Littwin’s Official Unofficial #CO2018 governor’s race rankings, Week One

At last, the day you’ve been waiting for. We bring you the initial clip-and-save (or, I guess, here in cyberworld, it’s cut-and-paste) Littwin’s Official Unofficial #CO2018 governor’s race rankings. It is brought to you by, well, me, but only with the help of the best political panel in Colorado that money theoretically could buy. (Editor’s note: not that we’re paying any.)

We’ll do this poll every Friday until the primaries on June 28, giving you the inside dope on the ups, the downs, the sideways.

As you don’t need a panel to tell you, this is the most wide-open governor’s race in memory. The dropouts and the never-got-ins — Ken Salazar, Tom Tancredo, Ed Perlmutter, George Brauchler — probably make up a stronger field than those still in the race. But that’s just part of what makes this campaign so fascinating.

John Hickenlooper (now apparently running either for president or to be John Kasich’s best friend) is term-limited, meaning Republicans won’t have to face an incumbent. Donald Trump is president, meaning there is a better than 50 percent chance of a Democratic wave in Colorado and at least a 25 percent chance of a tsunami. You can see why we’re paying attention.

In the big news this week, Cary Kennedy stays hot. She followed her surprisingly big caucus-night win with a close second place to Jared Polis in a just-released Magellan poll. Polis led with 27 percent, Kennedy was at 23, Mike Johnston at 8, Donna Lynne at 5.

As Alan Salazar (one of our star panelists) notes, “Cary has the wind at her back with party activists, but the fight for the 40-plus (percent) undecideds will be the key.” That’s a lot of undecideds, and, for that matter, a lot of time before the ad barrage begins. At this stage, polls are mostly about name recognition, but without the caucus win, Kennedy would have a lot less recognition to work with.

Josh Penry (another star panelist) thinks it’s a three-person race: Polis, Kennedy and Johnston. Penry’s rundown on why each could win: Polis —“because he will buy it.” Kennedy — “because she’s a smart, connected, hard-working candidate with key progressive backing.” Johnston — “because he got the fire, the resources and a little of the RFK thing going.”

Dropouts have been the big story in the race, and Noel Ginsburg is the latest. He should have known that a moderate businessman wasn’t going anywhere in this year’s Dem atmosphere, and now he has learned. Donna Lynne, a moderate basically running for Hick’s third term, might be learning the same thing.

But on the Republican side, to everyone’s surprise, there has been an 11th-hour drop-in. Barry Farah, who has desperately wanted to run, finally pulled the trigger (as my friends in the NRA would say). He suggested the Republican field, without Tancredo and without Brauchler, was boring. Maybe so, but let’s just say that in Farah’s announcement, he didn’t do much to change that, which may be why he is still a long shot.

And now, at last, the much-anticipated Week One rankings:



1. Jared Polis. When he (or, more to the point, his unlimited funds) pushed Ed Perlmutter out of the race, he looked like the odds-on favorite. The new revisionism is he’s still the favorite, but odds-on is off.

2. Cary Kennedy. She’s got the buzz since her caucus stunner. It was a huge win for Kennedy and also for her campaign team. Two questions: Is the buzz translating into money? Will Polis give her another boost by running/losing at the Dem assembly, where Kennedy people say she’s got at least half the delegates lined up.

3. Mike Johnston. Penry says he’s got an RFK-style thing going for him. He’s also got a $1 million Bloomberg-check thing going for him. He’ll have money — yes, a lot of it from out-of-state donors — for a sizable TV push in May/June. Will Kennedy?

4. Donna Lynne. I remember when the big story on Lynne was that Hickenlooper had pushed her into the race. That’s the last big story I remember on Lynne. She needs another one because, as of today, she seems to be the fourth person in a three-person race.


1. Walker Stapleton. I’ve heard that GOP internals had Tancredo at 32 percent and leading the field when he got out of the race. What this tells you is that Stapleton, though the clear leader, is not exactly running away with anything.

2. Cynthia Coffman. OK, she’s had a slow start, in the way that the Rockies had a slow start. But now she’s betting everything on a big play at the GOP convention. Is that a good bet? Penry thinks so. He says of her convention bid: “The conventional wisdom…that she won’t do well there because she’s moderate is just wrong.”

3. Victor Mitchell. He’s got his own money. Says he’s making a big ad buy. The panel says this is a two-person race so far, and, according to the voting, he’s a distant third.

4. Doug Robinson. Well, he is Romney’s nephew.
Until he gets a better descriptor, he’s not going anywhere. Robinson has tried to shake things up by going after Stapleton for what he called “underhanded tactics and lazy behavior” in petition gathering, which evokes memories of 2016 ballot issues. More work for ace spokesperson Lynn Bartels. Meanwhile, star panelist Cinamon Watson jokes that if things don’t work out here, Robinson might get a shot for cast of “Veep.”

