Illustration by Mike Keefe
Let’s get straight to the big news. For the first time in the brief, if glorious, history of the Littwin Official Unofficial #C02018 gov rankings, we have a new leader.
It’s not on the GOP side, of course, where Walker Stapleton survived his fraudulent-signature disaster to win the top line at the state assembly and keep the top spot in our rankings. That was just the sideshow.
The main event at the Republican assembly was the complete meltdown of Cynthia Coffman, who was knocked out of the race and out of the Littwin standings but into the hearts of everyone who has a soft spot for — to quote our president — a complete loser. Yes, that’s a cruel word, but it’s a cruel world when getting booed in your speech to the assembly is the high point of your weekend.
The main event in the days after the primary was the news that the new No. 2, Doug Robinson — possibly fated to be always known as Mitt Romney’s nephew — didn’t get enough signatures in CD 2 to qualify for the ballot. He fell 22 signatures short, and you know what that means. It’s lawsuit time again, and Republicans, who have so little good to say about courts, will be back again. It’s 2016 Redux, which was always the way to bet.
My guess is that Robinson will make the ballot. For Coffman, though, no guessing is required. Coffman did the near-impossible, coming to the assembly as the state’s attorney general and leaving with only 6 percent of the vote from her party’s delegates. A candidate needs 30 percent to qualify for the ballot. If you’re a public official who has won statewide office, I’d say you need at least 10 percent not to get laughed off the stage.
So, what happened?
There are many theories. Panelist Alan Salazar says Republicans he trusts tell him Coffman was sandbagged by a deal between Stapleton and Justin Everett, who came first at the assembly in a tight, four-way race for state treasurer. Coffman’s hit-Stapleton-on-his-long-ago-DUI speech was, of course, a disaster. Doug Bruce, because he’s Doug Bruce, was passing out nasty anti-Coffman fliers. Tom Tancredo brought the, shall we say, wing-nut crowd with him to vote for Stapleton.
But I think panelist Ian Silverii got it right when he said, “What happened to Cynthia Coffman is what happens to any politician who abandons her values and record in order to appeal to a narrow, extreme political base. No one believed her, so she lost the few moderates she did have, and wasn’t authentically hard-right enough for the real crazies in the GOP assembly.”
Abandoned by the moderates and disdained by the right, Coffman had nowhere to go, except away.
There was yet another surprise on the GOP side in Greg Lopez, who had raised $23,000 prior to the assembly — half of which came from his own bank account. And yet he got 33 percent of the vote to qualify him for the ballot. He gave a good speech — but nothing like Darryl Glenn gave in 2016 — but I’m thinking his vote can be seen either as an anti-Stapleton or an anti-Coffman vote as much as a pro-Lopez vote.
Oh, one other thing. So long to Barry Farah. It was fun. Really.
On the Dem side, the story was very different. Nothing unexpected happened except this: After Cary Kennedy’s big win at the state assembly, the panel has moved her slightly ahead of Jared Polis into the No. 1 spot. But you might want to hold the balloons. Or as panelist Alan Salazar puts it, if being the frontrunner at this point meant sure victory, we’d still be talking about Sen. Gene Nichol and Gov. Mike Feeley.
Kennedy is winning the base, winning with the teachers, winning in the only votes that have been taken. It will be interesting when new polling comes out if all that winning is actually real. And then she still has to translate that early success into wooing the rest of the Democratic primary voters and, in this wildcard year, unaffiliated voters who are now eligible to vote in primary races.
Polis has spent a lot of money modeling unaffiliated voters. That takes a lot of money, and we know that Polis, who has a lot of money, is willing to spend it. We’re waiting to see when and how Mike Johnston spends his money. But Kennedy, who has done quite well in the last two fundraising quarters, assures me she will have the money needed to compete with both.
On to the rankings (updated to include one lagging panelist who shall remain anonymous):
1. Walker Stapleton. Give him credit. He survived the signature fiasco, came in late to the assembly and won, while also knocking out his prime rival. To do that, though, he went hard right, embracing Tancredo, who gave his nominating speech. Is that how you win in November? (Hint: No.) But panelist Josh Penry says to give him credit. “There isn’t any way to way to sugar coat it. Walker went from electoral goat rodeo to the political equivalent of the Winners Circle at the Kentucky Derby in 96 hours.”
2. Doug Robinson. Who knows. He looked like No. 2 before Friday. Now he looks, well, lost. He was the one who got the Stapleton signature problem rolling. Now he’s stuck with one of his own. Where have we seen this story before?
3. Greg Lopez. As panelist Cinamon Watson points out, he’d been working the delegates for months, leading to the question, hadn’t Coffman been doing the same? After his speech, he got a standing ovation, which is better than being booed. Watson: “Somewhere, deep in the bowels of a basement, will live hundreds of Coffman for Governor fedoras. Someone will be a hit when they pull them out for a nostalgic display at a 2030 Lincoln Day Dinner.”
1. Cary Kennedy. Like the rest of us, Silverii is waiting for the polling to know if we can believe our eyes. Polling, he says, “is the only way we’ll know if Cary’s momentum has burst out of the Democratic insider world and into the general population.” We don’t really know if Polis, Johnston and Lynne have been making headway with anyone else while Kennedy was cleaning up at the assembly.” Or as Penry put it, “And so the question is, can Kennedy parlay an assembly win into a million dollar fundraising quarter? If she can’t, even in spite of the good 90 days she’s had, her road is steep and narrow.”
4. Donna Lynne. She made the ballot Friday, but the consensus is she’s lagging. Salazar says she still has a shot: “Her general election appeal might be a factor if she gets on the air.” Of course, Johnston has general election appeal, too, and he will be on the air.
Panelists: Big-shot GOP strategist Josh Penry, principal at EIS; long-time Dem strategist and Hancock chief of staff Alan Salazar; ProgressNow progressive Ian Silverii; GOP strategist, and always good quote, Cinamon Watson, principal at Blueprint Strategies— and, of course. me.