Walker Stapleton’s profile soared as he spent the final eight years sounding the alarm over the long-term solvency of Colorado’s public staff pension plan.
The state treasurer additionally traveled Colorado prominently in 2013 to warn voters off a proposed revenue tax hike for schooling. Three years later, he educated his cross hairs on a poll proposal that might usher in “ColoradoCare,” a $36 billion single-payer well being care system. Each occasions, voters overwhelmingly heeded the calls.
Now, in his run for governor, the two-term Republican has pitched his marketing campaign as a collection of warnings concerning the subsequent huge threats to the state’s price range and financial system.
For Stapleton, the extreme focus on fiscal perils — this time as a method of attacking Democrat Jared Polis’ plans for common well being care, state-backed preschool, enlargement of renewable power and different guarantees — is rooted in a world view closely influenced by his time in enterprise. Although he comes from a political household with two storied branches, the Stapletons and the Bushes, the 44-year-old reduce his tooth in Silicon Valley through the dot-com growth, earned a Harvard MBA after which obtained into actual property, ultimately taking the reins of a family-controlled enterprise.
“We believe we can solve all of these challenges in Colorado, but the government will not solve these challenges for us,” he advised nodding volunteers who gathered in a supporter’s kitchen nook on a current Saturday morning in Superior. They have been getting ready to knock on doorways, and he thanked them for carrying “what I think is a really important message of economic opportunity — and how we keep that opportunity going in the state of Colorado.”
The fiscal-first marketing campaign strategy hearkens again to Colorado’s final Republican governor, Invoice Owens, who served from 1999 to 2007.
However Stapleton faces a very of-the-moment query in 2018: Will the concentrate on budgets encourage Colorado’s swing voters in a state that’s been trending blue, particularly in an more and more fractured political age dominated by Donald Trump?
Although he enthusiastically embraced some Trump insurance policies forward of the June main, Stapleton’s general-election focus has been on the fiscal message that labored properly for him up to now. He started railing towards short-sighted selections surrounding the PERA pension fund throughout his 2010 marketing campaign, unseating Democrat Cary Kennedy. He stored it up via this spring’s passage of a bipartisan invoice to shore up the system.
Alongside the best way, he acquired credit score for elevating the difficulty’s profile, whereas dealing with grumblings that his public stands didn’t all the time advance the talk about options.
Jon Murray, The Denver Publish
Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton poses for a photograph with a supporter at the Colorado Federation of Republican Ladies fall conference on Sept. 29, 2018, in Westminster.
Household issues on the path
On the marketing campaign path, one factor turns into obvious about Stapleton proper off the bat: He’s a household man.
In stump speeches, the Greenwood Village resident typically names three different individuals earlier than digging into Polis: His youngsters, Four-year-old Olivia, 7-year-old CoCo and 10-year-old Craigie. He has loads of dad jokes, and he’s getting higher at touchdown the punchlines.
One story he’s informed repeatedly in current weeks has Craigie, who’s named after Stapleton’s father, Craig, complaining that he isn’t getting paid for serving to the marketing campaign.
At a current assembly of Republican ladies candidates and activists in Westminster, Stapleton then pivoted to his proud-father quip: “I realized that my wife, with an assist from me, has raised this kid as a capitalist.”
The road drew loads of laughs and hinted at a lighter-hearted Stapleton than individuals often see on the marketing campaign path. His depth typically ramps up when he speaks into a microphone, with his assaults on Polis typically delivered so forcefully that the tone overshadows his message. Throughout current debates, his nerves have been seen every now and then.
In dialog, although, a self-deprecating affability involves the fore.
“If he could meet one-on-one with every person in the state, he definitely would win by a landslide,” stated his spouse, Jenna, in an interview.
She stated she knew Walker had a style for politics when she married him 12 years in the past. She moved to Colorado from New York Metropolis, the place they’d met and begun courting lengthy distance.
Marketing campaign talking might not all the time come naturally for Stapleton, nevertheless it’s indeniable that politics runs in his blood.
He grew up in prosperous Greenwich, Conn., and Stapleton’s mom, born Dorothy Bush Walker, is a cousin of former President George H.W. Bush. Stapleton says one among his biggest reminiscences is fishing one-on-one with him in 1980, when he was 6, simply after Ronald Reagan had tapped Bush as his vice presidential running mate.
