Counting down the Colorado politicos to watch in 2018

Author: Joey Bunch - January 7, 2018 - Updated: February 15, 2018

Colorado Housse Speaker Crisanta Duran listens to a briefing from economists, during a meeting of the Colorado Legislative Council on the state’s budget and economic outlook. (AP file photo/Brennan Linsley)

10. House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver
The state’s first Latina speaker has a galaxy of political opportunities ahead of her, locally or nationally. She is term-limited in the House after this session. She hasn’t decided yet what she’ll do next,. Meanwhile, she must earn her reputation as a leader this session with a House caucus divided over sexual harassment allegations and how to spend a budget surplus.

State Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs
State Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

9. State Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs
People in both parties marvel at how quickly he’s matured into a leader in the statehouse.  He needs to turn respect under the Gold Dome in Denver into primary votes in Colorado Springs in June to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn. If he can do that, he could rise on the national level and put Colorado Springs in the catbird’s seat for military and technology investment, proving a “Cory Gardner in the House,” as one GOP leader put it.

State Sen. Chris Holbert, R-Parker
State Sen. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, at right, talks about the 2017 session, as Senate President Kevin Gratham, R-Canon City, listens. (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

8. Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker
The Senate majority leader has another term left, and he is the presumed Senate president-in-waiting, if Republicans keep their majority in November. A thoughtful leader who values bipartisanship, Holbert looks like a future governor. It’s critical to him and his party that rogue lawmakers don’t harm the party’s chances to retain the Senate this year with outlandish partisan stunts. He’ll be working double-time behind the scenes.

Jesse Mallory, state director of Americans for Prosperity
Jesse Mallory, the state director of Americans for Prosperity, shows he’s a straight shooter. (Via Facebook)

7. Jesse Mallory, state director of Americans for Prosperity
Until last May he was the man behind the curtain for the state Senate Republicans as chief of staff, an impressario of policy and public relations. But as leader or the state’s most influential conservative operation, one that has long enjoyed cozy relationships in the statehouse, Mallory could exert even deeper influence on taxing and spending. He knows where the bodies are buried.

Amber McReynolds
Amber McReynolds (Via Facebook)

6. Amber McReynolds, Denver’s director of elections
She’s the presumed heiress apparent to Debra Johnson in the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s Office. And why shouldn’t she be; McReynolds is a tremendous talent and a tireless public servant. She hasn’t yet announced, however, though the race isn’t until 2019. If McReynolds tarries the way Cynthia Coffman did in the governor’s race, she might be playing catch up to Peg Perl, likely her strongest challenger, who is known politically with a reputation for being relentless.

Winter Humenki #MeToo
Rep. Faith Winter, left, and Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik were speakers at a #MeTooLeadership Rally at the state Capitol. (Photo courtesy of Faith Winter)

5. #MeToo activists and Rep. Beth Martinez Humenik, R-Thornton
If #MeToo activists roil the session, it could energize women voters in November, but such a power play also could alienate fellow legislators and ultimately diminish public support. Martinez Humenik, a moderate Republican, is part of the #MeToo effort. She’s also running against Democratic Rep. Faith Winter, an alleged victim. If Winter wins, the Democrats could flip the Senate and control both chambers.

Sandra Hagen Solin
Sandra Hagen Solin (Photo courtesy of Capitol Solutions)

4. Sandra Hagen Solin, lobbyist and strategist
The firm she founded in 1992, Capitol Solutions, is one of Colorado’s go-to outfits for strategy and lobbying, boasting a 95 percent bipartisan success rate for everything from Google to tourism. But Solin has been in the fight of her career the past few years on behalf of chambers of commerce and transportation groups . If a deal gets done this year to widen interstates, unclog traffic jams and create a funding source that can keep up with growth, it will have Solin’s name on it.

Kent Thiry
Kent Thiry (Photo courtesy of the Harvard Business School)

3. Kent Thiry, rich political guy
If you thought you’d heard the last of Thiry when he decided not to run for governor, then you don’t understand momentum or the politically engaged CEO of Davita, a multibillion-dollar kidney-dialysis company. Thiry switched to the GOP just before he got in the race but has since switched back to unaffiliated. His people swear he isn’t teeing up a run for governor as unaffiliated, but when you have name recognition, when money is no object and when some of the state’s best operatives are on speed dial, it’s hard to sit one out.

Hancock Denver growth
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock talks to the press about what happens now that voters approved a huge bond proposal. (Photo by Jessica Machetta/Colorado Politics)

2. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock
Is this the year Michael Hancock drops the act of a humble local man who just wants to help his hometown, much like he used to rev up the crowd as the Denver Bronco’s mascot? Take off the horse head, Mike, you’re a big-time player. He’s raising money for a third run for mayor, but he’s privately testing the waters, possibly to take on Cory Gardner in 2020 or the governor’s race in 2022. Nobody really believes Hancock is going to be on the sideline for long.

And the most interesting politician to watch in 2018 is …

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis kicked off his campaign for governor with a stop at an employee-owned Save-A-Lot grocery store in Colorado Springs on June 12. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

1. Jared Polis
One of the wealthiest members of Congress, Polis staked all his political capital on a run for governor. Polis could have been cozy in his liberal Boulder-based district for as long as he liked, a hero there for his efforts in 2014 to let local government exert more control on fracking. That could be a liability for his gubernatorial run, and pull down other Democrats if the oil and gas industry drops millions of bucks (more) for politics in Colorado. If Polis loses, he becomes just another rich liberal in Boulder, If he wins, well, he can write state history under his name.

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.