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Ernest LuningErnest LuningNovember 3, 20176min445

Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, a Democrat running for governor in next year's election, pledged Friday to run a clean campaign like the ones waged by Gov. John Hickenlooper — who famously took a shower with his clothes on in a TV ad pledging to reject negative campaigning — and challenged the other candidates in the race to join her.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 29, 20178min13780

After this story got some traction of Twitter Monday, 5280 sent us a statement about what happened with its odd analysis more than five weeks after Walker Stapleton officially announced his candidacy. That announcement, however, had been imminent and widely reported for months.

Here’s what Geoff Van Dyke, 5280’s editorial director, sent me by way of explanation:

There’s a simple explanation for Walker Stapleton not being included in our November 2017 issue story on predictions for the state’s next governor: We only included candidates who had officially declared by press time. As luck would have it, the piece was batch uploaded to 5280.com this past Friday and we had not yet updated the story. Ah, the vagaries of posting monthly magazine content to our website. You got us. We’re in the process of updating the story.

Here’s the original blog post:

You have to take political prognosticators with the same grain — or shaker — of salt as you do college football pundits. The college football braintrust predicted, almost in consensus, before the season that Florida State was poised to play for a national championship this year. Friday night, the Seminoles fell to 2-5 after a 35-3 drubbing against a 4-4 Boston College team.

Denver’s venerable and wonderfully written 5280 magazine also misfired, IMHO, in its November edition when it picked the eight candidates with the best shots at being elected governor next year, in its humble opinion. The article posted on the website last Friday.

The biggest news is who’s not in it, Walker Stapleton. Say what? Not even in the top eight? 5280 must be high, in more than feet.

Most of us in the state’s political press agree that Stapleton is near if not leading the race for good reasons. He has statewide name recognition. He is the establishment pick of the party, and he’s got an Obama-quality fundraising team for both his campaign and independent expenditure committee.

To boot, Stapleton is the sitting state treasurer, one of only three candidates out of 25 who has ever won statewide. The other two are Democrats Jared Polis, who was elected to at at-large seat on the state school board  in 2000, and  Cary Kennedy, the former state treasurer Stapleton unseated after one term in 2010.

Moreover, when I talk to Democratic operatives about who they think their nominee will face next fall, it’s always Stapleton, at least until Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler proves he can raise money at a Stapleton pace and appeal to party members beyond the conservative base in this moderate-voting state.

Political star power? Stapleton is a cousin to the presidential Bush family, and his past donors have included the likes of Henry Kissinger. His current backers? How about John Elway? Heard of him? Stapleton has a fundraiser on Nov. 7 at the home of Mike Shanahan, Elway’s coach on two Super Bowl teams.

The 5280 list has four Democrats: Kennedy, Polis, Mike Johnston and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne. That’s a reasonable pack of primary frontrunners, though it’s hard to count out philanthropist and businessman Noel Ginsburg this early.

The four Republicans are way more interesting, and not just given Stapleton’s absence.

The magazine picks Brauchler, former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez, Denver businessman Steve Barlock and investment banker Doug Robinson.

Also snubbed is Victor Mitchell, an entrepreneur and former state lawmaker who put $3 million of his own money into the race so far. Mitchell is maintaining a blistering campaign schedule early on, along with a heavy and smart investment in social media outreach.  He still has $2.3 million in the bank, more than any other candidate in either party.

As with Stapleton, 5280 gives Mitchell something less than a 1 in 5 chance. Cough, cough, horse feathers.

I spend 60 hours a week on Colorado politics, and I don’t know Lopez. No one from his campaign has ever contacted me, even with a press release. Among the state’s political news outlets, Colorado Politics is at least in the top two and the preferred reading of the donor and activist class, which is why so many candidates have come to us to break the news they’re running.

Lopez raised $7,650 last quarter and spent $15,585.

Barlock’s political experience was being the co-chairman of Donald Trump’s campaign in Denver County last year. He raised $4,332 last quarter (and spent $3,078). Stapleton got in the race seven business days before the last quarter ended and raised $8,031. Stapleton’s super PAC, Better Colorado Now, had a haul of $625,001 last quarter.

Democratic fundraising, on the other hand, should scare all the Republican candidates: Johnston raised $1.3 million, Polis came in with $711,167, Kennedy had $565,439 and Ginsburg had $461,722. Lynne, who got in the race in the middle of the quarter in August, raised more than any Republican with $374,269.

