With the primary elections over, the November stage is set for what promises to be a contentious campaign for governor.
To the race – between Democrat Jared Polis and Republican Walker Stapleton – the candidates bring sharply different backgrounds and proposals for Colorado’s future.
They are also bringing an enormous amount of money, and that is worrisome.
Mike Littwin, longtime columnist for the Colorado Independent, reports that Polis has already spent “something over $11 million” to win the Democratic primary.
Stapleton did not have to spend nearly as much to defeat his primary opponents, but Littwin assures us that he is prepared, largely with support from the oil and gas industry, to match Polis in spending for the election in November. The total spent over the course of the campaign, he predicts, “will be obscene. Let’s guess $50 million and not be surprised when it goes higher.”
Against the multimillionaire Polis, Stapleton has already portrayed himself as the underdog, but Littwin is quick to put that claim in perspective:
“Stapleton has already tried to call the race a David vs. Goliath – with him playing the David role. But David, if I remember my Bible, didn’t have a shekel of oil money in his pocket.”
Linked with massive amounts of money, of course, comes an equally large amount of advertising and outreach, and a corresponding tendency for the race to get ugly. With the exception of a few sparks between Polis and fellow Democrat Carey Kennedy, the gubernatorial primary campaigns – at least here in our corner of the state – seemed downright civil.
Expect that to change, due to the war chests the candidates can call on, and due to the stark contrasts between the candidates themselves. As Littwin predicts, Stapleton will likely attack Polis as an overspending liberal who wants to kill the state’s fracking industry and cost thousands their jobs, while Polis will portray Stapleton as a pawn for oil and gas, a man out of touch with Colorado values who will operate in lockstep with President Donald Trump.
Both strategies, you can already plainly see, aim to turn qualified candidates into cartoon caricatures, and play upon our worst expectations and fears.
At the risk of sounding hopelessly ingenuous, we have a request for both candidates: We ask that they remember that both are family men, with children. Those children, like our own, will be exposed to the negative advertising and vitriol that tends to flood the airwaves when campaigns gear up for all-out war.
We ask that they remember that Colorado needs a governor who can immediately get to work on solving problems with our infrastructure, education and rural economies, all tasks that will require good will and bipartisan cooperation with the state Legislature.
Gentlemen, do not make those tasks more difficult by having to start in a battle-torn political wasteland.