After Saturday’s Republican and Democratic candidate assemblies thinned the fields a little, there are 71 days remaining before the June 26 primary election. Votes have been taken and now, presumably, voters will start to fine-tune their appraisals.
Slogans are not enough, said Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, who is waiting on her petitions to be counted to see if she’ll join Cary Kennedy and Jared Polis on the Democratic ballot come June 26.
“I think we’re going to see a much more substantive discussion about the issues now,” she said Saturday afternoon on the second of her long “Main Street” walks to meet voters on Saturday.
“Talking points aren’t going to cut it anymore.”
She said voters don’t want to hear, for example, that a candidate cares about education. “They want to know what you’re going to do about it and how you’re going to do it,” she said.
Strict party doctrine, once the express lane toward a nomination, could this year be a liability.
Unaffiliated voters, the state’s largest bloc, can choose which primary they want to vote in for the first time this year, after voters passed Proposition 108 two years ago. If they hear candidates who are way too conservative or way too liberal with views deemed abrasive by the moderate middle, then doctrine will seem more like dogma and send voters running to the other side.
However, with potentially four Republicans and four Democrats on their respective ballots, the candidate who can cobble together the most solid coalition of interests could win a primary ruled more by math than ideas.
Nonetheless, an imbalance of partisan ideas on either side could tilt the surface to the other party, which will speak volumes about the outcome in November. In other words, if one party collects a landslide of unaffiliated voters in June, outside donors might think twice about investing in the party that seems outnumbered for November.
Both sides could lean toward the middle for the next two months, because of the X factor unaffiliated voters represent.
Walker Stapleton and former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez made the ballot by getting more than 30 percent of the delegates at Saturday’s Republican assembly in Boulder. Lynne, if her petitions pan out, and former state Sen. Mike Johnston, whose petitions already have, would complete the field on the left.
Doug Robinson and Victor Mitchell are waiting on the Secretary of State’s Office to finish certifying their petitions to see if they’ll join Stapleton and Lopez.
On Saturday, Robinson voted for Lopez. It was the sixth time the businessman has been a delegate.
“He’s a person of integrity and diversity, and I like and appreciate those things,” Robinson said of Lopez. “But now he’s a competitor, so I’m not going to vote for him again.”
He said when voters take a closer look at him, they’re going to find a devoted family man, a lay pastor, a person who has worked behind the scenes to affect public policy and, especially, a candidate with a good head for business.
“They’re going to see that I’m a doer.” Robinson said. “We’ve heard enough talking.”
He said Lopez gave the best speech of the day and won over delegates, a surprise to the chattering class of professional folks analyzing the race on TV, radio and online.
The assemblies exposed other political imaginings of the last year.
A year ago, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman was expected to challenge Stapleton at the top of the fight card. At 5 percent of the delegates on Saturday, Coffman challenged Steve Barlock (4 percent) and Lew Gaiter (1 percent) for the bottom.
For much of the last year, Polis was the anointed Democratic frontrunner, because his money and recognition made him the candidate Republicans love to hate. He wasn’t frontrunner at all on Saturday. Kennedy took the top line on the ballot by no thin margin: 61.65 percent of the delegates to Polis’ 32.85 percent. That’s going to leave a mark.
Johnston said Saturday that voters are getting realistic about what the next few years might hold, and which candidates can actually close the deal for Democrats in November.
Despite collecting a lot of money and putting forth fleshed-out proposals, Johnston’s campaign hasn’t drawn nearly the spotlight of others.
Johnston has championed charter schools in Denver and taken on the gun lobby. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a who is vocal about gun violence, threw $1 million into the super PAC supporting Johnston for that reason.
Gun control, however, might as well be a four-letter word in some parts of the state, though his proposals are moderate – universal background checks, enforcing the ammunition magazine limit, banning bump stocks and creating gun violence restraining orders.
Moreover, he has footprints across the state. A former state senator from Denver, Johnson grew up in Vail and his family still runs a lodge there. He’s the progeny of Western Slope ranchers, yet he speaks fluent Spanish, quotes John F. Kennedy Jr. and Martin Luther King Jr., and holds degrees from Harvard and Yale.
“I think we’re getting to the point where voters are breaking down, ‘Who can really win this election?’” Johnston said Saturday, as he campaigned in Fort Collins.
Partisan passions and old loyalties on the left are part of the reason so many of them woke up miserable the morning after Donald Trump was elected two years ago. Democrats in June need to pick a winner who will lift the entire ticket, Johnston said.