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PRIMARY PREVIEW: Races for treasurer, AG play out across parties’ fault lines

Author: Ernest Luning - June 6, 2018 - Updated: June 15, 2018

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The top-of-the-ticket primaries for Colorado governor have been hogging the spotlight, but Democrats and Republicans are also angling for nominations for state treasurer and attorney general.

While the down-ballot primaries differ from each other in several ways, they all feature a battle between the parties’ mainstream and more hard-core versions, and strategists say the outcomes when votes are counted the night of June 26 could well determine which races are competitive in the general election.

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.)

PRIMARY PREVIEW: Watch for more stories on the primary election in coming days at ColoradoPolitics.com and in our June 8 print edition.

Three Republicans and two Democrats are seeking the job held by term-limited State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, the presumed GOP front-runner for governor.

The office has served as a launching pad for gubernatorial candidates in recent decades, including Stapleton’s immediate predecessor Cary Kennedy, one of the leading Democratic candidates this year, as well as Republican Bill Owens and Democrat Roy Romer, who both made the leap from treasurer, and Democrat Gail Schoettler, who lost her run for governor to Owens 20 years ago.

Colorado State Treasurer candidate Justin Everett accepts his Republican nomination during the 2018 Colorado Republican State Assembly at the Coors Events Center on the campus of the University of Colorado Boulder in Boulder on April 14, 2018.
Photo by Andy Colwell for the Gazette

On the GOP side, state Rep. Justin Everett, R-Littleton, is running a lean campaign for treasurer from the right against centrists state Rep. Polly Lawrence, R-Roxborough Park, and Brian Watson, a real estate mogul, who are both pouring their own money into their campaign coffers.

Everett, who cultivated a reputation among House Republicans as “Dr. No” for his regular votes against bills, has raised about $65,000, including $15,000 he gave his own campaign and spent about $33,000. Lawrence and Watson, on the other hand, have given or loaned their campaigns around $180,000 apiece and each reported spending around 10 times as much as Everett though the most recent reporting deadline June 4.

The Democrats running for treasurer are facing off across the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders divide etched into the party during the 2016 presidential primaries, with state Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, a former teacher, occupying the establishment position and financial professional Bernard Douthit mounting a run from the unabashed left. Their fundraising disparity hasn’t been as wide as the Republican candidates’ — Young has brought in about $86,000 to Douthit’s roughly $52,000.

As for the attorney general’s race, Republican George Brauchler, the 18th Judicial District attorney and a leading candidate for governor until late last year, is his party’s nominee, having switched to the race after first-term incumbent AG Cynthia Coffman jumped from a re-election bid to an unsuccessful run in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

Phil Weiser, former dean of the University of Colorado Law School, accepts his nomination for Colorado Attorney General during the 2018 Colorado Democratic State Assembly at the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield on April 14, 2018.
Photo by Andy Colwell for the Gazette

He’ll be facing either Phil Weiser, a former University of Colorado Law School dean and Obama administration Justice Department official, or state Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, a rabble-rousing civil rights attorney who has an endorsement from Sanders.

Weiser, the son of a Holocaust survivor, has raised more than $1.4 million, while Salazar’s shoe-string campaign has taken in about $114,000.

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.