Republican gubernatorial candidate and State Treasurer Walker Stapleton ended speculation over the identity of his running mate, introducing state Rep. Lang Sias as his lieutenant governor pick on Wednesday.
Stapleton introduced Sias as his pick at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver, a setting that nods to Sias’ past as a U.S. Navy pilot. Sias currently represents House District 27, which covers Jefferson County, and works as a commercial pilot for FedEx.
“I am actually completely psyched to announce Colorado’s next lieutenant governor, my friend, Lang Sias,” Stapleton said.
A combat veteran and former TOPGUN instructor, Sias is a two-term state representative who unsuccessfully ran for the Republican ticket for the 7th Congressional District in 2010. Sias a former Democrat who said he was part of the party in the early 2000s. He will not be seeking re-election for his current seat.
Originally from Connecticut, Sias said he’s been in Colorado for 18 years.
“Walker and I are running for the same three reason: our kids,” Sias said. “We’re each blessed with a wonderful family and three school-aged children and we want our children and the children and grandchildren of everyone in Colorado to grow up in a state that is prosperous and full of opportunity.
It didn’t take long for Sias to call out Democratic gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Jared Polis. He criticized Polis’ plan for single-payer health care and said he would threaten energy jobs and repealing tax cuts.
“Congressman Jared Polis thinks it will be great to bring Washington to Colorado,” Sias said. “Jared Polis will take us backward, killing off all of the great energy jobs that we have worked so hard to create here in this state.”
Stapleton said he’s known Sias for several years. He said Sias has developed a reputation as a bipartisan legislator in the General Assembly, with Sais saying more than 85 percent of his legislation was bipartisan. Stapleton said the two worked together in reforming the state’s public pension system during the last legislative session.
“I learned in the air and in the ground in Iraq how important freedom is,” Sias said. “And Walker Stapleton is going to keep Colorado free from Congressman Jared Polis’ Washington-style big government here in Colorado.”
Sias said his role as lieutenant governor will be developed at the discretion of Stapleton.
“I do believe that having had served for four years in the legislature and done it in a bipartisan fashion, I think there’s probably a role for me to be played there in terms of working with legislators from both parties and both chambers on legislation that governor Stapleton would be interested in,” Sias said
Shrugging off speculation over the LG announcement delay, Stapleton said the conversation about LG took weeks.
“Contrary to contrived political narratives, Lang and I have had this ongoing conversation about this now for a matter of weeks,” Stapleton said. He added that “a wide field” of people were interviewed for the position, but Sias was his choice.
“As a guiding philosophy to make this decision, I decided that I wasn’t gonna simply be checking some sort of a box,” Stapleton said. “What my goal and criteria were for making this choice was finding somebody who I thought was the most competent and able and committed person I could find to join me as a partner.”
Stapleton’s LG pick comes just over a week after Polis announced his running mate, Dianne Primavera, on July 2, and two weeks after Stapleton won the Republican primary on June 26.
By law — a weird and much-talked-about law this year, we might add — gubernatorial candidates are required to offer the lieutenant governor’s position within seven days after the primary (so the deadline was July 3).
But, and here’s where things get fuzzy, Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert said last week there’s no legal obligation to reveal the choice immediately. That’s what allowed Stapleton to break with tradition followed by every other previous gubernatorial candidate of announcing their pick within seven days, as The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel pointed out in an editorial.
Stapleton said Wednesday they had planned on letting everyone enjoy their July 4 holiday before making their announcement.
Stapleton is ready to debate Polis.
Stapleton sees himself as an underdog against Polis: “I hope to be the beneficiary of low expectation throughout my life and elected office,” he said.
He believes the Republican party is more united than Democrats, suggesting the party’s fractured state was evident two weeks ago when none of the former Democratic candidates showed up to Polis’ unity event.
Stapleton said he’s ready to debate Polis as often as possible.
“I cannot wait to debate Jared Polis. Sign me up. I’m ready to go and so is Lang,” Stapleton said.