Colorado gubernatorial race ads turn negative as June 26 primary nears

New poll shows Polis leading Kennedy 31%-18%
Posted at 5:10 PM, Jun 07, 2018

DENVER – Less than three weeks before Colorado’s June 26 primaries and with ballots arriving in most mailboxes this week, some of the frontrunners in the gubernatorial race from both parties are digging in their heels to try and show voters they are the candidate worth supporting—by turning to attacking one another.

Democrats Jared Polis and Cary Kennedy, the Congressman and former state treasurer, respectively, have been engaged in a weeks-long back-and-forth campaign both in the press and over the airwaves, and Vic Mitchell, the self-funding businessman who labels himself as an outsider in the Republican race, has attacked GOP frontrunner Walker Stapleton numerous times in a new advertisement.

Read: Denver7's guide to Colorado's 2018 primaries

All four remaining Democrats in the race signed a “Clean Campaign Pledge” in which they said they would not attack one another through the campaign.

But the fight between Polis and Kennedy intensified in recent weeks after a committee backing Kennedy’s campaign, Teachers for Kennedy, released an ad that accused Polis and candidate Mike Johnston of harming the state’s public schools—something both campaigns said were false claims.

Those campaigns accused Kennedy of breaking the pledge and “going negative,” but her campaign disputed that as well, since campaigns and the committees supporting them aren’t allowed to coordinate spending under state law.

On Monday, the Polis campaign released another new advertisement in which a handful of Colorado teachers said they supported Polis and were unhappy with the Teachers for Kennedy advertisement. Kennedy’s campaign noted that parts of the ad were misleading, since it was the committee that paid for the ad and not the campaign, and both campaigns continued their claims and denials over school voucher programs and whether or not the clean campaign pledge has been broken.

Polis’ campaign chair then sent a letter to the Colorado Democratic Party Wednesday night filing a complaint against the Kennedy campaign over the accusations involving the pledge and coordination. And Bold Colorado, a committee backing Polis, put out another ad Thursday accusing Kennedy of negative campaigning.

The spats come in the midst of new polling data from Broomfield-based Magellan Strategies that are among the only public insights into where the race stands with votes already being cast.

A poll released Thursday of 503 likely Democratic primary voters shows that Polis has a 13-point lead over Kennedy among the four Democratic candidates, 31 percent to 18 percent. Johnston, a former state senator, garnered 9 percent support in the poll, while Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne brought in 3 percent.

But 39 percent of those polled, which included mostly registered Democrats and 72 unaffiliated voters, said they were still undecided. The poll was conducted via landlines and cell phones on May 30 and 31. The margin of error is +/-4.38 percent.

The poll builds off a similar one done in March that showed 36 percent of respondents were undecided; 27 percent said they would support Polis; 23 percent said they would support Kennedy; 8 percent said they’d support Johnston; and 5 percent said they would back Lynne.

A poll done last month by the same firm in Colorado’s 5th Congressional District—which typically sends the highest share of GOP primary voters to the polls—among likely Republican primary voters found Walker Stapleton leading with 32 percent, followed by Victor Mitchell with 18 percent, and 8 percent support apiece for Doug Robinson and Greg Lopez.

Mitchell’s showing in the poll led to speculation among some that he was narrowing the gap with Stapleton, and his campaign came out with a new ad Monday that is focused entirely on Stapleton.

The ad targeted Stapleton’s ad in which he touted his ties to Trump and support for the president, in which he also made misleading claims about “stopping” ballot measures and being the “only” state treasurer to support the Trump tax cuts, and also fixates on reporting by Denver7 and Colorado Public Radio in which Stapleton’s involvement in a last-minute state pension deal was questioned.

According to CoPolitics.Co, a website run by journalist Sandra Fish that focuses on political spending and advertising in Colorado, neither Lopez nor Robinson have bought TV time in recent weeks.

Polis still has $2 million in his campaign account and Kennedy has close to $100,000; Stapleton’s campaign has more than $271,000 and Mitchell still has $126,000 in the bank. Johnston has nearly $800,00 in the bank but will have to pay for TV ads, as Fish notes. Lynne still has $245,000 in cash and Robinson has $85,000.

While there is expected to be more advertising and digs taken among the candidates over the next two-plus weeks, all eight will get the chance to show voters for the final time that they are the candidate to pick at debates hosted by Denver7 and The Denver Post at the University of Denver on June 18 and 19.

The Democrats will debate each other on June 18 and Republicans will do it again the next day. The debates are likely to be the final ones before the June 26 primary. You can find out more information about the debates by clicking here.

If you have more questions about the upcoming primary, Denver7 has also put together a primary guide for voters hoping to learn more about the process and the candidates.