Candidates are pouring millions of dollars into advertising in the run-up to the June 26 primaries, and this year is especially heated because the state's 1.2 million unaffiliated voters will be able to participate in the primaries for the first time. And while reports have dug into the dark money from super-PACs fueling the mammoth advertising campaigns behind major candidates like Mike Johnston, Cary Kennedy, Walker Stapleton and Doug Robinson, the most pressing question on our minds here at Westword is, "With all that money, can't they put together a decent ad?"
We realize that campaign ads are, for the most part, cheesy, cliché and horrible. But some candidates knock it out of the park with their bad ads. Here are some of the worst.
The 51-year-old Castle Rock resident is a New Jersey-born, California-raised, Harvard-educated businessman and CEO of hard-money real estate investor Lead Funding. Mitchell has poured more than $3 million of his own money into his bid for the Republican nomination for governor. His campaign has spent more than $1 million on television advertising so far.
Mitchell's campaign tagline, "outsider businessman for governor," is an obvious attempt to align himself with Trump voters, but it's misleading. Mitchell served as a state representative for Douglas and Teller counties from 2007 to 2009, and then in 2011, he started a political organization to campaign against statewide ballot initiative Prop 103 to raise taxes to fund education, which was ultimately voted down.
So what is Mitchell's vision of a perfect Colorado? End Obamacare by repealing the state health-care exchange. Punish so-called sanctuary cities. Fight tax increases for roads, and end the "bloated bureaucracy" of the Colorado Department of Transportation.
But let's get to the fun part.
The first nine seconds of his latest campaign video looks like one of those infomercials that you'd flip through after midnight for ambulance-chasing lawyers promising to offer big payouts for medical malpractice suits. Then it fades to a wide-eyed Mitchell who looks like he's struggling to read off of a teleprompter. And is that a purple or a blue shirt? (I am team purple.)
Of course, how can a Republican candidate not give in to the paranoia that somehow Colorado lawmakers are plotting to turn Colorado into the over-regulated liberal hellhole that is California? (Cue sinister piano music to really drive home the point.) Did I mention Mitchell was raised in California and earned his bachelor's degree in San Diego?
"What happens when you put career politicians in charge? Look at California!" Mitchell says, assuring that as the outsider businessman, he can keep those corrupt politicians at bay.
One perceptive YouTuber noted Mitchell's close resemblance to actor Ray Romano from the hit TV sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond.
But Vic may have a winning strategy. Apparently, YouTubers are so sick of seeing his campaign ads that they're willing to do anything to make it stop — even vote for him.
"If I vote for you, can you take off these god forsaken ads that show up every ad break for every single god damned video??" says one desperate YouTuber, who was seconded by another distressed user who called out, "Holly shit." You read that right. "Holly."
Stapleton is certainly the Republican favorite to win the gubernatorial nomination in June. Most delegates at the Republican state assembly voted to have Stapleton's name on the ballot after he got caught in a signature-gathering debacle that nearly sunk U.S. Representative Doug Lamborn's campaign.
He's been state treasurer since his election in 2010, which was his first foray into politics when he defeated the Democratic incumbent at the time, Cary Kennedy. At the time, Stapleton ran as the "outsider" candidate, proudly proclaiming he had never spent a day in government.
Here's a seven-year-old campaign ad of Stapleton running for state treasurer.
What the heck does a state treasurer do? Stapleton oversees the state's investments, manages unclaimed property and serves on the board of the public retirement system known as PERA. And as we all know, PERA is in deep shit for its risky investments, large payouts to Wall Street and unfunded benefits.
Seven years in government, and what does Stapleton tout as his greatest accomplishments? Check out his latest ad, which was released last week.
What are you talking about, Stapleton? How could you stop a tax increase when you were the treasurer?Government 101 refresher course, anyone? Yes, Stapleton spoke out against Amendment 66, which would have increased taxes to increase public school funding, back in 2013. After the ballot initiative failed, Stapleton said he would work with stakeholders and the governor to think of solutions to education funding. More than four years later, nothing has changed. And "defeated" is, yet again, overstating his role as state treasurer. Why didn't he bring up PERA, something he actually had a hand in shaping? Oh, right, it's a disaster!
Endorsing Trump's tax plan is in your top three achievements as state treasurer? The tax plan gives YUGE and permanent tax cuts to corporations because Republicans are obsessed with the notion of trickle-down economics. If that shit worked, we, the citizens of the wealthiest nation on earth, would be living it up. And those cuts to individual taxpayers? They're temporary, and only average out to about 2.2 percent savings.
Yet another wealthy businessman is in the race, this time on team blue. U.S. Representative Jared Polis is a serial entrepreneur who made millions during the dot-com bubble when he sold his electronic greeting card company. That was about twenty years ago. But Polis wasn't scared to dig up old tape and share his blast from the past. Look at that fresh-faced, idealistic twenty-something-year-old kid right at the start of the video.
You see Polis's face flash across the screen with a voiceover in the background. Then you realize it isn't the voice of Polis, but rather an unnamed baker. Yet, Polis's name persists on the screen. Same thing with the unnamed immigrant who graduated from the school Polis founded. Can someone throw their names up?
Polis ends his video with this tagline, "I'm running for governor to turn bold ideas into results. To take on the special interests and make it happen."
Make what happen, Polis? It seems like he ran out of ideas at the end, which wouldn't be the first time his message fell short on the campaign trail.
This campaign ad had so much potential. Coloradans can connect with Polis the dad during his morning routine with his elementary-age son. Polis cites the fear parents have of mass shootings when he says, "No parent should have to worry about the unthinkable happening at their school." But instead of hammering home what his plan would be if he were governor, he ends the video on a flat note by saying he has taken on the NRA "since day one."
Johnston is the gubernatorial candidate with the most super-PAC money fueling his campaign, and he is the candidate with the most out-of-state donations to his campaign. He went to Yale and Harvard, was a Colorado school principal, was tapped to be Barack Obama's campaign advisor in the run-up to the 2008 election and served in the state Senate from 2009 to 2014.
In his campaign ads, Johnston says he wants to preserve Colorado's open spaces, protect the environment, bridge the divide between the haves and have-nots, transform the state's public school system and protect immigrant rights.
On the surface, this ad feels inspiring. But take a closer look, and you'll notice one fatal flaw: Johnston's wardrobe. Seriously, he must own the same collared button-up shirt in every shade of the rainbow. That takes hard work, determination and, for a candidate who believes he's thrifty, a lot of window shopping for clearance sales.