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ENDORSEMENT WATCH | Colorado candidates notch support as primary looms

Author: Ernest Luning - June 21, 2018 - Updated: June 28, 2018

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Stephany Rose Spaulding, the Democratic nominee in the heavily Republican 5th Congressional District currently represented by Doug Lamborn, will face one of the five GOP candidates in the fall.

Politicians and organizations are bestowing last-minute endorsements as candidate scramble to motivate voters in the days before the June 26 primary.

Here are some of the Colorado candidate endorsements announced in recent days, including some going to candidates who aren’t in contested primaries and have already won their party’s nomination:

• Former U.S. Sen. Tim Wirth and his wife, Wren, threw their support behind Cary Kennedy, one of four Democrats running for governor, citing the former state treasurer’s commitment to keeping Colorado “at the forefront of environmental protection.”

“There is a strong stable of candidates in this race, but Cary stands out as a proven problem solver and creative leader in our state,” the Wirths wrote in a joint statement. “She has a vision for making Colorado the nation’s leader in environmental protection…. Our children and grandchildren will suffer the consequences unless we have a governor who will stand up to Trump and lead Colorado in the fight against global climate change and reckless polluters.”

• Ready Colorado, which describes itself as the state’s leading conservative voice on education reform, endorsed Walker Stapleton, one of four Republican gubernatorial candidates.

“Walker Stapleton will strive every day to make sure Colorado schools are the best in the nation,” said the group’s president, Luke Ragland, in a radio ad released this week. “He’ll fight to end the union blockade against school choice and demand more from administrators and school districts when they under-perform.”

A separate organization, known as the Better Jobs Coalition IEC, ponied up about $50,000 to air the ad, the group said. Jefferson County Republican stalwart Rick Enstrom, is the independent committee’s registered agent.

• The Congressional Black Caucus PAC endorsed Stephany Rose Spaulding, the Democratic nominee in the 5th Congressional District.

“We believe that Dr. Spaulding brings a unique skillset and voice to a region that is long overdue for fresh solutions,” said U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, who chairs the PAC, in a statement. “We’ve watched her campaign build momentum over the past year and have no doubt Dr. Spaulding will make history on Nov. 6.”

If she wins, Spaulding would be the first Democrat, the first woman and the first African-American to represent the Colorado Springs-based district.

• The Rocky Mountain Gun Owners SuperPAC endorsed state Rep. Justin Everett, a Republican running for state treasurer, saying the Littleton lawmaker “will be one of the most pro-gun treasurers Colorado has ever seen!”

“I personally think Justin Everett is the most qualified person for that job with his accounting background and as an RMGO member,” wrote RMGO director Dudley Brown in a letter to supporters. “But of course the real boost to the Second Amendment comes by electing a solid 100 percent pro-gun, constitutionalist to such an important office. After all, the LAST thing we need is yet another gun-grabber with an ego — in either party — winning statewide simply as a stepping stone to pushing gun control in the governor’s mansion or in Washington.”

An email to supporters from the RMGO PAC noted that the organization decided against endorsement any of the candidates for governor.

“The simple fact is that none are bold leaders on the gun issue, and some — Democrats (Cary) Kennedy and (Jared) Polis, and Republicans Victor Mitchell and Doug Robinson – are outright enemies on Second Amendment issues,” the email said.

• The Colorado Motor Carriers Association, which represents 600 companies involved in trucking in Colorado, endorsed Polly Lawrence, a Douglas County Republican, in her campaign for state treasurer, citing the three-term Douglas County lawmaker’s “proven track record of taking on tough issues and getting things done.”

“It is important at this critical time in our state that we have a leader in this position who has an excellent understanding of our state budget and finances while also having the private sector experience of running a business,” said Shaun Egan, the association’s chairman, in a statement. He added: “During her tenure in the General Assembly, she also has been a leader in ensuring that state dollars are wisely spent and she has been a strong proponent of transparency by state agencies as to their use of funds.

• Our Revolution, the national progressive organization spun off from the 2016 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, endorsed Democrat Bernard Douthit, a candidate for state treasurer. Douthit has already received the backing of every Colorado chapter of the group, which he said has gotten behind “fierce progressive champions” nationwide.

• Faith Winter endorsed fellow Democratic state representative Dave Young, a candidate for state treasurer, pointing to the Greeley lawmaker’s four-year stint on the powerful Joint Budget Committee.

Young, she said in a statement, “has worked alongside me to protect and strengthen our Coloradan families by supporting paid family leave, increase funding for our schools, and standing up for rights for undocumented Coloradans. We share a life-long commitment to working hard for hard-working families. .. He’s qualified, he’s a fighter, and he’s got the support of Coloradans across the state.”

• The Colorado Motor Carriers Association also endorsed state Sen. Ray Scott, a former truck driver facing a challenge in the Republican primary from state Rep. Dan Thurlow in the Grand Junction-based Senate District 7.

