DaVita’s Thiry won’t be running
DaVita Inc. CEO Kent Thiry announced Monday that he would not join Colorado’s crowded race for governor — ending months of speculation about his political ambitions.
Instead, Thiry said in a statement that he would focus on other pursuits, such as supporting “centrist candidates” and “common sense causes” in next year’s election, though he did not elaborate on whom or what.
“I have held onto the dream of running for office since I was 10 years old. That’s why it is with deeply mixed feelings that my wife Denise and I have decided now is not the right time for me to run for governor of Colorado,” Thiry said in a statement.
His decision removes one of the biggest wild cards left in the governor’s race, as Thiry — who earned a salary of at least $12.3 million last year — had the potential to upend the Republican primary by sinking his own fortune into the pursuit of the nomination.
With Thiry out, it keeps the GOP nomination within reach for Republican candidates who can’t self-fund. It also could help businessman and former state lawmaker Victor Mitchell, who gave himself an early edge with a notinsignificant loan of $3 million.
Thiry’s decision may also embolden state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman to jump into the fray, as the two candidates likely would have competed for moderate Republican voters. Coffman
said this month that she was exploring a gubernatorial bid.
Only a couple of major Republicans remain undeclared: State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, who is widely expected to run, and former U.S. Senate candidate Jack Graham, who is mulling another shot at elected office.
In addition to Mitchell, the GOP field includes George Brauchler, prosecutor of the Aurora theater shooter; Doug Robinson, Mitt Romney’s nephew and a former investment banker; and Steve Barlock, Donald Trump’s Colorado campaign co-chair.
There has been speculation for months, however, about a possible Thiry bid.
Thiry and his company dropped $2.5 million last year into two successful ballot initiatives that paved the way for unaffiliated voters to participate in Democratic and Republican primaries, which was seen by some Colorado politicos as a steppingstone for a governor’s run.
Not only might these voters be more amendable to someone who operates outside the GOP establishment — Thiry switched his registration from independent to Republican in March — but independents are notoriously expensive to persuade and Thiry’s wealth could have given him a big advantage in trying to court them.
Colorado is divided almost equally among Democrats, Republicans and un- affiliated voters.
Still, Thiry had several hurdles to overcome. His company has spent nearly $1 billion in recent years to settle legal fights related to its business practices in the dialysis industry. And Thiry’s personality as a cheerleader CEO was lampooned this year on the HBO program “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.”
Both of those issues likely would come up again on the campaign trail.
Thiry’s next step could include bankrolling one or more ballot initiatives, similar to his work on Propositions 107 and 108, which changed Colorado’s primary rules. The DaVita CEO has spoken previously about supporting efforts to change how Colorado draws its congressional and statehouse boundaries — an issue he once backed in California with a $35,000 donation.
“Next November, there will be critical election choices all across this state,” he said. “Denise and I will plan to eagerly support centrist candidates, common sense causes and other efforts that promote collaborative governance, and the ideal that principled compromise in the name of progress is vastly different from compromising your principles.”
For now, Thiry is staying out of the governor’s race — as he did not endorse another candidate as part of his announcement. But in the hours after his decision, there already was talk among Republicans about whether he would use his checkbook to help someone else in the future.
“I have held onto the dream of running for office since I was 10 years old. That’s why it is with deeply mixed feelings that my wife Denise and I have decided now is not the right time for me to run for governor of Colorado.” Kent Thiry’s statement
Kent Thiry’s decision ends weeks of speculation.