Representative Jared Polis's announcement via Reddit that he's running for governor of Colorado in 2018 turns the race into what is likely to become the craziest in state history, replete with big names, huge war chests and a major focus on marijuana.
As indicated by our series of in-depth interviews with previously announced gubernatorial hopefuls, the fight to replace term-limited Governor John Hickenlooper has attracted major players from both parties. Click each of the following names to read all about the candidacies of three high-profile Democrats — Congressman Ed Perlmutter, former state senator Mike Johnston and ex-Colorado treasurer Cary Kennedy — and two prominent Republicans: Aurora theater shooting prosecutor George Brauchler and businessman/nephew of Mitt Romney Doug Robinson.
Polis's official declaration comes today, June 12, via personal appearances in four cities: Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Denver and Boulder, his political stronghold in the 2nd Congressional District, which he serves. (See the complete list of events below.) But his use of Reddit indicates that he's also reaching out to voters via new technology — and the answers he provided in a session dubbed "IamA Jared Polis, Member of Congress, announcing my candidacy for CO Governor on Reddit! AMA!" suggest a willingness to be unvarnished and off-the-cuff.
For instance, Polis's response to the question "What are your thoughts on other states suing Colorado for legalized marijuana?" was "stoopid states" — a response that won't endear him to governors in Oklahoma and Nebraska should he become Colorado's chief executive.
Granted, Polis isn't the only gubernatorial candidate who's fighting for more enlightened marijuana policy; Perlmutter is a fellow member of Congress's Cannabis Caucus. But while Perlmutter acknowledges that he originally opposed Amendment 64, the 2012 measure that legalized limited recreational marijuana sales in Colorado, and has focused his advocacy on the relatively unsexy matter of banking for cannabis businesses, Polis has been among the most outspoken politicians in the country when it comes to every aspect of pot reform — and he's been talking about the topic since before it was cool.
As is clear from our initial profile of Polis ("Young Blood," published in August 2004), he has always eyed a shot at becoming the state's leader.
"I don't know what I'll be doing in the future," he told us back then. "I like to plan a reasonable amount of time ahead of things, but I'm not one of these conniving politicians who have their whole life laid out for the next twenty years. If there are opportunities, I'll examine them and decide if I want to do them. I can be happy in the private sector, the nonprofit sector or the public sector. Right now, I'm enjoying being in all three, and I'm sure I'll be doing exciting stuff in whichever one I'm in."
After a pause, Polis added, "I might be starting a company. I might be starting new nonprofit schools. Or" — he allowed himself the slightest glimmer of a smile — "I might be the governor of Colorado."
Winning the seat won't be easy. He could clearly be re-elected as often as he'd like in the liberal 2nd Congressional District, but many observers feel Polis is too left of center to be elected to statewide office in a purple place like Colorado. (He's also openly gay, which shouldn't be a factor but unfortunately could be in socially conservative pockets of the state.) Then again, he's also an Internet millionaire, with plenty of his own funds to spend — and you can bet his wallet will be open as the campaign moves forward.
At first blush, the person hurt most by Polis's entry is Johnston, who previously had the progressive label pretty much to himself. But in truth, the entire race has been reconfigured thanks to Polis's move — and if current Colorado treasurer Walker Stapleton, a Republican Bush family relative with a hefty bankroll, tosses his hat into the ring soon, as everyone expects, the contest will get even loonier.
If that's possible. Here's Polis's campaign announcement video, followed by his schedule of events for today.
Jared Polis events for June 12:
• 9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.: Press Availability
• 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.: Making Colorado Energy Independent
What: Jared will tour Solar Roast Coffee with owners and staff
Location: Solar Roast Coffee, 226 North Main Street, Pueblo, CO, 81003
• 12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.: Press Availability
• 12:30 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.: Creating an Inclusive State Economy That Works for Everyone
What: Jared will tour Save-A-Lot, an employee-owned grocery, and meet with employees
Location: Save-A-Lot Grocery Store, 3333 Academy Boulevard North, Colorado Springs, CO 80917
• 2:30 p.m.- 3:30 p.m.: Investing in Education Roundtable
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What: Jared will sit down with students, teachers, and education leaders including Angelika
Schroeder, Chairwoman of Colorado Board of Education
Location: Academy of Urban Learning Denver, 2417 West 29th Avenue, Denver, CO 80211
• 3:15 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.: B-Roll Opportunity and Press Availability (following roundtable discussion)
• 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.: Jared Polis for Colorado Kick Off Celebration
What: Jared will celebrate his announcement in Boulder with supporters
Location: Bohemian Biergarten, 2017 13th Street, Boulder, CO 80302