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A huge field of candidates is shaping up to run for governor in 2018

The next big election


Mike Merrifield can't say much.
  • Mike Merrifield can't say much.

November 2018 is a long way away — unless you're planning to run for governor of Colorado.

With Gov. John Hickenlooper term-limited, talk about who may run has hit newsstands statewide.

On the Republican side, rumored potential candidates include: State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, former Colorado State University athletic director Jack Graham, Colorado Republican Party Chair Steve House, Davita CEO Kent Thiry, Colorado Senate Assistant Majority Leader Ray Scott and Northstar Commercial Partners Founder Brian Watson.

For the Democrats, names of potential candidates include: Ken Salazar, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior, U.S. senator and Colorado attorney general; Cary Kennedy, former Colorado state treasurer; current U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter; State Rep. Joe Salazar; and State Sen. Michael Johnston.

Two guys from Colorado Springs also are rumored to be considering a run: State Sen. Michael Merrifield, a Democrat, and Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican.

Merrifield, a retired music teacher, previously served as Manitou Springs City Councilor from 1996 to 2000 and House District 18 state representative from 2002 to 2010. Williams, an attorney, previously served as El Paso County commissioner from 2003 to 2011 and county clerk and recorder from 2011 to 2015.

The Independent called both men's offices. In an interesting twist, Merrifield said he couldn't comment because the Secretary of State's Office (that's Williams' office) had told him that any further comment to media about a potential run could trigger the need for an official filing. Williams' own spokesperson, Lynn Bartels, said that as far as she knows, Williams is not running for governor.

"I don't think Wayne ever says 'no,'" she says. "He's smart about leaving things open, but he just says, 'I have filed [to run] for secretary of state.'"

Merrifield, on the other hand, may be seriously considering a run. JoyAnn Ruscha, his friend and a Bernie Sanders campaign vet, says she hopes Merrifield will run because she thinks that he is the rare trustworthy politician who is still in touch with the people. She says Merrifield has proven willing to fight — even with his own party — to get the change his constituents crave, but is also capable of forming unlikely alliances across the aisle.

Finally, Ruscha says, he'd be a strategic choice. While Merrifeld lacks the star power of Ken Salazar, he is well-known in Colorado Springs and nearby Pueblo, meaning he could take the primary if other candidates — who are Denver-centric — split the capital city's vote.

Besides, she says, "I think if a Democrat is going to continue to hold this seat, they have to be a Democrat who can appeal statewide."

Meanwhile, House says he's deciding whether to run for reelection as Republican party chair or run for governor. He says conservatives need to pick the right gubernatorial candidate if they hope to win in a state that's only elected one Republican governor (Bill Owens) since the 1970s. That means winning rural areas, and running a close race in urban areas; being "fairly moderate" on social issues, but bullish on the economy; and straddling a lot of lines, he says.

Aside from that, House says, a successful candidate will need money. Lots of it.

"That," he says, "will weed people out."

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