Democrats selected two candidates who pledged to push back against the White House.

In the Denver suburb of Broomfield, Cary Kennedy and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis both won spots Saturday on the Democratic gubernatorial ballot, setting the stage for a tightly contested primary fight to succeed term-limited Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Kennedy, a former state treasurer, was the clear favorite of the party faithful at the Democratic state assembly, buoyed by the support of teachers. She won 62 percent of the vote to Polis’ 33 percent.

Both candidates brought a similar message to the Broomfield assembly, pledging to push back against Trump, to protect the environment and to boost funding to schools by reforming the state’s strict limits on taxation.

They both promised to expand access to health care, but prescribed different solutions, with Polis pushing for a universal single-payer system similar to Medicare, and Kennedy proposing a public option to supplement existing private and public offerings.

“Health care isn’t a luxury for the rich,” Kennedy said. “It is a right.”

Polis touted his record in Congress, promising: “I will be ready on Day One to go toe-to-toe with Donald Trump.”

Down the road in Boulder, front-runner Walker Stapleton and former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez knocked Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman out of the Republican race.

Stapleton, the state treasurer endorsed by U.S. Rep. Ken Buck and former Congressman Tom Tancredo, took 44 percent of the vote at the GOP state assembly in Boulder. Lopez took 33 percent after calling Trump “a true leader” and attacking sanctuary cities, which refuse to help enforce U.S. immigration laws.

Coffman failed to get the 30 percent of the vote needed to advance to the June 26 primary. Coffman had decided to try to qualify at the assembly rather than petition her way onto the primary ballot.

With Buck and Tancredo on stage behind him, Stapleton took aim at Polis’ single-payer proposal.

“Your health care belongs to you and not to the government,” Stapleton said to cheers.

Coffman drew boos in brief preliminary remarks earlier Saturday when she criticized the party for allowing Stapleton to compete at the assembly. Stapleton did so after abandoning his petition drive to qualify on Tuesday, citing possible fraud in the collection of signatures.

Coffman insisted the party broke rules in allowing Stapleton to compete at the assembly on short notice. The GOP says no rules were broken.

Coffman struggled to attract core conservatives who traditionally dominate the GOP assembly for her moderate positions as attorney general on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. She increasingly tried to stake out tougher positions on sanctuary cities and other issues during the campaign.

Republicans Barry Farah, a Colorado Springs businessman; Steve Barlock, a co-chair of Trump’s 2016 Denver campaign; and Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter did not qualify. Businessmen Victor Mitchell and Doug Robinson are petitioning.

Democrat Erik Underwood, a fringe candidate who ran for U.S. Senate as a Republican in 2016, did not qualify. Mike Johnston, a former state senator, has successfully petitioned, and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne is attempting to.

Anderson reported from Boulder.