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Updated: Say what? 5280 doesn’t have Walker Stapleton in the top 8 for governor

Author: Joey Bunch - October 29, 2017 - Updated: October 30, 2017

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5280Gubernatorial candidate Steve Barlock talks with Colorado Politics’ Joey Bunch at the Western Conservative Summit in July. (Photo courtesy of the Centennial Institute.)

After this story got some traction of Twitter Monday, 5280 sent us a statement about what happened with its odd analysis more than five weeks after Walker Stapleton officially announced his candidacy. That announcement, however, had been imminent and widely reported for months.

Here’s what Geoff Van Dyke, 5280’s editorial director, sent me by way of explanation:

There’s a simple explanation for Walker Stapleton not being included in our November 2017 issue story on predictions for the state’s next governor: We only included candidates who had officially declared by press time. As luck would have it, the piece was batch uploaded to 5280.com this past Friday and we had not yet updated the story. Ah, the vagaries of posting monthly magazine content to our website. You got us. We’re in the process of updating the story.

Here’s the original blog post:

You have to take political prognosticators with the same grain — or shaker — of salt as you do college football pundits. The college football braintrust predicted, almost in consensus, before the season that Florida State was poised to play for a national championship this year. Friday night, the Seminoles fell to 2-5 after a 35-3 drubbing against a 4-4 Boston College team.

Denver’s venerable and wonderfully written 5280 magazine also misfired, IMHO, in its November edition when it picked the eight candidates with the best shots at being elected governor next year, in its humble opinion. The article posted on the website last Friday.

The biggest news is who’s not in it, Walker Stapleton. Say what? Not even in the top eight? 5280 must be high, in more than feet.

Most of us in the state’s political press agree that Stapleton is near if not leading the race for good reasons. He has statewide name recognition. He is the establishment pick of the party, and he’s got an Obama-quality fundraising team for both his campaign and independent expenditure committee.

To boot, Stapleton is the sitting state treasurer, one of only three candidates out of 25 who has ever won statewide. The other two are Democrats Jared Polis, who was elected to at at-large seat on the state school board  in 2000, and  Cary Kennedy, the former state treasurer Stapleton unseated after one term in 2010.

Moreover, when I talk to Democratic operatives about who they think their nominee will face next fall, it’s always Stapleton, at least until Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler proves he can raise money at a Stapleton pace and appeal to party members beyond the conservative base in this moderate-voting state.

Political star power? Stapleton is a cousin to the presidential Bush family, and his past donors have included the likes of Henry Kissinger. His current backers? How about John Elway? Heard of him? Stapleton has a fundraiser on Nov. 7 at the home of Mike Shanahan, Elway’s coach on two Super Bowl teams.

The 5280 list has four Democrats: Kennedy, Polis, Mike Johnston and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne. That’s a reasonable pack of primary frontrunners, though it’s hard to count out philanthropist and businessman Noel Ginsburg this early.

The four Republicans are way more interesting, and not just given Stapleton’s absence.

The magazine picks Brauchler, former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez, Denver businessman Steve Barlock and investment banker Doug Robinson.

Also snubbed is Victor Mitchell, an entrepreneur and former state lawmaker who put $3 million of his own money into the race so far. Mitchell is maintaining a blistering campaign schedule early on, along with a heavy and smart investment in social media outreach.  He still has $2.3 million in the bank, more than any other candidate in either party.

As with Stapleton, 5280 gives Mitchell something less than a 1 in 5 chance. Cough, cough, horse feathers.

I spend 60 hours a week on Colorado politics, and I don’t know Lopez. No one from his campaign has ever contacted me, even with a press release. Among the state’s political news outlets, Colorado Politics is at least in the top two and the preferred reading of the donor and activist class, which is why so many candidates have come to us to break the news they’re running.

Lopez raised $7,650 last quarter and spent $15,585.

Barlock’s political experience was being the co-chairman of Donald Trump’s campaign in Denver County last year. He raised $4,332 last quarter (and spent $3,078). Stapleton got in the race seven business days before the last quarter ended and raised $8,031. Stapleton’s super PAC, Better Colorado Now, had a haul of $625,001 last quarter.

Democratic fundraising, on the other hand, should scare all the Republican candidates: Johnston raised $1.3 million, Polis came in with $711,167, Kennedy had $565,439 and Ginsburg had $461,722. Lynne, who got in the race in the middle of the quarter in August, raised more than any Republican with $374,269.

Barlock and Lopez had a combined net of minus-$6,681 last quarter, not counting a $9,000 loan to the Lopez campaign.

Cash on hand is grim for both of these top-four GOP campaigns. While other camps could afford mansions or Aspen condos, Barlock and Lopez couldn’t pay a month’s rent in Lakewood — $1,254 in the bank for Barlock, $1,064 for Lopez, counting his loan.

“We calculated a few figures ourselves and considered the likelihoods that each of these eight candidates, who have the best chances of winning in our eyes, will become the Centennial State’s next governor,” 5280 explained, without revealing any of those figures.

I texted Stapleton’s campaign consultant Michael Fortney to size up such a snub from the Queen City’s premiere magazine.

“I always buy 5280’s ranking of the 25 best restaurants in Denver,” he replied. “This has me questioning my last decade of dining decisions. It’s a lot to process.”

In other news, 5280 has Florida State as a 3 to 1 favorite over Alabama in the national title game. Just kidding, I think.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.


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