DENVER – Nearly 38,000 Coloradans had already voted in the primaries before the weekend, and a new poll out Monday of the Republican gubernatorial candidates shows that Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton has a sizable—though not unbeatable—lead heading into the final two weeks of voting.
Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ first announcement of the number of ballots returned so far included the number sent in before the weekend. A total of 37,661 ballots had been mailed back, of which 42.4 percent were Republican ballots, 39.1 percent were Republican ballots, and 18.4 percent came from unaffiliated voters, who are casting ballots in Colorado’s primaries for the first time this year.
As of June 1, there were 3.28 million active registered voters in Colorado. Turnout in the last two primaries, which did not include unaffiliated voters, did not top 22 percent statewide. In 2012, turnout was slightly higher at 23.8 percent, but turnout that year paled in comparison to the 2010 primaries in which Gov. John Hickenlooper first won the Democratic nomination, in which turnout was 32.3 percent.
To reach a 22 percent turnout rate this year, around 721,000 voters will have to cast ballots.
But two new polls out from Broomfield-based Magellan Strategies—one released last week that asked about the Democratic gubernatorial candidates and one released Monday that asked about the Republican gubernatorial candidates—show that many voters are still undecided ahead of the June 26 primary.
The poll of likely Republican voters released Monday shows that Stapleton (36 percent) has a 13-point lead over self-funding businessman Victor Mitchell (23 percent). Former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez garnered 10 percent support in the poll, while Doug Robinson brought home 4 percent support among those polled. Lopez also narrowly won the straw poll at the weekend's Western Conservative Summit.
But if the poll were the actual primary, “undecided” would take second place. A full 27 percent of the 593 people polled between June 6 and 7 said they weren’t sure for whom they’d vote in the primary.
That rang especially true for the women polled (31 percent) and people who identified as moderates (34 percent). And though younger voters in the 18-34 make up the smallest share of primary voters historically in Colorado, 57 percent of that age group said it was undecided, as did 51 percent of people in the 35-44 age group.
According to the poll, the older a voter, the more likely they are to support Stapleton. Forty-seven percent of those aged 65+ said they’d back the treasurer for governor. But Mitchell narrowly won the 45-54 age group over Stapleton (25-24%) and was close behind (32-39%) in the 55-64 age group.
Mitchell launched a series of ads focused on attacking Stapleton last week, apparently seeing the wide lead Stapleton had in another poll Magellan did earlier this year shrinking. And Stapleton sent out mailers this week attacking Mitchell, according to a mailer obtained by Colorado campaign watchdog Sandra Fish.
The margin of error in the poll released by Magellan’s David Flaherty Monday was +/-4.03 percent.
"This contest is far from over, with Victor Mitchell finally being able to build some momentum after spending more than a million dollars introducing himself to voters," Flaherty said in his analysis. "A major factor that will decide this race is if Victor Mitchell's attack ads are effective moving voters away from Walker Stapleton. The truth is, nobody knows the answer to that question just yet."
The poll of Democrats released last week showed Jared Polis leading Cary Kennedy 31 to 18 percent. Mike Johnston took home 9 percent in the poll, while Donna Lynne brought in 3 percent. But the Democratic primary voters seem to be just as unsure about their pool of candidates, as 39 percent of those polled said they were still undecided.
Ballots were mailed out statewide last week to voters, who can now mail them back, drop them off at 24-hour locations, or disregard them and vote at a polling place on June 26.
All eight gubernatorial candidates will get the chance to show voters for the final time that they are the candidate to pick at debates hosted by Denver7 and The Denver Post at the University of Denver on June 18 and 19.
The Democrats will debate each other on June 18 and Republicans will do it again the next day. The debates are likely to be the final ones before the June 26 primary. You can find out more information about the debates by clicking here.
If you have more questions about the upcoming primary, Denver7 has also put together a primary guide for voters hoping to learn more about the process and the candidates.