Trail Marker: Ballots are out for Colorado’s June 26 primary. Nearly 38,000 already voted.

As of Monday, June 11, 15,982 Republicans, 14,737 Democrats and 6,942 unaffiliated voters have turned in their ballots for the primary elections that end June 26, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

The turnout totals, though, don’t show which way unaffiliated voters are swinging as they choose either a Democratic or Republican ballot.

Related: Unaffiliated voters in Colorado: Only mail back one ballot or your vote won’t count

This past week in the governor’s race included four different debates, mudslinging, fact-checking, polls, complaints about negative campaigning and an all-out TV air war just as those ballots hit mailboxes across Colorado and voters scramble to learn more about the eight candidates running for governor.

We know you’re busy and can’t watch all the debates. And it’s summer— and so beautiful outside. So let us recap some of the past week in this big race.

First, the Democrats…

On June 4, during an at-times heated debate in front of the 9News cameras, the four Democrats— former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, Congressman Jared Polis, former State Sen. Mike Johnston and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne— all said they would not support a retroactive assault-weapons ban in Colorado that would mean confiscating certain guns. Johnston and Polis got into it again over their support (or lack thereof) for a magazine and assault weapons ban in 2013. (We’ve already dissected that disagreement in this newsletter before.)

Polis and Kennedy tussled over ads a pro-Kennedy PAC is airing on her behalf that pops Polis over things he said about vouchers a decade-and-half ago. I won’t recap it here (you’ve probably heard it enough) but read this piece we published by ChalkBeat Colorado that tries to cut through the claims:

Fact-checking the Colorado governor’s race: The truth behind 5 claims dividing Democratic contenders

Kennedy, Polis, and Johnston also duked it out over whether Kennedy broke a clean campaign pledge the Dems each signed waaaaaaay back when this race was much less acrimonious. Kennedy and Polis complained to the state Democratic Party about each other in regard to the pledge. We wrote about that this week in the context of the PAC wars:

PACs backing Polis jump into the TV air war in CO’s race for governor as campaigns complain about negativity

As data journalist Sandra Fish reported for us this week, Polis has already spent $10.5 million of his own money on the governor’s race. Asked during a debate about his big-self-funding, he called it “a feature not a bug.” Lynne, who has raised the least amount of money in the Democratic primary, said she thinks there’s too much money in this race and indicated she turned down some big bucks from certain unnamed companies.

On healthcare, some differences emerged among the Dems.

All of them say they want “some form” of a public option for healthcare in Colorado. But only Kennedy and Polis said they wanted a public option universally available to everyone in the state as an alternative to private insurance. Johnston says he wants a public option for those in Colorado if someone is paying more than 10 percent of their income for coverage. But coming up with slogans like “a public option” or “Medicare for all” ignores “a lot of what goes on in the system,” said Lynne, a former health care executive. She said she would want to get at root causes of high costs like figuring out why the price tag for an MRI varies so widely from place to place. Polis said he wants a single-payer model that gives a basic level of care for anybody— and that the healthcare industry needs disrupting.

Reminder: Learn about the candidates at our 2018 Governor’s Race page  

On Thursday, the four Democrats met for a forum at One Colorado to talk about LGBTQ issues where they discussed housing for homeless youth, harassment in schools, pay inequality, the recent Supreme Court decision about the Masterpiece Cakeshop, and more.

Now, for the Republicans…

In a 9News debate Thursday, none of the Republican candidates— State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, businessman Victor Mitchell, former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez and businessman Doug Robinson— said they support a proposed federal law by Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren that would force the feds to respect state laws on marijuana.

