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PRIMARY 2018: Watson, Young advance in treasurer’s race

Authors: Ernest Luning, Mark Harden - June 26, 2018 - Updated: June 27, 2018

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As a trio of Republicans and a pair of Democrats sought their party’s nomination for Colorado state treasurer in the June primary, two Democrats vied for the attorney general’s post.

The winners of all the statewide primaries that ended Tuesday advance to the November ballot in a contest to fill a pair of soon-to-be open positions in state government.

The twin contests for treasurer and the Democrats’ faceoff for AG both featured battles between the parties’ mainstream and more hard-core versions, and strategists say the outcomes could well determine which races are competitive in the general election.

The November winner in the treasurer’s race will replace term-limited Walker Stapleton, and the next attorney general will succeed Cynthia Coffman. Stapleton and Coffman, both Republicans, sought this year to succeed John Hickenlooper as governor, but while Stapleton won the GOP primary Tuesday, Coffman failed to make the primary ballot.

State Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, announced on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, that he's joining the race for Colorado state treasurer. (Photo courtesy Dave Young)
State Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, announced on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, that he’s joining the race for Colorado state treasurer. (Photo courtesy Dave Young)

In the treasurer’s race, while the Democrats knew not long after polls closed Tuesday night that their standard bearer in the fall’s contest  would be state Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, Republicans were left to wonder as the evening wore on.

The Democrats running for treasurer faced off across the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders divide etched into the party during the 2016 presidential primaries, with Young, a former teacher, occupying the establishment position and financial professional Bernard Douthit mounting a run from the unabashed left.

As of Wednesday, Young had a 68-32 percentage point advantage over Douthit.

On the GOP side of the treasurer’s race, state Rep. Justin Everett, R-Littleton, ran a lean campaign from the right against centrists state Rep. Polly Lawrence, R-Roxborough Park, and Brian Watson, a real estate mogul, who both poured their own money into their campaign coffers.

At midday Wednesday, Everett conceded to Watson, who led by 1 percentage point; Lawrence finished third.

Republican candidate for Colorado state treasurer Brian Watson talks with a reporter on Sept. 1, 2017, at Denver Central Market. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)
Republican candidate for Colorado state treasurer Brian Watson talks with a reporter on Sept. 1, 2017, at Denver Central Market. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

The treasurer’s office has served as a launching pad for gubernatorial candidates in recent decades. Republican Bill Owens and Democrat Roy Romer both successfully made the leap from treasurer.

In the attorney general’s race, Phil Weiser, a former University of Colorado Law School dean and Obama administration Justice Department official, faced state Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, a rabble-rousing civil rights attorney who had an endorsement from Sanders.

By midday Wednesda, Weiser led Salazar by about 1-1/2 percentage points, but Salazar had not yet conceded.

The Republican nominee in the race is George Brauchler, the 18th Judicial District attorney. He had been a leading candidate for governor until late last year, having switched to the race after AG Coffman jumped from a re-election bid to an unsuccessful run in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

The only statewide constitutional office with an incumbent running for re-election this year is also the only one without a primary in either party. Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican, is seeking a second term and will face Democrat Jena Griswold in November.

The statewide office up for election that isn’t defined in Colorado’s constitution, the at-large member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, also already has its major-party nominees: Republican Ken Montera and Democrat Lesley Smith, both first-time candidates. 

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.


Mark Harden

Mark Harden

Mark Harden is managing editor of Colorado Politics. He previously was news director at the Denver Business Journal; city editor, online news editor, state editor, national editor and popular music critic at The Denver Post; and an editor and reporter at newspapers in the Seattle area and San Francisco.