Candidates for next year’s governor’s race are beginning to come out, and most of them are Republicans hoping to challenge Democratic Gov. Jared Polis in 2022.
Of the eight Republicans who so far have created campaign accounts with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office seeking the GOP nomination, only one is returning from a bid in 2018, when former Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton lost to Polis 53% to 43%.
That candidate is Greg Lopez, an Elizabeth resident who once was mayor of Parker.
“I’ve been traveling the state talking to different groups and different organizations, forming alliances, trying to get people to share with me some of their concerns,” Lopez said last week during a stop in Grand Junction as part of a tour of the Western Slope. “I’m doing what all candidates should be doing, trying to get their hands on the pulse of the community.”
Lopez ended up third in the GOP primary in 2018, garnering only 13% of Republican voters. Stapleton won that nomination with nearly 48%, and the second-place finisher, Victor Mitchell, a former state representative from Castle Rock, earned 30%.
Lopez said he believes his chances at winning the nomination are better this time because the Colorado voters he’s spoken with say they want someone who will represent everyone, and not just those who elected them.
He said many voters don’t believe Polis is doing enough of that, particularly for the rural parts of the state.
“We need a governor that truly understands that there are 64 counties in the state of Colorado, and his job is to promote, protect and preserve the various economies and the different ways of life that make Colorado the great state it is,” Lopez said. “It’s about all of us. I think people are looking for a governor that they feel they can connect with, who truly understands our struggles.”
Having said that, however, the candidate uttered what he later admitted was an unintended slight against Democrats, referring to their party as the “Democrat Party.” That’s a epithet used by many Republicans since the 1940s that is meant to belittle Democrats.
Lopez, who once was a Democrat himself, said he did not know that phrase was disparaging to some, saying he will use that information as a learning moment.
“This is where people like me and you have to help others just understand, and I have to make a conscious decision on how I use (that) information,” he said. “If you want to see the other side, you want to look at how people understand things.”
Lopez said his own party “is a little lost” right now because it doesn’t have a unified, properly articulated message that appeals to all Republicans. He said that message should let people know that their representatives, regardless of political persuasion, are supposed to work to help them achieve whatever goals they have in life.
The other seven Republicans in the race have never won an elected office before. They are Laurie Clark of Monument, Jeffrey Fry of Hayden, Jon Gray-Ginsberg of Frisco, Benjamin Huseman of Commerce City, Danielle Neuschwanger of Elbert, Jim Rundberg of Antonito and Destinee Workman of Clifton.
Two unaffiliated candidates also have created campaign accounts — Ralph Tingle of Denver and Zachary Varon of Avon — along with one Democrat, Dustin Rorex of Pueblo West.
As far as the other statewide races that also are up for re-election next year, Attorney General Phil Weiser, Treasurer Dave Young and Secretary of State Jena Griswold — all Democrats — have created campaign accounts for their re-election bids. Polis, as yet, has not, but he’s expected to run again.