5. Barry Farah. He’s been talking and talking and talking about running. His wife works for Americans for Prosperity, so the question comes up about Koch money. Panelist Salazar says Koch money has to land “somewhere” but confesses his pipeline to Koch brothers is “less efficient than XL pipeline.” Basic response from GOP seems to be (◔_◔). Or as one anonymous GOP strategist said of the Kochs, “Nah, they’re too smart for that.”


Our panelists:                                

Alan Salazar: Moved from the governor’s office (where he was Hickenlooper’s longtime political strategist) to the Hillary Clinton campaign (which was a success in Colorado anyway) and is now Michael Hancock’s chief of staff (the mayor needing all the help he can get). Has worked for Mark Udall, for Roy Romer, for Tim Wirth, for Gary Hart — in other words, for most of the Dems who have mattered for the last 30 years.

Josh Penry: Probably the most important unelected Republican in the state just now. Former minority leader of the Senate, Penry was expected by many to be governor some day. Instead, became a principal at EIS, chief strategist for Mike Coffman’s wins over Andrew Romanoff and Morgan Carroll, runs ballot initiatives and, as his EIS bio says, environmental groups have named him and his wife, Kristin Strohm, the “first couple of fracking.” He’s also a longtime buddy of Cory Gardner’s. I’m hoping he can get Gardner to return my phone calls.

Terrance Carroll: Former Speaker of the House, the first (and only) African-American to hold the job. Also an ordained minister and a lawyer, and you’ll have to decide for yourself how the two jobs even out. Just left Denver law firm of Butler Snow for a gig with Denver Public Schools as the district’s chief legal and external affairs office. Now the second former Colorado House speaker to work for DPS. Mark Ferrandino is chief financial officer. Carroll will join the panel next week.

Cinamon Watson: Has been in and around Colorado politics long enough to have been deputy campaign manager for a Republican candidate who actually won the governor’s race. That was in 2002, in Bill Owens’ second term. Owens, of course, is the only Republican to have been elected governor in Colorado since 1970. Now a principal at consulting firm Blueprint Strategies, Watson has worked in key positions in campaigns for Mike Coffman, Bob Beauprez, Pete Coors and probably several other people I’m forgetting (and a couple she might want to forget, as well).

Photo by James Cridland via Flickr: Creative Commons


  1. I am a state delegate for Jared Polis, because, as a Bernie Sanders national delegate, I am seeing that Jared lines up more with Bernie than Cary does. Jared is further left on healthcare than Cary, he has said “No” to the 2026 Olympics,Cary has not, and is further left than Cary on the I-70 expansion. On many other areas they are similar. I think we are seeing the Kennedy momentum as part of a push for more woman in office, a backlash of Hilary not winning. This isn’t the best year for white men. BTW, I don’t fault him for being wealthy. He has always treated his employees the best, stock options, etc. And, in the general election for governor, he won’t be beholden to any corporate money. Cary will need big dollars to counter money coming in from the Koch brothers and the likes. We must also remember that the caucus goers are the most dedicated Democrats and we have to factor in the unaffiliated vote for the primary that will be new territory this year.

  2. As of several weeks ago, I didn’t have strong feelings one way or the other re: the Democratic slate. Then I saw the local forum put on in Fort Collins, and when I heard the responses to questions posed I was most impressed by Johnston.
    For clarity, passion, depth of knowledge and specific ideas related to the whole state of Colorado, Mike Johnston rose far above the others.
    It’s frustrating that he doesn’t come with built-in name recognition, but I’m hoping that the more people meet him and get to speak with him and hear him address many of the issues that Colorado will be facing- the more people will be impressed. He does weekly online town halls on his Facebook page that anyone, not just FB users, can watch- really informative and inspiring.

  3. I am strongly for Cary. She has the most state executive experience, and knowledge of the state budget. She has good name recognition as a result of her work on the BEST program. Mike Johnston was my senator and he was completely unresponsive. He never replied to emails or phone calls and refused to meet with constituents at the Capitol. It is telling that he did so poorly in his home county. His education proposals are aligned with the so-called reformers, which is why the teachers unions do not support him.

  4. I am a state delegate for Cary Kennedy. She has the most state executive experience, the most knowledge of the state budget. She has been a passionate advocate for more resources for public schools for almost 20 years. Mike Johnston was my state senator and he never responded to emails or phone calls about issues. I think SB 191 was one of the worst pieces of education “reform” legislation. I asked repeatedly to talk to him about it, and never heard back. He even refused to meet with a group of us when we went down to the Capitol to discuss it with him.

  5. I believe that a qualified and capable person who has worked closely (like in the same building, for example) with a system or organization can do the best job – as quickly as possible. All other things being more or less equal, of course.

    I say that because this type of “new employee” comes to the job with meaningful pre-existing connections, knowledge of the workforce and the rules that govern the workforce. That type of manager can really hit the ground running and get things done quickly – without creating unintended problems in their wake.

    That is one important reason why Cary Kennedy would be a great choice for governor and also why I support her 100%.

Comments are closed.