Perl­mut­ter ex­its, oth­ers may join gover­nor race

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By John Frank and Mark K. Matthews

GOLDEN» Now that U.S. Rep. Ed Perl­mut­ter has stepped out of Colorado’s 2018 race for gover­nor, it looks in­creas­ingly likely that Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne will step in — a twist that re­flects both the un­set­tled na­ture of the con­test and a con­tin­ued ner­vous­ness among some Democrats about their pri­mary field.

As ex­pected, Perl­mut­ter on Tues­day made of­fi­cial his de­par­ture, telling sup­port­ers he no longer had the “fire in the belly” to run for ei­ther gover­nor or re­elec­tion in Colorado’s 7th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict.

“It takes time and it takes money and it takes en­ergy — and putting all those to­gether, I found look­ing down deep it was go­ing to be a tough road to hoe,” said Perl­mut­ter, D-Ar­vada, at his cam­paign of­fice in Golden.

At about the same time, and a few short miles away, Lynne opened the door wider to the idea of run­ning to re­place her boss, Demo­cratic Gov. John Hick­en­looper.

“It is a big step. Ed Perl­mut­ter’s an­nounce­ment to­day is a sign of the per­sonal de­ci­sion-mak­ing any­body goes through when they are do­ing this,” Lynne said.

But the for­mer health care ex­ec­u­tive noted that she’s been get­ting calls of sup­port, es­pe­cially since the Perl­mut­ter news be­came pub­lic, and that she planned to make a de­ci­sion af­ter the end of the month.

“It is about what’s right for the Demo­cratic Party,” said Lynne, who ap­peared Tues­day at an event in which Hick­en­looper com­mit­ted Colorado to re­duc­ing green­house gas emis­sions.

If she does run, Lynne would join a field of gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­dates that is one of the largest and deep­est in Colorado his­tory.

Repub­li­cans al­ready have sev­eral hope­fuls to choose from, in­clud­ing Doug Robin­son, Mitt Romney’s nephew; Ge­orge Brauch­ler, who pros­e­cuted the Aurora the­ater shooter; and busi­ness­man and for­mer state law­maker Vic­tor Mitchell. State Trea­surer Walker Sta­ple­ton also is ex­pected to join the fray, as could state At­tor­ney Gen­eral Cynthia Coff­man, who has be­gun to talk more openly about a run.

The Demo­cratic field is sim­i­larly com­pet­i­tive.

For­mer state trea­surer Cary Kennedy joined the race about the same time Perl­mut­ter launched his short-lived cam­paign, and for­mer state Sen. Mike John­ston has been run­ning for months — and posted a notable $633,000 in his first fundrais­ing quar­ter.

U.S. Rep. Jared Po­lis, how­ever, is the name that can­not be ig­nored.

Not only does the mul­ti­mil­lion­aire law­maker have the means to self-fund a cam­paign, but the Boul­der Demo­crat in June out­lined a plat­form that could pull the field to the left.

For ex­am­ple, hours be­fore Po­lis made of­fi­cial his can­di­dacy, John­ston an­nounced that one of his top goals was to have Colorado use 100 per­cent re­new­able en­ergy by 2040: a tar­get that mir­rored ex­actly what would be­come a main plank of Po­lis’ cam­paign.

It’s an ap­proach that would put Po­lis or John­ston at odds with Colorado’s oil and gas in­dus­try.

At his Tues­day an­nounce­ment, Perl­mut­ter sidestepped a ques­tion on whether Po­lis is too lib­eral to win a gen­eral elec­tion.

“Jared, he’ll get out and cam­paign as hard as any­body,” said Perl­mut­ter. “And he’s go­ing to have to con­vince peo­ple that his ideas and his phi­los­o­phy and his views of the world are aligned with theirs.”

But al­ready a few of Perl­mut­ter’s well-connected back­ers have reached out to Lynne to ex­press in­ter­est.

“I said I hope you will se­ri­ously con­sider it and you will have my sup­port,” is what state Sen. Mi­nor­ity Leader Lu­cia Guz­man said she told Lynne this week af­ter it be­came clear Perl­mut­ter would bow out.

Mike Fee­ley, who backed Perl­mut­ter’s run for gover­nor and pre­vi­ously served as a co-chair of his con­gres­sional cam­paign, was also sup­port­ive of Lynne.

One of the first ques­tions Lynne would have to an­swer, how­ever, is her stance on suc­ceed­ing Hick­en­looper.

Dur­ing Hick­en­looper’s search last year to re­place for­mer Lt. Gov. Joe Gar­cia, he said his pref­er­ence was some­one “who doesn’t want to be gover­nor.”

Asked at her first news con­fer­ence whether she would run for gover­nor once Hick­en­looper’s term ended, Lynne of­fered an em­phatic “No.”

But since then, aides to Lynne said she’s be­come more open to the idea.

As for Po­lis, he pushed back against crit­i­cism that his record — which in­cludes past sup­port of an­tifrack­ing ini­tia­tives — is too lib­eral to ap­peal to vot­ers in a state split al­most evenly among Democrats, Repub­li­cans and in­de­pen­dents.

“This elec­tion will be about the fu­ture ver­sus the past,” said Mara Shel­don, a Po­lis spokes­woman, “and Jared’s proven track record of build­ing sev­eral suc­cess­ful busi­nesses, cre­at­ing jobs and start­ing schools for un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties is nei­ther left nor right.”

Cur­rently, Lynne re­mains the last ma­jor ques­tion mark on the Demo­cratic side of the gover­nor’s race. That’s not the case in the Repub­li­can pri­mary.

Kent Thiry, the CEO of DaVita Inc., has floated the idea of run­ning as a Repub­li­can. And Coff­man told The Den­ver Post she is se­ri­ously exploring a run.

The pri­mary is where Coff­man may face the most dif­fi­culty af­ter sig­nal­ing a break from hard­line con­ser­va­tives on is­sues re­lated to gay rights and fraud pro­tec­tion for im­mi­grants in the coun­try il­le­gally.

Her en­try would again shuf­fle the deck. “You know some­times it pays to wait, be­cause things change,” said Coff­man, who de­clined to say when she would make her de­ci­sion. “Watch­ing what has hap­pened with Con­gress­man Perl­mut­ter the past 24 hours is an ex­am­ple of how the dy­nam­ics can change when you’re far­ther out from a race.”

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