State Treasurer Walker Stapleton couldn’t walk an inch inside the narrow hallway in Lakewood on Saturday before a new hand would dart in front of him for a handshake.
Stapleton, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, had just wrapped up a campaign stop joining other GOP candidates for local and statewide office at the offices for the Jefferson County Republican Party.
Supporters hoped they had just met the next governor of Colorado. If only it were that easy. The reality? It’s looking like a tall task for Stapleton: One poll released this week gave his challenger, Democrat Jared Polis, a 98 percent chance of winning.
But go ahead and ask him about the polls. He’s clearly ready to face the odds. If Saturday’s any indication, he’s not giving them too much thought. In fact, he said he feels great.
“I’ve said all along, that polls don’t vote, people do,” Stapleton said. “If I had believed polling, I never would have been the treasurer of Colorado. If polling were accurate, Hillary Clinton would be president.”
During Saturday’s stop, he told Jeffco Republicans why he thinks he’ll be the first Republican elected governor of Colorado in 16 years.
It was part of a multi-day, multi-city tour of the state promoting the party’s slate.
There were close to 50 people in attendance in Lakewood. Stapleton urged support for his fellow Republicans present, including state treasurer candidate Brian Watson and Secretary of State Wayne Williams.
Stapleton shared some of his ideas, including creating four dedicated sources of revenue from the state’s general fund to help fix roads, improving access and affordability to healthcare, increasing accountability for the state’s education department to help pay teachers more and working “collaboratively” with the state’s energy industry.
“We have 72 hours left to save this state, protect this state that all of us love,” Stapleton said. “The stakes are simply too high.”
While headed to the next stop, Stapleton said he’s talked to Democrats about the issues with Polis’ proposals, including the single-payer system and the 100-percent renewable energy goal.
“I think the silent majority is going to come out in this election and speak like never before and I think we’re going to have a great, resounding victory,” Stapleton said.
Arvada resident Cybil Gibbs was among the volunteers and supporters mingling with candidates on Saturday. She already voted for Stapleton and the rest of the Republican ticket. As a parent to a child who is chronically ill, healthcare was at the top of her mind when choosing her candidates.
She doesn’t support Polis’ plan for single-payer healthcare. She thinks the state is “going backward” when it comes to healthcare.
“I think if you’re healthy, it’s okay,” Gibbs said. “But when you have a chronically ill kid, it’s pretty scary, because they just don’t get the, we don’t get the choices or the doctors or the healthcare.”
Turnout in Jefferson County is pretty strong for Republicans so far, an encouraging sign for Stapleton and Co.
That’s a bit different than statewide figures, which show Republican turnout isn’t as high as the 2014 midterms.
“If you look at what happened in 2016 and 2014 in the last week of the election,” Stapleton said, thanking another voter who reached out to greet him, “In the last week of the election, the Republicans outpaced the Democrats. We’ll see if that holds true.”
Jefferson County Republican Party chairman Joe Webb said the county is leading the state in GOP turnout.
“Jeffco is doing is doing its part to make Walker Stapleton governor,” Webb said, prompting applause.
Figures from the Secretary of State’s office show he’s right: As of Friday, 51,740 Republican voters had already cast their ballots. With 110,077 active voters in the party, that works out to about 47 percent turnout for GOP voters in the county.
No county has cast more ballots than Jefferson County. The latest figures show 159,319 ballots have already been returned.
There are still people left to vote, as Stapleton pointed out. Among them are Diane Russell, of Westminster.
Call it superstition, but Russell said she’s not a fan of mail-in ballots. She sees her day-of voting almost like a protest. She’s a big fan of the GOP ticket. Not much of a fan of Polis though, whom she called “Bernie Polis,” using a nickname Stapleton’s running mate Lang Sias used earlier.
“I do feel, however, that if people who haven’t voted yet, take a step back and take a pragmatic, reasonable approach to the two candidates, comparing Walker and Bernie, you have to be able to see that Walker is the more pragmatic choice for the governorship for the state of Colorado,” Russell said.
Stapleton doesn’t have concerns about President Trump’s endorsement.
Last week, President Trump tweeted another endorsement of Stapleton. It was the second time he shared his enthusiasm for Stapleton, whose campaign this summer said had reached out to the president for a campaign stop.
Yet the endorsement came on the heels of Trump releasing a racist political ad linking a convicted cop killer and undocumented immigrant with the caravan of Central American migrants.
“I think if people do research, a race for governor is a strong chief executive who’s going to work with the federal government on policies that make life better for Coloradans and is going to push back against misguided policies,” Stapleton said. “That’s what I’ve done.”
The same poll suggesting Stapleton is a longshot next week showed Trump is not popular in Colorado. He said he’s not worried about being connected with some of Trump’s rhetoric.
“I believe the president’s economic policies have benefited Colorado, by and large,” Stapleton said, adding, “I will continue to support the president’s policies when I think they’re beneficial to Colorado.”