“Senator Scott has always stood strong for the motor carrier industry that brings you the mail, food, gasoline and groceries each day to Mesa County and he has shown a unique understanding and ability to represent the thousands of truck drivers and their families in Mesa County and beyond,” said Greg Fulton, the organization’s executive director, in a statement. He added: “Trucking companies of all size need Senator Scott to continue his fight to make Colorado roads safer for the traveling public.”

Recalling that he drove trucks years ago, Scott said, “I have the utmost respect for drivers and their families, it is one of the toughest jobs and spending days away from their loved ones to service the pubic is honorable.”

• The Colorado Working Families Party endorsed a slate of legislative candidates in what it described as an effort to “amplify a more progressive voice among Democrats in the legislature and move policies that benefit working families.”

It’s getting behind these state Senate candidates: state Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, in Senate District 24, Julia Varnell-Searjeant in Senate District 30 and Robert Rodriguez in Senate District 32.

House candidates winning the group’s support include: Serena Gonzales-Guiterrez  in House District 4, Meghan Nutting in House District 5, Emily Sirota in House District 9, Monica Duran in House District 24, Yadira Caraveo in House District 31, Kyle Mullica in House District 34, and Chris Kolker in House District 38.

“At the close of a legislative session with so much of the people’s business undone and so many wasted opportunities, we’re endorsing these leaders to ensure that our state government is working in the interest of the rest of us, not just the wealthy and well connected,” said Carlos Valverde, the group’s state director, in a statement.

“This year, Coloradans saw the contempt that Senate leadership has for civil rights, women, and public employees. It’s our aim to ensure that when the Colorado General Assembly returns in January 2019 it’s a vastly different body more representative of our state’s people. We’re working to elect champions who will fight for Colorado’s working families, immigrants, women, and others who’ve been left behind by both concessionary and reactionary lawmakers.”

• A current and a former state lawmaker, as well as Our Revolution, the Bernie Sanders-inspired national organization, also endorsed Sirota, who is facing Ashley Wheeland in the House District 9 Democratic primary.

State Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, cited Sirota’s record fighting for public education in her endorsement. Former state Rep. Alice Borodkin, D-Denver, said Sirota was the best candidate to elect in the southeast Denver district, which Borodkin used to represent.

• Lyons Mayor Connie Sullivan endorsed Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty, who is facing a challenge from state Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, after being appointed the county’s top prosecutor earlier this year by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

“Michael Dougherty has displayed the leadership, experience, and vision consistent with the priorities of Boulder County, which is why I am supporting Michael Dougherty,” Sullivan said in a statement. “As a community leader, I know how much responsibility falls to our district attorney – and I believe Michael’s experience will best serve the residents of Lyons.”

The Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters union also endorsed Dougherty.

“Having a district attorney with integrity and the pose to aggressively go after corruption is critical to the continued success of our industry,” said Mark Thompson, the union’s representative, in a statement. “We believe that Boulder County has the best possible choice for their district attorney in Michael Dougherty and the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters is honored to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him in this election and for many years to come. Michael understands the needs of union workers, and we know he will fight for us everyday.”

• CleanSlateNow Action, a Colorado organization devoted to campaign finance reform, endorsed several candidates who have made campaign finance a central focus of their campaigns, after nearly 2,000 of its members weighed in on a survey.

“We’re thrilled to have such a strong field of candidates taking the lead in their communities to prioritize the public interest over the special interests,” said Owen Perkins, the group’s president. “It is a courageous step to turn down big money and rely on relatively small donations from individuals to finance your campaign, but these candidates have shown that taking a strong stance about getting big money out of politics and answering to their constituents is a powerful distinction for voters to consider as they head to the polls.”

All of the candidates endorsed by the group are Democrats, except for one unaffiliated state Senate candidate.

Bernard Douthit won the group’s backing for state treasurer. Perkins noted that Douthit has limited contributions to individuals and “has made an important link between campaign finance reform and the office of treasurer, highlighting transparency in campaign finance and the need for a firewall between candidates for state treasurer and corporations who either do business with the state or otherwise benefit from state policy that campaign contributions often try to influence.”

Mark Williams, a candiate in the 2nd Congressional District, has emphasized “diminishing the role of big corporations and the ‘uber-wealthy’ in favor of meaningful efforts to revitalize grassroots politics, to heighten transparency, eliminate dark money, and to take special interest contributions out of the equation,” Perkins said.

In the 6th Congressional District, Levi Tillemann “provides a stirring example of a candidate walking the walk and holding himself to the highest standards — a refreshing alternative to candidates looking for every possible loophole standing between their campaign and the big money they pursue,” Perkins said. Tillemann’s commitment to campaign finance reform, he added, included returning a check from a political action committee after determining the PAC was funded in part by contributions from corporations.

The group’s legislative endorsements include: Democrats Nicky Yollick in House District 5 , Emily Sirota in House District 9, Gbenga Ajiboye in House District 48, Julia Varnell-Sarjeant in Senate District 30 and unaffiliated candidate Peter Smith in Senate District 32. (Smith ran for the seat in the Democratic primary last year but dropped his affiliation in December and is petitioning onto the ballot.)

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.