In one of his first public appearances since Tom Tancredo got in the race for governor, Republican rival Walker Stapleton wouldn’t refer to him by name.
“I am the only person in this race that has actually won a statewide race— not once but twice, and I’m two for two,” the sitting state treasurer told a small crowd of Denver Republicans Friday over breakfast at a Greek restaurant. “And the individual you mentioned is 0 for two.”
That individual is Tancredo.
Stapleton’s remarks came when a man asked what the recent entrance of the third-time gubernatorial candidate and immigration firebrand meant for the sprawling field of Republicans running for governor. Top Republicans say Tancredo, who is well known in Colorado and announced his bid earlier this week, scrambled the calculus of a race that already included eight GOP contenders, Stapleton among them.
“Republicans have been incredibly adept at the circular firing squad,” Stapleton said. “And that has ensured, if nothing else, that our nominee is bruised and battered enough to have absolutely no chance of winning a general election.”
Stapleton said he would focus his campaign elsewhere.
“The reason that I’m running for governor is because I’m going to focus my campaign on the threat that matters— and the threat that matters is Jared Polis,” he said.
Polis, a Democratic congressman from Boulder, is promoting a plan to get Colorado to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 as part of his run for governor. Stapleton is campaigning with a full-throated support for Colorado’s oil and gas industry. He has made Polis a central feature of his campaign from the start. In early October, he filmed a video outside Polis’s congressional office, saying Polis wants to “kill an entire industry.”
Polis’s campaign declined to comment.
Polis is running in a similarly large primary that includes former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, ex-State Sen. Mike Johnston, businessman Noel Ginsburg, entrepreneur and former Republican Erik Underwood, and three other lesser-known candidates.
Also running for governor on the Republican side are investment banker Doug Robinson, Arapahoe-area District Attorney George Brauchler, entrepreneur and one-time lawmaker Victor Mitchell, Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter, Donald Trump’s Denver co-chair Steve Barlock, and San Luis Valley resident Jim Rundberg.
Even with Tancredo’s recent entrance, the Republican field might not yet be settled.
Republican sources say Attorney General Cynthia Coffman could soon get in the race. If Coffman runs for governor, it would create a wide-open race for attorney general where currently five Democrats are running, and no Republican other than Coffman has filed paperwork in the race. Coffman didn’t return a message asking to talk about it.
Former Colorado State University athletic director Jack Graham, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate last year, is also considering a run and will decide soon, said Dick Wadhams, a longtime Republican consultant who ran Graham’s campaign.
Wadhams says he expects Tancredo’s entrance to shift the GOP primary field to the right.
One area where that might already be evident is on immigration issues.
“You won’t hear anybody, I think, from our side that’s going to be quite as definitive about the way they feel about sanctuary cities or about Denver threatening their own employees with fines and being fired if [they] talk to an ICE agent,” Tancredo told The Colorado Independent on the day he announced his latest run. “Those kinds of things I’m positive there are few if any Republicans that will take it on.”
So-called sanctuary cities are immigration-friendly municipalities that, like Denver, might not honor requests by federal immigration agents to hold suspects in jail beyond their release dates or share information about a suspect’s immigration status with ICE. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has said the city is not a sanctuary city— there isn’t a legal definition of the term— but has said he embraces the title if it means Denver is welcoming to immigrants and refugees.
The issue is one that has featured heavily in the governor’s race in Virginia, a state that does not have so-called sanctuary cities, and where Democrats worry they could lose their first statewide office in eight years. The Democratic nominee in the governor’s race said he would sign a bill to ban sanctuary cities if a city in Virginia tried to become one.
Combo of @latinovictoryus's botched ad + Northam pretzeling himself over sanctuary cities prob ensures a wave of anti-sanctuary ads in 2018.
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) November 2, 2017
On Friday morning, during the GOP breakfast at Pete’s Greek Town Cafe in Denver, a woman asked Stapleton to weigh in on that very issue— and he did.
“There is something a governor could and should do and that is not to allow our two largest cities in Colorado to become sanctuary cities,” Stapleton said. “And I believe it’s a governor’s responsibility to pursue every legal avenue possible to make sure that that is not the case. Because fundamentally, for an illegal alien to be treated with legal rights that are better or more accommodating than a United States citizen is wrong. And it encourages people that are going to cause problems in our cities and potential for violence and unrest, and it doesn’t make any sense.”
Greg Lopez, the former mayor of Parker who is also running in the GOP primary for governor and was meeting voters at the cafe during Stapleton’s talk, said he, too, is against sanctuary cities.
Asked his thoughts about Donald Trump, Stapleton said, “the president is better than his predecessor.” He praised his choice of Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court and said Trump’s tax reform plan makes “a ton” of sense. “It makes no sense to me why people are so intent on beating up the leader of our country,” he said.