A Douglas County entrepreneur and former state lawmaker could be adding his name to the lengthy list of possible Republican candidates for governor in 2018, sources tell The Colorado Statesman. Victor Mitchell, who served a term in the Legislature a decade ago, is weighing a run, and Capitol veteran Steve Durham thinks Mitchell can bring the right blend of business savvy and government know-how to what could be a wide-open field.
“Vic has been very successful entrepreneur, and that gives him a unique perspective on what might move the state forward and what needs to be done,” Durham said last week. “If Donald Trump proved anything, there’s a place for outsiders in politics.”
Mitchell, 51, declined to confirm whether he was considering a bid — merely acknowledging the possibility can trigger state campaign filing requirements, so that’s not a surprise — but Republicans close to the Castle Rock resident say there’s support building for the unconventional potential candidate.
Mitchell was elected in 2006 to represent House District 45, including parts of Douglas and Teller counties, and declined to seek a second term after being named chairman and CEO of ReLogic, an online real estate brokerage firm. (Former state Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, won the heavily Republican seat in the next election.)
“He’s proven he knows enough about politics to get elected,” said Durham, who represents the 5th Congressional District on the State Board of Education and served in both the Colorado House and Senate in the 1970s and 1980s. “But he’s certainly much more of a businessman than he is a politician. This is a good time for people who are not tied to the bureaucracy and the government establishment.”
While two political newcomers are the only candidates so far officially in the running — Democratic businessman Noel Ginsburg and Loveland Republican JoAnn Silva — Democrats and Republicans alike are jostling to take over for Gov. John Hickenlooper, who will be term-limited after the next election. The path to the nomination, however, could be complicated by a voter-approved measure to allow unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections, possibly ballooning the cost of reaching a larger pool of potential voters.
Other Republicans reportedly considering a run for governor next year include State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler, Secretary of State Wayne Williams, state Sens. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, and Tim Neville, R-Littleton, Colorado Republican Party Chairman Steve House and DaVita Healthcare Partners Inc. CEO Kent Thiry, along with a half-dozen other lawmakers and elected officials.
Democrats said to be weighing a bid include former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, state Sens. Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, and Mike Johnston, D-Denver, and state Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton.
Durham said Mitchell could stand out in a potentially crowded field.
“In his business history, Vic has been a problem-solver, he’s been very successful starting businesses from scratch and making them work. That’s his niche. He can bring a fresh approach to government,” Durham said.
Mitchell could also run a different kind of race, Durham added.
“It would probably look like an outsider’s campaign, it will focus on out-of-the-box solutions — everything from the application of technology to congestion problems to how do you provide an adequate funding stream for transportation. All those issues are going to require some political courage and some different thinking.”
Durham said a Mitchell campaign would be technologically robust, applying “big data” to identify voter groups.
“You could see a real appeal to millennials and non-traditional Republican voting groups,” he said. “I think a candidate with an entrepreneurial record can make those appeals and use technology to attract nontraditional Republican voters.”
Sources close to Mitchell said the businessman would be in a position to provide “substantial” self-funding for a campaign and suggested he could be close to a decision whether to run.
Mitchell has been chairman and CEO of Lead Funding LLC, a private financing company that lends capitol to real estate developers, since 2009. An entrepreneur since age 21, Mitchell operated Advantage Cellular in the early 1990s, eventually selling the company to Verizon Wireless. Among the other companies he’s owned and run since, Mitchell purchased wireless data provider Ricochet Networks, Inc., in 2003 when it was on the verge of its third bankruptcy filing, turning it profitable and then selling it to wireless infrastructure company Terabeam the next year. He’s recently helmed HomEdge LLC and ForzaStone LLC and taught at the Colorado State University College of Business and the San Diego State University Business College.
Mitchell has served as a director of the Leadership Program of the Rockies, on the Colorado Commission on Higher Education Advisory Committee and on the board of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. In the Legislature, he sat on the House Finance, Education, Business Affairs, and Legislative Audit Committees. A bill he sponsored provided funding to counties for tracking devices for Alzheimer’s patients and autistic children who have a propensity for wandering, inspired by his work with the nonprofit Project Lifesaver.
A Rotarian and former member of Kiwanis, Mitchell and his wife, Amy, have three children — their son David is a cadet at West Point — and belong to St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Centennial.