Get ready for a wild ride, Colorado

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By Greg Romberg

Just 52 weeks from now, we’ll decide who’ll succeed John Hickenlooper as Colorado’s governor. All indications are we’re in for a wild ride.
   At the end of October, 26 active candidates were listed as gubernatorial candidates on the Secretary of State’s website. And shortly after a poll suggested former Congressman Tom Tancredo would run best among Republican candidates, he jumped into the race as well.
Tancredo joins a crowded Republican field that includes Stephen Barlock, who headed the Trump presidential campaign in Colorado, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler, Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter, former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez, former state Rep. Victor Mitchell, businessman Doug Robinson, whose uncle is former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, who is related to former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
The winner of the GOP primary will face an opponent who emerges from a similarly crowded Democratic primary that includes businessman Noel Ginsberg, former state Sen. Mike Johnston, former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, Lt. Gov.Donna Lynne and congressman Jared Polis.
The personal wealth of several candidates and their willingness to invest it in their campaigns is a major theme to watch. Another similar issue is the use of soft money committees that aren’t subject to the same campaign disclosure and funding limits as candidate committees that heretofore haven’t been utilized in Colorado gubernatorial campaigns that’ve been established to support several candidates.
Traditionally, Republican candidates have been forced to appeal to a very conservative base in primary elections, and questions have been raised about whether that strategy is sound when the primary winner finds it difficult to attract more moderate independents in the general election. Bernie Sanders’ success in Colorado during last year’s presidential election suggests that Democrats may be susceptible to a similar phenomenon from the left.
And against that backdrop is the uncertainty that comes with the new primary law that voters approved last year that will allow any unaffiliated voter to participate in either party’s primary in 2018. It’s anyone’s guess who will participate in the primary elections, what will motivate unaffiliated voters and how their participation will affect the outcomes of both primaries.  
When all those factors are added to the large fields, it’s very possible that we’ll end up with nominees who are selected with relatively small pluralities in the primary that could leave most voters needing to vote for a candidate in the general election that they didn’t seriously consider during the primary.
It’s not too early to start sorting through the various candidates and choosing your favorites.  We’re in for a wild ride. Make sure you get on.

Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie.