Trail Marker: Today is Election Day. Here’s where the candidates for governor will be.

A ballot heading toward a ballot box in Colorado in 2018 (Photo by Corey Hutchins)

As of Election Day, June 26, roughly 833,600 voters have already cast ballots.

“Of that total, 324,206 ballots were cast by Democrats, 311,329 by Republicans and 198,103b by unaffiliated voters,” the Secretary of State said today.

Over the weekend, the campaigns were out in full force knocking on doors, hitting the phones and making their closing pitches as they order food and drinks for their respective victory parties Tuesday night. Where are those parties, you ask?

Democrat Jared Polis will be at the Renaissance Flatiron Hotel in Broomfield. Republican Walker Stapleton will be at the Doubletree Hotel on Orchard at the Denver Tech Center. Democrat Cary Kennedy will be at La Rumba in Denver. Democrat Mike Johnston will be at RiNo Station in Denver. Democrat Donna Lynne will be at the Blue Moon Brewery in Denver’s RiNo district and Republican Greg Lopez will be at Villa Parker on Pine Drive in Parker. Republican Doug Robinson will be at his campaign office in Centennial. The only one straying from the Denver-Boulder metro area is Republican Victor Mitchell who is holding his Election Night party at the Hero’s Pavillion Convention Center in Pueblo even though he lives in Castle Rock.

Since our last newsletter on the governor’s race, the four Democrats and four Republicans met for their final respective debates.

On the Dem side, we learned where they differ on oil-and-gas drilling setbacks and saw a rift open up over the unprecedented amount of personal spending on this race and the role of outside groups in the election.

5 takeaways from the final Democratic debate in Colorado governor’s race

In the final Republican debate of the primary, the four candidates remained largely civil, but some weird stuff came out at the end. (You’ll find out why that part’s highlighted— and why it’s funny— when you click the link below for our big takeaways:

6 takeaways from the final Republican debate in the Colorado governor’s race

When they were so young

The last Democratic debate got a little testy, which had me thinking about the frayed nerves at the end of the campaign season and how differently these candidates interact with each other than they did just a few months ago. For instance, just go back and take a look at our recap of the first Democratic debate that took place in April. At the time I wrote this: “The three candidates largely agree on policy, and they seem to get along well enough on a personal level— at least publicly.”

Going back even further, let’s recall the first time the Dems got together for a forum. It was last August in Breckenridge and The Colorado Independent was there.

How much money came from inside Colorado?

In the final days of the race, data journalist Sanda Fish, who has been diligently following the money trail for us, created eight charts to show what percentage of money the candidates were drawing from inside the borders of our square, swing state.

The final TV ad spending report of the gubernatorial primary

“When Colorado’s heated primary season goes cold tomorrow, political TV ads will fade from our screens, too— at least for a while,” Fish reported for us today. “That should come as a relief to Coloradans who’ve been pummeled with at least $14.5 million worth of ads thus far, based on political ad contracts filed by traditional and cable TV with the Federal Communications Commission.” Check out the full story with all its charts and graphs here.

An Erik Underwood sighting, and who the other the ex-candidates are backing

For the past few weeks, former Democratic gubernatorial contender Erik Underwood, who got bounced from the race at the April state assembly, has been back on the campaign trail. “I’ve endorsed Donna Lynne,” he told me, and he’s been campaigning with her since late May. On Monday he was with her after the Democratic debate. Underwood, a media tech guy from the Boulder area, ran for the U.S. Senate as a Republican in 2016 then switched parties because of Trump and ran for governor this year on a platform that included a full root-and-branch repeal of TABOR. His campaign didn’t take off. He was self-funding his bid (he spent north of $100,000, he told me) and wasn’t filing campaign finance reports.

