Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler was the favored candidate for Colorado governor at the annual Western Conservative Summit in Denver, winning 38 percent of the vote in a straw poll of attendees on Sunday.
Brauchler was among the first to declare himself a candidate in the now crowded field of candidates. Former state Rep. Victor Mitchell finished second with 20 percent of the vote. Steve Barlock got 7 percent. State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, who hasn't yet filed paperwork to run for governor, finished fourth with 6 percent.
The straw poll was the final event of the three-day gathering of thousands of conservatives in downtown Denver. Jeff Hunt, director of the Centennial Institute, which holds the conference, said the straw poll is a test of potential preferences among the grassroots conservatives in Colorado.
President Donald Trump did note attend, although he did make a speech to the group last year as a presidential candidate. Despite now having control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, some at the conservative summit say they're concerned about momentum.
Before the gathering began, Jeff Hunt told Colorado Matters that those attending the gathering are deeply concerned about the failure of Republican-backed health care reform. Three senators and three members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus would be at the summit, Hunt said. "I've told all of them, come with an answer. Are we going to get repeal and replacement of Obamacare, because if you're not able to deliver on that grassroots conservatives are going to be deeply disappointed."
That message carried through over the weekend.
“Lord knows people are looking for a little relief on the health care front. I hope the Senate can get their act together and we have that in place,” said former Colorado congressman and two time candidate for governor Bob Beauprez. “I fully expect they'll have a tax bill. And I think it will be a fairly significant one and that will be something to point to and say glory hallelujah I'll be one of those.”
Republican U.S. Senate leadership has proposed a vote on a straight repeal of the Affordable Care Act after a replacement bill failed to get off the ground last week. Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, in an interview with CPR News before the speech, would not say whether he supports the effort to repeal the act without legislation to replace it.
Gardner has voted to repeal Obamacare in the past. But more recently he has called for a gradual transition out of the Affordable Care Act to protect those who gained Medicaid coverage under President Obama. He said Friday a replacement bill must provide stability for Medicaid which now covers more than 70 million people under the ACA.
Gardner was among those who spoke to the conservative gathering Friday. The Denver Post reported that he addressed health care in generalities, and while many people applauded his remarks, other shouted over him to register their fears about losing Medicaid coverage.
Environmental Message For Millennials
The conservative summit covered a lot of territory, from healthcare to social issues -- and how conservatives can attract millennial voters. When it comes to the environment, one panel suggested free market solutions that include the renewable energy market.
“If your message when you're trying to win a Republican primary is, ‘We're going to take control of all these public lands from the federal government and we're going to drill the heck out of them and we're going to do all this stuff on them,’” that’s a non-starter said Greg Brophy a former state senator from the Eastern Plains. "All these millennials who move to Colorado that work in a brewpub and hike every weekend and smoke dope every night are going to see that message and say, ‘I'm not going to vote for that guy.’”