Insights: Early attacks in Colorado Democratic gubernatorial race

Author: Peter Marcus - May 19, 2017 - Updated: May 19, 2017


The Colorado Democratic race for governor could get ugly.

Colorado Politics’ inbox is already filled with opposition emails that have revolved around the gubernatorial campaigns for U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy.

It started with a fundraising email. Kennedy’s opponents pointed out that a fundraising event for Kennedy gave the impression that high-profile Colorado women were supporting her campaign, though several “sponsors” hadn’t made formal endorsements.

The email for the event this month listed women such as Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, First Lady Robin Hickenlooper and Susan Daggett, the wife of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, as sponsors for an Electing Women luncheon.

The event was organized by Electing Women, a Denver-based federal political action committee dedicated to raising money for pro-choice women running for governor and U.S. Senate seats around the country. But the fundraising email for the luncheon honoring Kennedy was paid for by “Cary Kennedy for Governor.”

There is no indication that the women on the fundraising email formally endorsed Kennedy at the time. A spokeswoman for Lynne, for example, said, “The name on the invitation is not intended and should not be viewed as an endorsement. She has not committed to supporting any individual candidate.”

Still, the fundraising event raised just under $50,000, according to the Kennedy campaign, and “sponsors” of the event didn’t appear overly upset about how the email was portrayed when asked by Colorado Politics.

Still, Kennedy opponents think the optics of the fundraising event were disingenuous by suggesting that the women had “sponsored” the event, which they believe could have been construed as a Kennedy endorsement.

Meanwhile, anonymous anti-Perlmutter emails also are landing in Colorado Politics’ inbox.

“Ed Perlmutter has missed more than twice as many votes as anyone else in the Colorado delegation this year. In fact, it’s worse than 89% of his fellow members of congress in the House,” read the anonymous email.

“This isn’t a new trend for him. His absences in congress have been a problem for years,” the anti-Perlmutter email continued.

The Perlmutter campaign, however, points out that sometimes “life takes over.” Perlmutter has been forced to grapple with his wife Nancy’s cancer and recent heart surgery for his father, who is in his 90s. The campaign estimates that about 75 votes were missed for family issues.

Perlmutter missed 242 votes out of more than 6,900 over the course of his 10 years in Congress, which puts him at about 3.5 percent of missed votes and somewhere in the middle of the pack for the Colorado congressional delegation.

“Ed loves politics,” continued the anonymous email critical of the congressman. “But it’s all for the sake of politics. His hasty announcement without a real campaign structure or any evidence that he was prepared to make this run. His scattered messaging on the stump so far. His missed votes. He didn’t want to miss a political opportunity, so he jumped at it.”

A Perlmutter spokeswoman countered, “Life sometimes has to take over, and I don’t know that Ed’s any different than anyone else where he’s had some serious family issues that he’s had to deal with.”

Back to the Kennedy fundraising email. Heather Lurie, an organizer for Electing Women, told Colorado Politics that the organization apologizes “for any confusion we have caused,” adding that the organization acknowledges “there are sensitivities,” and that it reached out to sponsors to clarify the confusion.

Lurie pointed out that the way Electing Women has been structured for the past 17 years is that it organizes events for candidates, but then it allows the candidates to do the fundraising themselves, as was the case with the paid for by “Cary Kennedy for Governor” disclosure.

Other Democrats in the race, including former state Sen. Mike Johnston and civics leader Noel Ginsburg, have so far been less targeted. As attacks intensify in the Republican gubernatorial race, Colorado Politics will follow those as well.

But if we’re seeing attacks like these so far ahead of the 2018 election, you might want to buckle your seatbelt, because this could be a bumpy ride.

Peter Marcus

Peter Marcus

Peter Marcus is senior statehouse reporter for Colorado Politics. He covers the legislature and previously covered politics, the governor’s office, the legislature and Congress for The Durango Herald. He joined The Herald in 2014 from The Colorado Statesman, a Denver-based political weekly. The Washington Post twice named Marcus one of the nation’s top state-based political and legislative reporters.

One comment

  • Tim H

    May 19, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    Kennedy’s campaign seems full of misfires, from the lame distracted driving Facebook announcement to these petty emails. Who cares? tell me how you can win in the general and what you will actually do as governor

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