His backing of Lynne got me thinking: This race started out with a much bigger field. I wonder who those who left are now backing. Republican Steve Barlock, who was running on the coattails of Trump, told me he ended up voting for Doug Robinson because he reminded him the most of former Gov. Bill Owens with his non-abrasive demeanor. Republican Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter, who lost at the assembly, ended up voting for Victor Mitchell. “He’s got some good ideas and a really smart wife, and he listens to her,” Gaiter said. Other ex-candidates I reached out to didn’t respond or aren’t saying. Barry Farah was coy, and, “I will keep my own counsel on that one,” said GOP Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Our in-depth candidate profiles are now all in one place

The Colorado Independent has spent the past months interviewing each candidate, observing them on the campaign trail, digging into their records, and speaking with folks who know and have worked with them. We profiled them all separately and have rounded them up with links into one place to make it easy for you to digest and share with your friends who still might be making up their minds.

Click this link to get there.

But don’t take it from me. Take it from a good friend who I know has been having a tough time deciding in this election, and who texted me Friday morning: “You guys did awesome work. Really glad we got a long read on each of them.”

Oh, and here’s a little newsletter scoop on those profiles in case you’re wondering which ones are getting read the most— which might not mean anything, of course. The internet can be strange about what gets shared and how. But in order of most-to-least-read, they are: Cary Kennedy, Mike Johnston, Walker Stapleton, Doug Robinson, Jared Polis, Victor Mitchell, Greg Lopez, and Donna Lynne.

Read into that what you may.

Thanks also to Westword and Colorado Community Media for re-publishing our profiles.

Oh, the memories: The yearlong primaries in review

Because we know a lot of voters only start paying close attention the closer it comes to Election Day, I wanted to round up a link farm of coverage to make it easy for you to access and send to friends who might have questions. For instance, someone asked us on social media why there wasn’t anything about where the candidates stood on gun safety on our page. Answer: We did a lot of reporting on that, just not that day— and our page is updated daily, which is why you weren’t seeing it.

This roundup might also give you a micro-history of the election year.

In February 2017 we took an early look at the GOP race for governor and name-checked Walker Stapleton (running), George Brauchler (got in and dropped out), Cynthia Coffman (got in and lost at the assembly), Wayne Williams (filed for re-election as secretary of state), Brian Watson (running for state treasurer), Ray Scott (running for re-election as a senator), Kent Thiry (left the GOP to become unaffiliated and run a redistricting ballot measure), John Suthers (still the mayor of Colorado Springs), and Joanne Silva (got in and dropped out). In March we looked at the early Democratic field shaping up, name-checking Ed Perlmutter (got in, dropped out), Mike Merrifield (never got in because Perlmutter did), Joe Salazar (decided to run for AG instead), Mike Johnston (running), Noel Ginsburg (got in, dropped out), Cary Kennedy (running), and Jared Polis (running).

The first head-to-head debate among a Democrat and Republican running for governor featured candidates who never made it on on the ballot: Erik Underwood and Lew Gaiter. The debate was about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, which, oddly, enough, is something people in the Colorado media world are talking about a lot right now.

We followed these candidates as they campaigned on college campuses where they said they would ban some guns, and at house parties where some couldn’t say how they’d pay for big ideas. We found them in bars, in breakfast meetings, and in high-school cafeterias, and watched some of them debate over who sticks up for the oil-and-gas industry more or who has the best record on gun safety. We held them accountable for information they left out of their financial disclosures.

We asked them each 20 direct yes or no questions and most of them answered them.

Last August we wrote a story headlined “Jared Polis, Walker Stapleton, and Colorado’s low campaign cash limits” that we couldn’t have known would become such an issue at the very end of the race nearly a year later.

We asked all eight of them who would be OK releasing their tax returns and the answers varied.

Along the way, there was that time Tancredo got into another governor’s race— and then dropped out. Or that time the Democrats signed a clean campaign pledge. Or when seven Republicans were running and they all showed up at a forum. We were there on caucus night and attended county conventions. We gave you first-hand accounts of the Democratic and Republican state assemblies.

And we’ll be there on Election Day tomorrow.