DENVER (AP) — The winner of the Democratic primary is an early, though far from guaranteed, favorite to become Colorado’s next governor. Colorado’s last Republican governor was Bill Owens, who served from 1999 to 2007. Republicans hold four of the state’s seven congressional seats and one of its two Senate seats.
Gov. John Hickenlooper narrowly defeated former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez in his 2014 re-election bid by 4 percentage points.
Jared Polis, a five-term liberal congressman, won the Democratic primary Tuesday.
Treasurer Walker Stapleton won the Republican primary.
The November race will feature debate over Colorado’s rapid population growth and lack of investment in its infrastructure; the state’s chronically underfunded public education system; and ensuring Colorado’s rural eastern plains and western slope aren’t left behind in metropolitan Denver’s economic boom.
The candidates also will clash over competing visions for health care. Democrats want to extend coverage to include a public option; Republicans, emboldened by the federal repeal in the individual mandate that helps subsidize President Barack Obama’s health care law, will fight expansion, especially when it comes to Medicaid.
Nearly one in four Coloradans is on Medicaid.
Polis is a tech entrepreneur, former state board of education member and founder of English-language schools for immigrants. He has sparred with sormer state Treasurer Cary Kennedy over public education policy in the wake of teacher protests that gripped Colorado, Arizona and other states this spring.
All the Democrats said they want to change the tax-and-spending amendment to confront Colorado’s rapid population growth. All espoused universal health care, protecting public lands and promoting renewable energy.
Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams said his office invested $900,000 in educating unaffiliated voters about their opportunity to vote. Each received two ballots — one Democrat, one Republican — and, if they chose, could return just one of them by mail or at drop-off centers. Return both and they cancel out.
Kelly Kyle, a 40-year-old administrator for a food service company, slid her completed ballot into a downtown Denver drop box Tuesday. She felt the crowded field of Democrats in the governor’s race were similar and ultimately based her decision to vote for Kennedy on the endorsement of EMILY’s List, a political group that backs female Democratic candidates.
Kyle said she will support whoever wins the Democratic primary in November, but she wants to see “more progressive, pro-choice women” elected around the country.
“I definitely think it’s advantageous to have more women in these positions to bring a different perspective,” she said.
In suburban Denver’s 6th Congressional District, two Democrats battled for the chance to unseat five-term Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman. Jason Crow, a former Army Ranger, was the party favorite. Levi Tillemann, a former adviser to the U.S. Energy Department during the Obama administration, tried to court anti-establishment forces on the left.
In El Paso County’s 5th Congressional District, incumbent U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn faced a Republican primary challenge from state Sen. Owen Hill and Darryl Glenn, a county commissioner. The conservative district has elected Lamborn to six consecutive terms.
Associated Press writers Brian Eason and Kathleen Foody contributed to this report.
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