The Republican frontrunner in the gubernatorial race really cares about how much out-of-staters who own vacation homes in Colorado pay in property taxes.
In a recording obtained by Westword, Walker Stapleton tells a crowd at a campaign event in Grand Junction that he pitches out-of-state donors by telling them that property taxes on their vacation homes in Colorado would double or triple under a Democratic governor.
"I have traveled around this country, we've been doing events in California, Texas, Florida and in New York," Stapleton said. "And the reason we've been doing that is that people care a lot about this state. Texans have houses in Colorado Springs in the summer to escape the Texas heat. A lot of people in this country have ski houses in Breckenridge and other places that they cherish and love. And the point to make to your neighbors outside of Colorado is that, 'Hey, you know that house you love in Colorado? You know that vacation time you love spending in our state? Well, get ready for your property taxes to double or triple, because there is no way to pay for everything they are proposing without driving our income taxes through the roof.'"
Stapleton has raised $38,505 from donors in California, $37,000 from Texans, $52,525 from Floridians and $49,360 from New Yorkers, according to campaign finance records. His campaign has raised the most money from donors in those states than any other gubernatorial candidate in Colorado, in many cases by a wide margin. For example, Mike Johnston's campaign, the runner up for most donations received from Florida, raised just $5,360.30.
His campaign argues that he has a proven track record of battling tax increases for Coloradans, not just Texans and Californians.
"Walker led the fight to stop a $1 billion tax increase, Amendment 66, championed by every Democrat running for Governor," Stapleton campaign spokesman Michael Fortney wrote in an email. "He led the fight to stop single-payer health care which would have raised taxes $10 billion in Colorado, that every Democrat running for Governor now supports.
"Throughout his public service, Walker has fought to keep taxes low and businesses employing Coloradans," he continued. "If Democrats get their way, utility bills, property taxes and income taxes are going to go sky high, and that will impact every taxpayer in Colorado."
Colorado Democratic Party Communications Director Eric Walker says the comments paint Stapleton as an out-of-touch candidate focused on the interests of the wealthy.
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"Stapleton should be more concerned with the needs of hardworking Coloradans and less concerned with his out-of-state donors who complain about paying taxes on their second or third house," Walker says, adding a final jab: "Maybe he can get some of these out-of-state folks to illegally collect ballot signatures for him; he's no stranger to that."
The final point is a dig at Stapleton's signature-collecting mishap, in which he accused the firm that his campaign hired to collect enough signatures to make the primary ballot of committing fraud. Stapleton still went on to win 43 percent of the vote at the Republican state assembly on April 14, cementing him as the clear frontrunner for his party's nomination.
Speaking of wealthy Texans, Stapleton's comments have whiffs of the February 1992 George H.W. Bush supermarket fiasco, when the then-president didn't seem to have much of a clue about the basic workings of a grocery store, famously leading to a mocking headline in the New York Times the following day: "Bush Encounters the Supermarket, Amazed."
Bush's comments made him seem detached from the middle class, and he went on to lose his re-election bid that year to Bill Clinton. Stapleton's mother, Dorothy, is Bush's first cousin, and George W. headlined a fundraiser for Stapleton in February in Dallas.