Polis to square off against Stapleton for Colorado governor; Johnston leads Eagle County | VailDaily.com

Polis to square off against Stapleton for Colorado governor; Johnston leads Eagle County

David O. Williams
Special to the Daily

After record amounts of campaign spending and months of the airwaves being flooded by ads — some of them a bit nasty — all of the drama was over rather quickly Tuesday, June 26, in the Colorado primary election to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Republican Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton rather handily defeated three other contenders for the GOP nomination to run for governor in the Nov. 6 general election, where he'll square off against U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who also breezed to victory over three Democratic challengers.

"Elections are about choices; they are about the direction we want to see Colorado head in the future," Stapleton said in his victory speech. "Tonight, we celebrate the first step, and we will offer Coloradans a hopeful vision of economic opportunity for all of our children. Colorado can do better, and we must.

"My fellow Coloradans, the stakes could not be higher for my children and for yours. I am honored tonight that you have chosen me to carry our message forward."

Republicans have not held the governor's mansion for more than a decade, dating back to Gov. Bill Owens in 2007.

'State We are So Lucky to Call Home'

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Polis, who currently represents eastern Eagle County, Summit County and a section of Colorado's northern Front Range in the state's 2nd Congressional District, first declared victory on Facebook and then put out the following statement after thanking fellow Democratic hopefuls Cary Kennedy, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne and former state Sen. Mike Johnston, a Vail native:

"This campaign is about bold ideas that put Colorado families first, from protecting our access to health care to ensuring universal pre-K in every community," Polis said. "I'm running for governor to protect our Colorado way of life from the special interests who try to stack the deck in their favor. We're going to fight to ensure that every Coloradan can live, work and raise a family in this state we are so lucky to call home."

This was the first Colorado primary election in which unaffiliated voters could declare a party preference and cast a vote. According to the Secretary of State's Office, 1,043,685 Coloradans returned ballots (411,578 Democrats, 380,974 Republicans and 251,133 unaffiliated).

Kennedy, a former state treasurer whom Stapleton defeated in the 2010 Tea Party wave, offered a conciliatory statement to Polis after a primary that, at times, turned negative over education issues.

"Congratulations to Jared Polis," Kennedy said. "Together, we will work toward keeping the governor's office blue, growing the majority in the State House and winning back the State Senate."

Polis — one of the few openly gay members of Congress — has two young children with his partner and could become Colorado's first openly gay governor. But his defeat of Kennedy and Lynne assures that the state will continue its 142-year history of not having a female governor.

Unofficial results had Polis winning with 45 percent of the vote after about 80 percent of the precincts were counted at 9 p.m. Tuesday. Kennedy was second with 25 percent of the vote, followed by Johnston (23 percent) and Lynne (7 percent).

Johnston leads Polis Locally

Unsurprisingly, Johnston unofficially won Eagle County by a margin of 42 percent to 38 percent for Polis. At press time, Johnston — a former Denver-area state senator, Obama administration education advisor, son of a former Vail mayor and the first Dem to jump into the race last year — had not issued a statement.

Prior to the race being called for Polis, Johnston posted this brief message on Facebook: "It has been a joy and an honor to run in this primary. Thank you to all who have carried me to this point."

Stapleton beat out Victor Mitchell by a margin of 49 percent to 30 percent with a similar number of precincts counted, followed by Greg Lopez (12 percent) and Doug Robinson (9 percent).

Democrats nominated Boulder's Joe Neguse to run for Polis' 2nd Congressional District seat, and Diane Mitsch Bush appeared poised to rather easily defeat two other Democrats in her bid to challenge incumbent Republican Scott Tipton in the 3rd Congressional District, which includes the western two-thirds of Eagle County, Pueblo and the majority of the Western Slope.

Mitsch Bush used to be Eagle County's state representative before resigning to run for Congress. She was leading Carbondale's Karl Hanlon 64 percent to 28 percent with just less than 70 percent of the precincts counted. Former Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi trailed with 8 percent.

Mitsch Bush unofficially won Eagle County by a margin of 71 percent to 15 percent for Hanlon and 13 percent for Menconi.

Unofficial results

Preliminary, unofficial primary election results from Eagle County voters only in contested state and federal races as of 9 p.m. Tuesday, June 26.

2nd Congressional District (Democrat)

• Joe Neguse, 617

• Mark Williams, 405

3rd Congressional District (Democrat)

• Diane Mitsch Bush, 2,547

• Karl Hanlon, 539

• Arn Menconi, 473

Governor (Republican)

• Walker Stapleton, 1,244

• Victor Mitchell, 603

• Greg Lopez, 255

• Doug Robinson, 232

Governor (Democrat)

• Mike Johnston, 2,162

• Jared Polis, 1,945

• Cary Kennedy, 755

• Donna Lynne, 208

State Treasurer (Republican)

• Brian Watson, 760

• Justin Everett, 728

• Polly Lawrence, 534

State Treasurer (Democrat)

• Dave Young, 2,498

• Bernard Douthit, 1,106

Attorney General (Democrat)

• Phil Weiser, 2,584

• Joe Salazar, 1,874