Republican candidates for governor of Colorado debate on Tuesday. They’ll try to highlight their differences one more time.

Plus, if you’ve already got your mind made up, you can watch for these quirks and catchphrases.
7 min. read
Gubernatorial nominee Greg Lopez greets Jeff Hunt, vice president of Public Policy at Colorado Christian University, after the 2018 Republican State Assembly on the campus of the University of Colorado Boulder, April 14, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

This is probably a personal question, but have you heard about the deep state?

The term — which The New York Times defines as “shadowy networks within government bureaucracies” — has been popularized by President Donald Trump and conservative politicians and pundits.

It’s how we ended up with a question about the deep state during the last Republican gubernatorial debate hosted by 9News on June 7.

While the question was unusual and the candidates objected to its phrasing, it did provide some insight into the differences between the GOP candidates. And that’s really what the candidates are hoping to do as the deadline for voting in the primary nears.

The deep-state question was posed to candidates Greg Lopez, Victor Mitchell, Doug Robinson and State Treasurer Walker Stapleton. Lopez and Mitchell said they both believe some components of it exists in Colorado.

“I don’t think the deep state is our local state workers, but we do have a deep state,” Mitchell said, before citing an example of sheriffs' offices keeping investigative files for people who aren’t charged with crimes. The Denver Post today published a story saying that Mitchell had been wrongfully accused of a crime, which led to his strong interest in the issue of the wrongfully convicted — and connecting that passion to a belief in the deep state.

The four candidates will meet again on Tuesday at the University of Denver for an event co-organized (and moderated) by Denver7 and the Denver Post. The 90-minute debate will be aired on Denver 7 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., with the remaining 30 minutes streamed online at

Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton speaks at a U.S. Term Limits rally on the Capitol steps. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A new Republican primary poll last week confirmed Stapleton is the frontrunner, with Mitchell gaining some ground. Lopez and Robinson are in third and fourth, respectively.

"Polls can be wrong and everybody understands that," conservative radio host Jeff Crank of 740 KVOR said. "It does get a lot harder at this point to catch up if you only have 75 percent of ballots (left) to catch up to."

Crank compared this stage of the primary as the point where you finally end up asking someone out for a date. By now, you've introduced yourself and you've exchanged a few emails.

"Now you gotta close the deal and say, hey, will you go out with me?" Crank said.

As part of their final pitch, the candidates will keep hammering away each other's differences.

For Stapleton, that could be as simple as reminding viewers Mitchell didn't vote for President Donald Trump, which Crank said could hurt him among Republican primary voters. Or for Mitchell, it could be reminding people of Stapleton's East Coast upbringing. 

As for Lopez, Crank said he has a good grassroots message, but the resources just aren't there.

"That's his Achilles' heel, he doesn't have the resources that Stapleton has at his disposal," Crank said.

Republicans have divided views on funding transportation, the "red flag" bill and marijuana use and other areas we'll hear about on Tuesday.

Robinson wants to pay for transportation work by borrowing the money through a bond, Mitchell wants to reform the entire transportation department and Lopez wants to explore buying E-470 (he would also support borrowing money). Stapleton said he wouldn’t support a sales tax increase to help pay for improvements and would also support bonding.

“We need some dedicated sources of revenue in the general fund that we can use for bonding, including cutting executive overhead, fixing the fraud and abuse with medicinal marijuana and putting every last dime we can toward infrastructure,” Stapleton said during the 9News debate.

Colorado gurbernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell speaks on a panel during Colorado State University's Water in the West Summit at the McNichols Building, April 26, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

And speaking of weed: Lopez and Robinson supported Gov. John Hickenlooper’s decision to veto a bill that would have made medicinal marijuana available for treatment with autism spectrum disorders. Mitchell's campaign said he would have allowed the bill to go into effect, while Stapleton said during the 9News debate that doesn’t think it’s practical to support a total repeal effort of recreational marijuana use. He said he would focus more on regulations.

Lopez didn't rule out a potential recreational marijuana repeal effort.

"I voted against Amendment 64," Lopez said. "I still believe it's not the right thing for Colorado, but I think it's important for us to go back to the residents of Colorado and ask them."

Robinson and Mitchell both said they supported the so-called red flag bill, which was introduced but dropped in the Colorado Senate. The bill would have allowed police and family members to obtain court orders for people considered dangerous that would have required them to surrender their firearms. The bill had support from police and was named after a Douglas County Sherrif's Deputy who was fatally shot by a man who had previously been investigated as a potential risk.

Stapleton said he felt the bill was rushed but he agrees with the “spirit” of the bill, while Lopez said it wasn’t a good bill the way it was written.

“It needed some very basic changes to make sure that due process protections were in place and those protections weren’t put in place, and so I was okay with it failing,” Robinson said during the 9News debate. “This is a sensible thing that we can do to keep our schools safer.”

Colorado gubernatorial candidate Doug Robinson speaks at the Western Conservative Summit, July 22, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver7 anchor Anne Trujillo will moderate the debate with the Denver Post's John Frank. Trujillo said she doesn't expect the debates to be identical to the Democratic candidates' debate taking place Monday.

Each one has to be tailored to provide the candidates an opportunity to address their platforms, she said. For example, addressing education and transportation are two huge issues valued by voters where the major parties split.

"I think those are two of the issues where they're not even on the same page, the Republicans and Democrats," Trujillo said. "That's where we have to detail those questions."

With the GOP debate taking place exactly one week before the Primary Election, could this debate serve as a final motivator for Colorado voters? Trujillo said she's learned Coloradans are "pretty thoughtful" about who they end up voting for.

"Colorado is a thoughtful state, the majority (of voters) have an independent streak," Trujillo said. "So I don't know if they will fill out their ballots immediately... we want people to watch, review and take away substantive information that will help them make a very important decision."

And if you've already got your mind made up, you can still watch and keep score.

While you’re paying attention to the substantive talk, keep track of these candidates' favorite moves on your scorecard.

Lopez: How many times will he mention Colorado’s 64 counties?

Mitchell: How many times will he refer to himself as an “outsider businessman”?

Robinson: How many times will he refer to Mitchell as a “representative,” attempting to highlight his brief experience as a state representative?

Stapleton: How many times will he mention U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, the Democratic frontrunner?

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