Colorado’s New Candidates For Governor Are At Ideological Extremes, Analysts Say

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Photo: Voting in Boulder June 2016 (AP Photo)
A voter places his ballot into a collection box after filling it in at a polling center, on state primary election day, in Boulder, Colo., Tuesday, June 28, 2016.

Photo: Voting in Boulder June 2016 (AP Photo)

Even as the 2018 Colorado primary election went mostly the way polls and predictions said it would, there was still plenty left for political junkies to discuss.

For one, the style of campaign that U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and state Treasurer Walker Stapleton will lead now that they've cleared the field heading into the general election.

The candidates wasted no time taking jabs at each in their victory speeches, Stapleton charging that Polis will raise every tax he can, and Polis questioning Stapleton's positions on immigration and health care, along with his credibility.

The heat the two area already generating may be the result of their ideological polarization. Former state Republican chair Dick Wadhams and Democratic communications consultant Ellen Dumm Polis' liberal platform and Stapleton's alignment with Trump as new extremes for Colorado gubernatorial candidates.

"The truth is that (Trump is) immensely popular among Republican primary voters. You certainly couldn't be in opposition to President Trump," Wadhams said. "What Walker Stapleton did, he almost had to do." Photo: Polis Primary Election Night

It's the "same thing with Polis. I think he had to talk to that liberal wing of the Democratic party in order to win. And you could see other candidates in the Democratic primary also move that direction. He really drove the debate in the Democratic primary," Wadhams added.

Both politicos agreed that Polis has so far led the stronger campaign and made fewer gaffes than Stapleton.

"If Walker Stapleton is going to win this election, he has got to have a much sharper and more disciplined campaign," Wadhams said.

Battle lines will be drawn on healthcare, education and transportation funding -- not significantly different from the primaries, Dumm said.

Wadhams sees an opening for Stapleton in needling Polis for the hows and whys of funding his suggestions for major statewide improvements.

"Polis got away with (a lack of details) in the Democratic primary, he can't do that in the general election," Wadhams said.Photo: Walker Stapleton Primary Election Night

"I would say that least (Polis) has an agenda, and we haven't really heard one," from Stapleton, Dumm added.

In a year when large numbers of women have entered and and won political primaries, Dumm said she was surprised that female Democrats Cary Kennedy and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne did not perform better in the primary. (Kennedy ended the night at 25 percent, second to Polis, while Lynne polled at 7 percent.) But Dumm believes there are still political opportunities for Colorado women.

"There is, I think in the year of the woman, another opportunity in Colorado, and that will be in the state senate," she said.

In the congressional races, incumbents made strong showings against new challengers. Wadhams said Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn made a particular statement in District 5, centered in Colorado Springs.

"It appears to me Doug Lamborn has solidified his hold on the Fifth District. I can't imagine why anyone would ever challenge him again," Wadhams said.

In Aurora-based District 6, Democratic primary winner Jason Crow is as strong as candidate as there'll ever be to topple Republican incumbent Mike Coffman, Dumm said. But many prominent Democrats have tried, and failed.

"Jason Crow is a very attractive candidate. He has all the goods. And it is a very Democratic year. If he can’t do it this year, I’m not sure it can get done," Dumm said.