Tougaw: Republicans need to shake up the Colorado election to grab a win

Ryan Tougaw

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.  

Colorado is 1 of 36 states to be experiencing a gubernatorial election in 2018. It also finds itself as 1 of 7 that republicans in particular are looking to flip, according to FiveThiryEight.

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The republican primary took a huge twist when front-runner Tom Tancredo, blaming fundraising reasons, dropped out of contention. Tancredo was a hawkish, immigration-focused populist.

Those characteristics aren’t wholly out of the realm of plausibility for a republican candidate. The issue is that voters tend to vote against the party who controls the federal government in gubernatorial elections, even more so when the president is unpopular; and boy is the president unpopular.

A recent Gallup poll put President Trump at around 36.9%.

Looking at those statistics in combination with one another, the situation was bleak from the get-go for Tancredo. Him dropping out heavily streamlined a bloated primary race.

I got in touch with a former field manager for a conservative candidate’s campaign for a more detailed look at how the field looks now in Tancredo’s absence

The race has boiled down to 3 viable options. The other 4 can’t compete in terms of funds and don’t have the name recognition to be on the ballot without petitioning on, so their chances are minute at best for even the primary, let alone the governor’s race in general.

The best 3 choices are Walker Stapleton, Victor Mitchell and Doug Robinson.

If winning the republican primary was all that mattered, I’d say back Stapleton. The sticking point is the democratic front-runner.

Jared Polis is a democratic representative of Colorado in the House of Representatives. Polis is wealthy far in excess of any other candidate on either side. 

He has well in excess of what he needs in the bank to take the democratic primary, so since financial viability is off the table, where do his ideas fall?

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Jared Polis is a liberal democrat. According to a graph via GovTrack.com, his voting record has ranked close to prominent liberal democrats like Keith Ellison.

The problem with the Republican Party in this race is that they’re focused on who wins the primary and not who has the best chance of beating Polis. Winning the primary means nothing if the candidate can’t also win the general.

For me, Robinson is the best chance republicans have of winning the governor’s office.

Stapleton wouldn’t be a terrible bet either. He has good credentials as a two-term treasurer, emboldened by holding that office in a state with TABOR, or the Tax Payer Bill of Rights. In a nutshell, TABOR says that taxes cannot be raised in Colorado without a vote from the citizens, which is crucial since Polis is running on a platform of higher taxes to increase social programs and government spending. 

Stapleton doesn’t have a spotless record, however. In June of 1999, He was involved in a car accident which injured two women. He was subsequently handed a DUI and pleaded down to 3 years of probation, court ordered community work and twice weekly AA meetings.  

Given the way Stapleton handled that situation and the seriousness of the incident, it isn’t likely to sit well with voters, especially considering how easy it would be for Polis to run ads smearing Stapleton’s character.

Robinson, on the other hand, is about as clean as it gets. He’s a devout Mormon and has a long record of community service and non-profit work.

His three key issues for his campaign are education compatible with the 21st Century, repairing Colorado’s infrastructure and fighting the opioid epidemic.

Robinson about as vanilla as it gets; and in a political sphere dominated by personalities like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, a grounded candidate is a welcome breath of fresh air.

He’s an excellent counter to Polis as well, who is no stranger to polar politics. 

The race for governor in Colorado is widely tipped to swing left, but if any candidate has a chance of changing that, Doug Robinson’s clean record and sensible policy is the best chance republicans have of winning a traditionally democratic office.

Ryan Tougaw can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online at @rjtougaw