Six Repub­li­cans in the run­ning be­gin to dis­tin­guish them­selves in 1st meet­ing

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Jesse Paul

Six Colorado Repub­li­cans run­ning for gov­er­nor made their first pitches Sun­day night about why the GOP faith­ful should back them in the party’s crowded — and prob­a­bly grow­ing — pri­mary for the 2018 elec­tion, speak­ing at a fo­rum where their dif­fer­ences al­ready be­gan to show.

Some early is­sues in the con­test arose, in­clud­ing in­fra­struc­ture and ed­u­ca­tion. The mem­bers of the group also touched, and dif­fered, on Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Twit­ter, as well as on their news me­dia pref­er­ences, health care, same-sex mar­riage, mar­i­juana’s le­gal sta­tus and im­mi­gra­tion.

Those can­di­dates at the Foothills Repub­li­cans-spon­sored event at the Pine­hurst Coun­try Club are Steve Bar­lock, who was Trump’s cam­paign co-chair­man for Colorado; George Brauch­ler, the district at­tor­ney for the 18th Ju­di­cial District; Larimer County Com­mis­sioner Lew Gaiter; for­mer Parker mayor Greg Lopez; for­mer state law­maker Vic­tor Mitchell; and Doug Robin­son, a for­mer in­vest­ment banker and Mitt Rom­ney’s nephew.

All said they ap­prove of build­ing some sort of wall along the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der and stop­ping un­law­ful im­mi­gra­tion, though Gaiter raised con­cerns about peo­ple tun­nel­ing be­neath such a bar­rier. All six said they gen­er­ally ac­cept same-sex mar­riage (though they be­lieve mar­riage is be­tween a man and a woman), with only Bar­lock say­ing he would of­fi­ci­ate such a cer­e­mony as gov­er­nor.

“I’d like to run my own cam­paign,” Mitchell said when asked if he would ac­cept Trump’s sup­port. Mitchell also said he would sup­port an ef­fort to re­peal Colorado’s recre­ational mar­i­juana laws. How­ever, he said such an ini­tia­tive would never arise be­cause there would not be pub­lic sup­port.

Robin­son said he would be “the first one to step up if (Trump) does things that are bad for Colorado,” though he would ac­cept Trump’s sup­port in the gov­er­nor’s race. Brauch­ler said he wanted to stop “su­per­lib­er­als” from mov­ing the state to­ward Cal­i­for­nia’s pol­i­tics and said Colorado’s roads were poor. And Lopez talked about pro­tect­ing re­li­gious free­dom and be­com­ing the state’s first His­panic gov­er­nor.

Though Elec­tion Day is more than a year away, the gov­er­nor’s race is al­ready heat­ing up, with tens of thou­sands of dol­lars pour­ing into the race to re­place Demo­cratic Gov. John Hick­en­looper, a con­test that is ex­pected to break fundrais­ing records. Sev­eral other Repub­li­cans are ei­ther in the race or ex­pected to join, in­clud­ing Colorado Trea­surer Walker Sta­ple­ton and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Cyn­thia Coff­man.

The Demo­cratic pri­mary is also com­pet­i­tive, with at least four no­table names al­ready in the race and oth­ers on the fence about join­ing. Those who have an­nounced in­clude U.S. Rep. Jared Po­lis, for­mer state trea­surer Cary Kennedy, for­mer state Sen. Mike John­ston and busi­ness­man Noel Ginsburg.

The can­di­dates at Sun­day evening’s event said it was good to get a feel for one another as the battle to come out on top of the pri­mary ramps up. Brauch­ler said, “I just don’t know most of these guys,” and Robin­son said he thought there were clear dif­fer­ences shown be­tween the can­di­dates.

“I have no prob­lem with more peo­ple get­ting in the race,” said Lopez. “It’s no se­cret you have to be out there day in and day out let­ting peo­ple know you have a pas­sion for this po­si­tion.”

The event also gave Foothills Repub­li­can vot­ers a first chance to com­pare the can­di­dates and to start fig­ur­ing out whom they like most.

“I’m wide open,” said Robert Bren­nan, of Lit­tle­ton. “I’m fa­mil­iar with the name ‘George Brauch­ler.’ I’m fa­mil­iar with a cou­ple of other names. I’m a long way from mak­ing up my mind.”

His wife, Eileen, was more cer­tain, say­ing her sup­port is al­ready be­hind Brauch­ler. She was par­tic­u­larly im­pressed with how he handed the pros­e­cu­tion of the Aurora theater shooter and cared for vic­tims and their fam­i­lies. “I like what he’s done,” she said. “I think he’s been very just. He just presents as very pos­i­tive.”

“A lot of these guys don’t have very much in the way of name recog­ni­tion,” said Ger­ard Sza­tkowski, a GOP voter from Mor­ri­son. “They have to get their names out there.”

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