Sometimes you just stumble onto important information. But the last place I ever expected to find scoop on Republican gubernatorial primary favorite Walker Stapleton was at my sister's wedding reception.
Last weekend, I had the honor of serving as a groomsman for my sister's nuptials in New York. At the cocktail hour shortly after the ceremony, I was approached by a middle-aged woman who, in a thick Russian accent, asked if I was (my sister) Paola's brother who lived in Colorado. After replying yes, I was subjected to an unsolicited lecture.
"Don't vote for Walker Stapleton," the woman, who said she went to Harvard Business School with Stapleton, told me. "I used to kind of like him, but now he's too much with Trump."
Another Russian woman approached the conversation. She knew Walker and said she liked him, though she was also wary of his primary turn toward Donald Trump.
"He's from Greenwich!" the woman declared.
Wait, what? Walker Stapleton is from my yuppie home town in coastal Connecticut?
Even more Russian women told me that they knew Stapleton from various points in their lives: one from Harvard, another from mutual friends in Greenwich, another from who-knows-where.
Want more details? So did I. At this point in the evening, I'd already had a couple of glasses of red wine, hoping to loosen myself up some for the task of emceeing the reception. Solidly buzzed and thoroughly confused, I told my girlfriend about the interactions (the direct quote might have been something like, "What the hell is going on?"), and I made mental notes.
What I was told by this group of Russian women was fascinating. Stapleton is a Greenwich native who went to the Brunswick School, an elite all-boys' private school in town. From there, he went on to Williams College in Massachusetts, where he was supposedly roommates with now-Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Murphy's made a big name for himself leading the gun debate in Congress, and he's been floated as a possible 2020 Democratic presidential nominee.
Attempts to confirm this with Stapleton and Murphy were not successful. However, Stapleton and Murphy both graduated from Williams in 1996, making the rest of my new Russian best friends' stories totally plausible.
And it reinforced something: The denim-wearing, Trump-loving Stapleton really isn't a Colorado native. He's from a wealthy Connecticut town.
Stapleton clearly doesn't want people to know about his Greenwich upbringing. A search of his website doesn't mention his home town, his high school or his birthplace. A fifteen-minute Google search to find out where Stapleton was born turned up nothing (feel free to give it a shot yourself). An email to find out Stapleton's birthplace hasn't been returned.
In case you haven't gathered this already, Greenwich is a notoriously wealthy suburb of New York City. In fact, one of my favorite things about living in Colorado is avoiding the "Hey, did you get here on a sailboat?" questions —- a regular dig from my college days back in Boston whenever I told anyone I was from Greenwich. Jon Stewart hilariously made fun of Greenwich's wealth in 2003.
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George H.W. Bush grew up there, and his son George W. (Stapleton's second cousin) was born up the road in New Haven. Maybe Stapleton is taking a page out of his kin's playbook: Though W.'s roots aren't as shrouded in mystery, he certainly campaigned for president as the good ol' Texan you could drink a beer with (O'Douls, in his case).
This isn't meant to be a dig at Stapleton. No one has any real control over where they grow up or go to high school. And to Stapleton's credit, he took full advantage of his privileged upbringing, moving on to Harvard Business School and the famed London School of Economics before launching a successful business and political career. Fellow GOP gubernatorial candidates Victor Mitchell, Greg Lopez and Doug Robinson, along with Democratic contender Donna Lynne, aren't Colorado natives, either, and all that should mean is that they can't put a certain stupid bumpersticker on their car. It certainly doesn't disqualify anyone from becoming the governor of Colorado — including Walker Stapleton.
But Stapleton's claim of being "a fourth-generation Coloradan" is, at best, misleading. Some of his family might be from here — there's even a neighborhood named after his great-grandfather — but he's just like me: a kid from one of America's richest towns.