WHO HAD THE BEST YEAR?
From little-known second banana to Gov. John Hickenlooper after she was appointed last year to the Democrats’ fresh-faced moderate for the next election, the former health care executive is stumping for governor with a potent primary message about universal care.
Rep. Leslie Herod
In January she was a freshman legislator on the back bench of the Capitol. But by the time the session ended, she had sent a dozen bills to the governor’s desk with bipartisan support. The Democrat from Denver was featured in Elle magazine, she’s the state’s first openly lesbian black lawmaker, and now she’s leading a national effort to engage black women in politics.
Until violence broke out in Charlottesville, Va., Tancredo was a former Colorado congressman who twice lost in races for governor. Fired up over the ensuing snub of an alt-right gathering in Colorado Springs, where he was to appear, Tancredo jumped in again, this time riding the Steve Bannon momentum into 2018. Depending on how many candidates make it to the primary, Tancredo’s solid base of pro-Trump supporters could put him in his third general election for governor.
Sen. Owen Hill and Rep. Brittany Pettersen
The chairs of the House and Senate education committees, him a conservative Republican from Colorado Springs, she a liberal Democrat from Lakewood — led a breakthrough effort to fund charter schools like any other public campus. Pettersen looked strong in her run for Congress, until she was forced out when incumbent Ed Perlmutter decided to seek re-election. Hill could see his high-profile schoolwork lift him over incumbent U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn in the GOP primary next June.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers
He’s become the wizard of GOP politics, a conservative who can pass taxes for roads and drainage in the most unlikely of places, Colorado Springs. Suthers is the elder statesman of Colorado Republicans as the former state attorney general, and last May he was considered by President Trump to become the FBI director to replace James Comey. Suthers apparently could announce he’s Hillary Clinton’s BFF and most Colorado Republicans would still think his aces. Not likely, but who thought the Springs would grow to embrace new taxes?
WHO HAD THE WORST YEAR?
Rep. Steve Lebsock
Four legislators enter the next session with sexual harassment allegations smudging their reputations, but Lebsock has it the worst. The Democrat from Thornton is being ostracized by his own party, whose top members have urged him to resign. All the while, Lebsock is trying to keep pace in a crowded field to become state treasurer.
Gov. John Hickenlooper
Wasn’t he supposed to be in Washington, or trying to get there, by now? The governor seemed like a shoo-in for a Cabinet appointment, if Hillary Clinton won the presidency, but that went nowhere. He teased a bipartisan courtship with Ohio Gov. John Kasich over healthcare this year, but that went nowhere. He called a special session in October that, well, went nowhere.
Rep. Dave Williams
While everything went right for Leslie Herod, another freshman lawmaker was having no luck at all. House Democrats crushed his two sanctuary city bills as unconstitutional. He tried to get in the House Latino Caucus because his mother is Hispanic, but the Democrats blocked him. In the fall he exposed what he thought was a plan by Democrats to kneel during the national anthem at the opening of the special session, only to find out the anthem isn’t played to open a session.
U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter
Once everybody’s friend in the Democratic Party, Perlmutter’s profile isn’t quite so shiny after 2017. He got in the governor’s race last spring, a presumed frontrunner, only to drop out a few weeks later saying he didn’t have the political fire in his belly. Meanwhile, a passel of well-liked legislators launched campaigns to replace him. Then Perlmutter rediscovered his missing fire and blew up their campaigns by getting back in the race for Congress.
Attorney General Cynthia Coffman
Her divorce from U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman aside, the attorney general was expected to be a front-runner for governor in 2018. She wasted months of fundraising opportunities, however, and didn’t announce for the governor’s race until November. She hasn’t yet articulated a platform, including where she stands on abortion, a major fumble in the eyes of her conservative base. Coffman allied herself with the state’s LGBTQ community in 2017, including siding with state anti-discrimination laws in the Masterpiece Cake Shop case before the U.S. Supreme Court. She could have sought a second term as attorney general.