Stapleton got the front-runner’s treatment in that particular debate. He skipped a previous one— and another by Colorado Public Television Wednesday— which led moderators of both to really make sure and point that out prominently. On the 9News stage, moderators brought up Stapleton’s 1990s DUI and asked what his current relationship is with alcohol. “Responsible,” he said, because he has three kids. Asked if he learned anything after he was criticized for a false claim in a TV ad that said he was the only state treasurer in the country to support President Donald Trump’s tax plan, Stapleton said, “No, I actually have not.” He said to end so-called sanctuary cities he would restrict “any funds” he could, particularly for infrastructure, to a city that declared itself one. (An ad by a PAC supporting him falsely called Aurora a sanctuary city, according to The Aurora Sentinel.)

Only Lopez said he is unequivocally against bringing the Olympic games to Colorado.

Asked if the four GOP candidates for governor believe there is a “Deep State” in Colorado government, former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez waved his hand. He said he believes some state workers put obstacles in the way “of moving forward,” and added, “I can’t tell you how big [the Deep State is] until I get into the belly of the beast.”

Victor Mitchell said there is a Deep State in Colorado. “Do you know that every sheriff’s office in Colorado keeps investigative files of people that were simply accused of something? Never charged or anything? So that, in my opinion, is a Deep State,” he said.

Don’t forget: Find out how each candidate answered our 20-question questionnaire

Mitchell stood apart from the others when he said as governor he would not send state National Guardsman to the Mexican border if the Trump administration requested it.

In the Colorado Public TV debate, Mitchell also said something pretty surprising that I’m not sure got the play it deserved at the time. “We shouldn’t be criminalizing any recreational marijuana or other type of drug use,” he said. “That should be a monetary penalty, a civil penalty, but not criminalized. We have a great deal of brown and black people in prison today for, frankly, petty recreational use.” That shouldn’t apply to drug pushers, he said, but “We should not be criminalizing recreational-type drug use.” I followed up with him about it later and mentioned the spectrum is pretty broad: Heroin, meth, cocaine, MDMA, LSD, magic mushrooms, etc. He didn’t backpedal. “Common, everyday drugs from cocaine on up,” Mitchell said. “We simply shouldn’t be sending people away for recreational drug use provided they’re not distributing.” Then later, in an interview, he qualified it, telling me he would be open to studying the idea. If such a policy were to come about, it would be a major shift in Colorado— and unique in the nation— says Maureen Cain, policy director of the Colorado Criminal Defense Institute.

STORY: Republican Victor Mitchell, running for Colorado governor, might be open to no jail time for using ‘common, everyday drugs’

At one point in the GOP debate, a moderator said to Doug Robinson, “By all accounts, you are a friendly, mild-mannered guy, traditional conservative values, and no scandals— so not exactly a formula for success in Republican politics these days,” and asked what he thought might make him connect with a GOP base that “clearly wants fire and fury?”

“I have some fire and fury,” Robinson said, adding that he has lived a life of conservative values and has done more for Colorado outside of government than anyone on the stage.

ATTN: Unaffiliated voters

For the first time ever, you got two ballots in the mail, one for the Democrats and another for Republicans. Make sure you only send one back in or your vote won’t count. Read our explainer and watch our video that should answer any questions you might have:

VIDEO: What unaffiliated voters should know about those ballots you got in the mail

(Some quick spoilers: The Secretary of State’s office suggests mailing in your ballot by June 18 or slipping it into a dropbox location. Postage can differ from county to county.)

The election is June 26, and in the lead-up will come some attacks ads. Heck, they already arecoming. This week, we had campaign finance correspondent Sandra Fish on the case tracking who is slinging the poo. Come for the follow-the-money reporting, stay for a photo that might make you wince.

The latest polling in the race…

There are new numbers out, but I’m going to make you work for them (not that hard, though, just click). I don’t necessarily think poll results do much to help voters decide who is the best candidate, so I won’t re-publish them. (Keeping in mind I know plenty of people are curious, so.) For what it’s worth, Magellan Strategies, a well-respected Republican firm in Colorado, conducted the poll for a Texas energy company, said David Flaherty who runs the firm.

On Monday, numbers came in on the GOP side in a poll conducted by the same firm. View those numbers here.

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