When George W. Bush turned president in 2001, he appointed Craig Stapleton as ambassador to the Czech Republic after which, throughout his second time period, to France.
Oh his father’s aspect, Walker Stapleton is the grandson and great-grandson of a pair of Benjamin F. Stapletons who have been outstanding Colorado Democrats. The youthful one was a social gathering chairman who suggested former Sen. Gary Hart, amongst others. Earlier, Benjamin Stapleton Sr. served 5 phrases as Denver mayor — and initially was a outstanding member of the Ku Klux Klan, although the KKK expelled him after metropolis vice crackdowns focused Klansmen. He died 24 years earlier than Walker Stapleton was born.
“The history of my family in Colorado is really a history of the Democratic Party in the state of Colorado,” Stapleton stated in an interview — however his private political alignment adopted the Bush aspect.
David Zalubowski, The Related Press
Republican nominee for Colorado governor Walker Stapleton, proper, leads his running mate, Lang Sias, into a information convention in a army plane museum on July 11, 2018, in Denver.
Making the transfer from enterprise to politics
The capitalist punchline to Stapleton’s joke about Craigie underlines his enterprise profession previous to his foray into politics.
He received his begin at a Wall Road funding agency in New York Metropolis in his early 20s. Quickly he took off for the Bay Space in northern California, receiving inventory choices at a couple startups whereas the late 1990s web tech growth was underway. After incomes his enterprise diploma from Harvard, he switched to actual property and moved in 2003 to Denver, fulfilling a want to stay in Colorado from boyhood visits to his grandparents. He obtained a job buying strip malls for Lamar Corporations.
He additionally turned concerned with Sonoma West, a business property holding firm in northern California’s wine nation during which his household held a main stake, whereas investing in actual property elsewhere (together with as distant because the Czech Republic). He was named Sonoma West’s chairman, CEO and president in 2005.
“The business was having some problems of mismanagement,” he recalled. “It was too small of a company to be public. … So we reordered the board, changed it around, and I became more and more involved. And then we started a process, which was long, to go private.”
The corporate modifications continued previous the 2010 election.
His victory as a newcomer within the treasurer’s race, after profitable a aggressive main towards J.J. Ament after which the primary race towards Kennedy, the incumbent, got here after he confronted a flurry of TV advertisements highlighting a humiliation: his admitted drunken-driving arrest in 1999 in downtown San Francisco, when he was 24.
His Jeep Cherokee and a taxi cab collided in an intersection. The main query left unresolved by police paperwork was whether or not Stapleton — whom police described as “loud and belligerent” — dedicated a hit and run, as initially charged. He did not cease for two blocks, however he has insisted he was making an attempt to get away from visitors. Regardless, that cost was dismissed in his plea deal.
“I served my time in community service,” Stapleton says now. “It’s now 20 years old and I have moved on and learned from it.”
For the primary yr after the election, Stapleton spent a vital period of time moonlighting for Sonoma West as a well-paid advisor, ending up the corporate’s going-private transaction. That drew criticism from Democrats. Stapleton says he hasn’t carried out work for Sonoma West since late 2011.
His tenure as treasurer has given him a lot to be pleased with — and loads of grist for opponents. In some instances, these two currents concentrate on the identical issues.
The workplace is charged with investing state tax dollars. Stapleton confronted questions on potential conflicts of curiosity, given his holdings and investments. He stated he arrange a blind belief. However Democrats have renewed these considerations in 2018, largely as a result of Stapleton’s monetary disclosure varieties for years erroneously cited the incorrect entity because the blind belief.
The Denver Submit confirmed that he arrange the Walker R. Stapleton Blind Belief in early 2011 with an-out-of-state trustee who is a licensed public accountant. Stapleton’s marketing campaign says almost all of his holdings and investments, with a few minor exceptions, are contained inside the belief.
One other level of satisfaction and controversy is rooted within the workplace’s oversight of a raft of unclaimed property seeking its rightful house owners. An aggressive advertising technique underneath Stapleton has led to document claims for the Nice Colorado Payback program. However complaints additionally spiked because the treasurer’s employees struggled to maintain up.
Craig F. Walker, The Denver Submit
Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton poses with a silver bar valued at over $10,000, within the vault at the Unclaimed Property Division of the treasurer’s workplace in Denver on March 10, 2015.
