Trail Mix: The road to Colorado’s 2018 election, April 8 edition
Author: Ernest Luning - April 8, 2018 - Updated: April 23, 2018
STEP BY STEP … When Democratic gubernatorial candidate Donna Lynne, Colorado’s lieutenant governor and chief operating officer, announced plans to walk the entire 26-mile length of Colfax Avenue on April 8, the stratagem echoed a pair of signature campaign exploits that propelled a couple of Colorado’s most successful politicians in decades past, as well as some statewide journeys that didn’t lead to laurels.
As Colorado Politics’ Joey Bunch reports, Lynne’s day-long, marathon-length stroll is intended to kick off a series of forays dubbed “Meet Me on Main Street” — outreach efforts that will take the former health care executive across the state, walking and talking with Colorado voters at street level. The campaign, she said in a release, is intended to demonstrate that “the best leaders are those who go out on the front lines and engage their customers.”
As with most political ploys, there’s precedent, although the results have been mixed.
More than a generation ago, Wellington Webb, Denver’s elected auditor and underdog 1991 mayoral candidate, donned a comfortable pair of shoes and set out on what came to be known as his “Sneaker Campaign,” walking more than 300 miles of Denver’s highways and byways. Trailing in the polls and his campaign coffers nearly dry, Webb knocked on doors, slept in dozens of homes and met thousands of voters along the way, eventually trouncing Norm Early, Denver’s district attorney and the race’s early frontrunner by 14 points.
“This was a victory of shoe leather over airwaves,” Webb, a Democrat who went on to serve three terms as mayor, declared on election night.
After leading the 1972 campaign to reject the Winter Olympics, then-state Rep. Dick Lamm, D-Denver, mounted Colorado’s original shoe-leather endeavor when he launched his 1974 campaign for governor nearly a year before the election by walking the state.
Lamm, of course, went on to win in November and served three terms — at the time, the longest tenure of any Colorado governor. (His successor, Roy Romer, would match that duration, although voters approved term limits while Romer was in office, cementing those records.)
At a 40th anniversary reunion a few years back, Lamm regaled campaign veterans with a reminiscence about embarking on his fateful walk, calling it “a political gimmick, but … a very meaningful personal experience for me — it was really wonderful.”
Since Lamm and Webb hoofed it into office, other Colorado gubernatorial hopefuls have tried similar state-spanning treks, although they didn’t wind up in the governor’s mansion.
In 1998, Democrat Gail Schoettler, a former state treasurer who was serving as Romer’s lieutenant governor, rode Sam, her Tennessee walking horse, 546 miles across the state to spark interest in her campaign for governor.
She prevailed over then-state lawmaker Mike Feeley in the primary — before this year, that was the last time Democrats picked a gubernatorial nominee with a primary — but lost a nail-biter of a general election to Bill Owens, the state treasurer and the only Republican to win the office since 1970.
Two years ago, Mike Kopp, one of four Republicans vying for the chance to challenge Gov. John Hickenlooper’s bid for re-election, rode nearly as far, covering a reported 436 miles in six days on his bicycle in the month before the primary.
Although his narrow victory at the state assembly gave Kopp top line in the primary — over Secretary of State Scott Gessler and former U.S. Reps. Tom Tancredo and Bob Beauprez, who both petitioned onto the ballot — he came in fourth on primary night. Beauprez, who won the nomination, failed to unseat Hickenlooper in November.