Barlock and Lopez had a combined net of minus-$6,681 last quarter, not counting a $9,000 loan to the Lopez campaign.

Cash on hand is grim for both of these top-four GOP campaigns. While other camps could afford mansions or Aspen condos, Barlock and Lopez couldn’t pay a month’s rent in Lakewood — $1,254 in the bank for Barlock, $1,064 for Lopez, counting his loan.

“We calculated a few figures ourselves and considered the likelihoods that each of these eight candidates, who have the best chances of winning in our eyes, will become the Centennial State’s next governor,” 5280 explained, without revealing any of those figures.

I texted Stapleton’s campaign consultant Michael Fortney to size up such a snub from the Queen City’s premiere magazine.

“I always buy 5280’s ranking of the 25 best restaurants in Denver,” he replied. “This has me questioning my last decade of dining decisions. It’s a lot to process.”

In other news, 5280 has Florida State as a 3 to 1 favorite over Alabama in the national title game. Just kidding, I think.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 19, 20174min5180

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cary Kennedy rolled out her education plan for Colorado Thursday.

The plan, her campaign says, will make sure that by the time a Colorado kid turns 19 — “regardless of where they live and how much their family makes” — is prepared for higher education.

“As governor I will make education our top priority,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Great public schools are the only way to make sure that our state’s progress reaches everyone. For every Colorado kid to succeed, we need every classroom to be led by a great teacher, and every teacher to have the support they need to ensure the success of all of their students.”

The education plank of her platform, as presented Thursday, is more a goal than an action document. It doesn’t answer the single biggest question that always sours the blend of politics and schools: how to pay for it.

Her campaign, however, points to her history of raising money for schools. She wrote Amendment 23, the successful constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2000 and required the legislature to increase K-12 per pupil funding by the rate of inflation plus 1 percent each year through 2011.

While she was state treasurer from 2006 to 2010, she worked with the legislature to create the Building Excellent Schools Today, or BEST, competitive grant program to help schools with education services and construction.

She is vowing to make education her top priority as governor, but she will, of course, have to negotiate with tax-stingy Republicans. In an e-mail to supporters, Kennedy said she would seek to repeal the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, the 1992 constitutional amendment that puts a cap on state spending. Many Democrats have sought to do that, but none have gotten very far. Colorado voters would have to decide the issue, not the governor or legislature.

Her plan as released Thursday calls for addressing teacher shortages by paying them like professionals. Kennedy’s campaign said teachers should be able to afford to live where they work without a second job or government assistance to get by. They should earn at least the national average, her platform contends.

The average starting salary for teachers in Colorado is $32,126 a year, the National Education Association says. Pay is lower in rural communities, making it hard for them to attract faculty.  Nationally teachers start out earning on average $36,141.

Among surrounding states, Colorado is somewhat in the middle. Wyoming pays an average of $43,269 to starting teachers, while Utah and Kansas both pay a bit more than $33,000 a year. New Mexico pays $31,960 and Nebraska pays $30,844, according to NEA.

Kennedy also vows to expand the “talent pipeline” and bring more diversity to Colorado’s teaching ranks.

“Research has shown significant benefits for students served by teachers who better represent the demographic makeup of their student populations,’ Kennedy’s campaign said in an announcement Thursday.

Kennedy would work to increase scholarships, apprenticeships and other incentives to attract people to teaching and provide teachers of color in their respective communities.

It’s worth noting that the elected state school board retains most of the authority over education programs, not the governor.

The full plan is available by clicking here.

(Editor’s note: This story was updated to include information from Kennedy’s e-mail to supporters.)


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Ernest LuningErnest LuningOctober 18, 20177min20770

Former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, a Democrat gubernatorial candidate, announced this week she's been endorsed by more than two dozen current and former elected state officials — including two former Senate presidents, two former lieutenant governors and the first woman nominated for governor by a major party in Colorado. In addition, more than 50 officials, civic leaders and trailblazers from across the state are supporting Kennedy's campaign, she said.


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Ernest LuningErnest LuningOctober 17, 20176min8470

Colorado gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler raised more money than any of his Republican primary rivals in the just-completed fundraising quarter, but every Democratic candidate pulled in at least twice as much as Brauchler — and Republican Walker Stapleton nearly equalled Brauchler's quarterly fundraising in just a couple of weeks, according to reports filed Monday.