By Jim Ellis
June 13, 2017 — Colorado Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) announced his campaign for governor Sunday, making the open seat Democratic primary even more crowded. Polis’ move sets up a major primary confrontation with fellow Colorado congressional colleague Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden), who announced his own candidacy in early April. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.
Rep. Polis becomes the ninth Democrat to enter the governor’s race, but clearly he and Perlmutter are the heavyweight candidates. Former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy, ex-state Sen. Mike Johnston (D-Denver), and plastics company CEO Noel Ginsburg are also substantial players. Seven Republicans are in the race, the most prominent of whom is George Brauchler, the Aurora County District Attorney who prosecuted James Holmes, known as the “Joker”, a mass murderer who killed a dozen people and wounded 70 more in a rampage outside a local movie theatre in July of 2012.
The Colorado governor’s race will be one of the most interesting and competitive of the 2018 election cycle. Democrats will be favored to claim the statewide race, but a strong Republican effort could position the GOP candidate for an upset victory, similar to how Sen. Cory Gardner (R) won here in 2014.
The Democratic primary here will likely yield another example of how the party is becoming at odds within itself. Rep. Polis may be in strong position to attract the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren most liberal faction, while Perlmutter is likely to be the establishment wing’s preferred contender. With at least seven other Democrats vying for the nomination in varying degrees of strength, this June 2018 Dem primary will be among the most hard fought, and potentially divisive in the nation.
Since the heightened Colorado population growth appears to be putting the state in realistic position to gain a new congressional seat in the 2020 apportionment, the governor elected in this next election will also affect national politics via his veto power on redistricting.
An open 2nd Congressional District will likely attract a large cadre of Democratic candidates because of the Boulder-anchored seat’s liberal voting history. The 2nd begins west of the Denver metropolitan area and travels north all the way to the Wyoming border, encompassing the Ft. Collins-Loveland area along the way. CO-2 stretches beyond Vail on the west as it reaches well onto the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. Hillary Clinton carried the seat 56-35 percent, but that was down from President Obama’s 58 and 61 percent victory margins in 2012 and 2008, respectively.
Polis’ action creates 16 open seats for the coming election, with two scheduled for replacement elections (GA-6; SC-5) next week. Of the 16, just five are currently in Democratic hands, but only two, the GA-6 special and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s FL-27, are in the toss-up category.
Puerto Ricans Vote
Also Sunday, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico held an advisory US statehood vote, and a whopping 97 percent voted in favor of the measure. The caveat is that the organized opposition boycotted the vote, claiming the process was “rigged” in favor of the statehood position.
More than 500,000 people went to the polls, but that was only 23 percent of the 2.26 million registered voter universe. In past elections, registered voter turnout has topped 80 percent.
Republicans have generally been more opposed to admitting the territory, with a great many feeling that the action would add two more Democratic US Senators. Yet, the 2016 elections produced two members of the New Progressive Party, an entity philosophically closer to the Republicans, in the territory’s top two elected positions. Both territorial Gov. Ricardo Rossello and Resident Commissioner (what Puerto Rico calls its Delegate to the House of Representatives) Jenniffer Gonzalez Colon are New Progressive Party members.