Place offered perch for PERA advocacy
Whereas Stapleton claims credit score for strides made on reforming PERA, the troubled pension system, he has acknowledged that he introduced maybe an excessive amount of bombast to his early advocacy.
His election handed him a outstanding perch — and made him certainly one of 15 voting members on the PERA board.
The state legislature had authorised a reform package deal in 2010 that raised the retirement age for academics and state staff, minimize advantages and elevated taxpayer contributions. However Stapleton argued starting within the marketing campaign that the modifications didn’t go far sufficient in addressing PERA’s underfunded obligations.
He wasn’t the one one on PERA’s board with considerations, however he shortly set himself aside — most strikingly with a lawsuit he filed towards PERA and 14 board members throughout his first yr in workplace. He was looking for advantages knowledge for the highest 20 % of beneficiaries, stripped of figuring out info, and referred to as for transparency.
“If responsible board members had asked these questions at an Enron or a Countrywide or a Lehman Brothers, we would have gone a lot further in addressing the problems that occurred,” Stapleton stated at the time.
Although Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, backed him at one level, Stapleton misplaced the two-year courtroom battle, and it bred mistrust with academics’ unions and different PERA curiosity teams.
He now calls the lawsuit “probably the most uncomfortable decision I’ve made.” However he maintains it was the best name.
Stapleton’s repeated strain to decrease PERA’s assumed fee of return and make different modifications performed out largely outdoors board conferences, the place Stapleton typically stopped by briefly or was represented by a deputy.
Finally, Colorado legislators this yr handed a new reform measure that shores up PERA in vital methods. It didn’t go so far as Stapleton needed, although, and it hewed closer to a framework permitted by the PERA board final fall, with Stapleton dissenting.
Some present and former board members argue that Stapleton’s penchant for blistering public statements and information conferences extended the reform dialogue.
“In terms of, did Walker have a major impact on what happened and changes that were made? No,” stated Lynn E. Turner, who left the board this summer time after serving for 11 years. “To say he deserves credit for that is woefully misleading.”
However state Sen. Kevin Priola, a Republican concerned in crafting this yr’s invoice, gave Stapleton extra credit score.
“I definitely didn’t have the bully pulpit that Walker Stapleton did,” Priola stated. “He was one of the folks who tried to keep it out front and keep the focus alive — and not the folks who said, ‘There’s nothing to fix here.’ ”
Straightforward friendships throughout the aisle
On a private degree, Stapleton’s sincerity and one-on-one amiability has made it straightforward for him to type friendships with individuals throughout the political spectrum, says a shut good friend, John Hereford, founding father of Oak Leaf Power Companions in Denver.
Amongst them are Hickenlooper and now-Sen. Michael Bennet, additionally a Democrat. Hereford, a Republican, recollects the foursome’s “epic, epic matches” enjoying squash greater than a decade in the past, when Hickenlooper was the Denver mayor. Stapleton additionally has hung out taking in jazz performances with present Mayor Michael Hancock since each participated in a bipartisan fellowship program.
Sara Burnett, The Denver Submit
Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Gov. John Hickenlooper at a Wilco live performance throughout every man’s first time period in workplace.
Hickenlooper’s courtship of his spouse, Robin Pringle Hickenlooper, a company government and longtime pal of Jenna Stapleton, was aided by an early encounter at the Stapletons’ residence; later, the Stapleton daughters have been flower women within the wedding ceremony.
“We need more of that,” Hereford stated of the bipartisan bridge-building, “so that the politics don’t descend into some fractious argument over every issue.”
Stapleton is socially conservative on most points, as he emphasised throughout final spring’s hard-fought main. He acquired an help when immigration hardliner Tom Tancredo launched him at the GOP meeting.
And he took pains to underline factors of settlement with President Donald Trump, particularly on immigration and his tax-cut package deal. But he additionally stated that he’d push again on insurance policies he thought-about misguided or dangerous for Colorado — a distinction he’s performed up extra lately as he tries to attraction to a broader spectrum of voters.
That center place might put him in a clumsy spot with Republican die-hards who love the president. However regardless of — Trump tweeted a “complete and total” endorsement of Stapleton on Wednesday, one his marketing campaign embraced.
In the long run, it’s his concentrate on fiscal duty that Stapleton hopes could have large attraction.
“I think that if you’re running for governor, you need to explain to people how you’re going to pay for things,” he stated at the Republican ladies’s occasion. “Because if you don’t,” he added, “that leads to empty government promises.”