Colorado 2018 primaries: A Denver7 guide to what voters need to know

Primaries are June 26; ballots mailed this week

UPDATE (June 26, 5 p.m.): Our primary election live blog is up and running, and we’ll have updates throughout the night. Polls close at 7 p.m., and you can find live election results starting then by clicking here.

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DENVER – Colorado's primaries are being held on Tuesday, June 26 and it's the first time the state's 1.2 million active unaffiliated voters will be able to participate.

There are contested primaries in several of the statewide races, including the gubernatorial race, the State Treasurer’s Office race and the Democratic side of the attorney general race. Voters will also decide whether any primary challengers should unseat current members of Congress and some in certain state House and Senate districts will also see primaries for those races. Find your polling or drop-off location here.

The primaries will be the last step before the midterm election ballots are finalized for November. Here’s what you need to know:

Unaffiliated voters can participate for first time – with caveats

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the 2018 primaries is the effect unaffiliated voters will have on the final tallies. Unaffiliated voters make up the largest share of Colorado voters, with about 1.2 million who were active as of June 1 and an additional 242,000 who were inactive.

And though unaffiliated voters can participate and will receive both Republican and Democratic ballots if they haven’t already specified one, they will only be able to vote on one of the major-party ballots. Voting on both will nullify all of the votes from that person.

The deadline for unaffiliated voters to request a specific ballot has already passed, so if you get two ballots in the mail this week, be sure you only vote on one!

Which ballot those voters choose will also be public record and could affect how campaigns choose to go about trying to win over certain unaffiliated voters in the future. After the deadline to pick a ballot passed, 43,234 unaffiliated voters had picked ballots, of which 24,335 (56.2%) picked Democratic ballots and 16,275 (37.6%) picked Republican ballots.

Four Dems, four Republicans vying for party’s gubernatorial nomination

There will be four Democrats and four Republicans that voters can pick for their party’s nomination for the governor’s office, which is being vacated in January because Gov. John Hickenlooper is term-limited.

Read Denver7's candidate guide, with profiles of each, by clicking here.

The Democrats are:

The Republicans are:

The race has already seen record-breaking numbers involving fundraising and spending. The candidates have so far raised a total of $24 million – some from their own pockets – in the race and have spent $20.6 million as of June 6.

The candidates have started attacking one another in recent weeks as the primary nears and as voting begins. There haven’t been any statewide polls released publicly in recent weeks, but insiders say the races have tightened among both parties. Expect the ads to continue pouring in in the days ahead of June 26.

Denver7, Denver Post hosted gubernatorial debates June 18, 19

Colorado’s eight gubernatorial candidates got what was likely their final chances to convince primary voters they are the right candidate when Denver7 and The Denver Post moderated debates between the candidates on June 18 and 19, which were hosted by the University of Denver.

The debates were moderated by Denver7’s Anne Trujillo and The Denver Post’s John Frank. All eight candidates attended.

Click here to read a recap and watch the full Democratic debate, or watch the full video embedded below.

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Click here to read a recap and watch the full Republican debate, or watch the full video embedded below.

Find more information on the debates here.

Two Dems, three Republicans vying for nominations in State Treasurer race

Aside from the gubernatorial race, the race to be the next State Treasurer is the only other statewide race that will have contested primaries from both parties. Current State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, who is running for governor, is term-limited this year. The new treasurer will be in charge of the state’s funds, will have a seat on the PERA board and will be the top policymaker when it comes to how the state spends and invests its money.

The Democrats are:

  • Dave Young, the state representative from Greeley who has sat on the Joint Budget Committee
  • Bernard Douthit, the small business owner who labels himself an outsider candidate

The Republicans are:

  • Justin Everett, the state representative from Littleton who received the most votes at the state assembly
  • Polly Lawrence, the state representative from Douglas County who wants to move to a multi-year budget
  • Brian Watson, the businessman who previously served as the finance chair of the Colorado GOP

Colorado’s last two treasurers, Walker Stapleton and Cary Kennedy, are now running for governor this year.

Two Democrats vying for nomination in Attorney General’s race

While 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler is the lone candidate on the Republican side of the race, there are two high-profile Democrats vying for their party’s nomination.

The first is Joseph Salazar, a state representative from Thornton who has criticized current Attorney General Cynthia Coffman over what he says is a too-cozy relationship with various industries, but specifically the oil and gas industry. He is also a former lawyer for Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies.

The other candidate is Phil Weiser, a former dean at the University of Colorado’s law school and current professor there who also worked at the Justice Department and White House under President Barack Obama.

Primaries in six of Colorado’s seven Congressional districts

Every Congressional district except for the 7th will have a primary involving at least one of the parties. Rep. Diana DeGette (D) is being challenged by Saira Rao in the 1st; Joe Neguse and Mark Williams are squaring off in the Democratic primary in the 2nd, a seat which Jared Polis will be vacating; there are three Democrats vying for the party nomination in the 3rd, which is held by Republican Scott Tipton and two Democrats are trying to earn the nomination to challenge Ken Buck in the 4th.

But the primaries expected to get the most attention will be the Democratic primary in the 6th district, where Jason Crow and Levi Tillemann are vying for the nomination to battle Rep. Mike Coffman, and the 5th district, where incumbent Doug Lamborn faces a challenge from four other Republicans, including state Sen. Owen Hill and El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, who lost to Sen. Michael Bennet in the 2016 Senate race. That primary has been heated for months, as Lamborn's challengers tried to get him removed from the ballot after questioning the validity of some of his campaign's petition signatures, though he was eventually placed on the ballot after several court battles.

Need more information?

If you have any more questions about what to expect for this year’s primary, the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office has a web page devoted to election information. You can register to vote there; find your sample ballot if you haven’t received it yet in the mail; and find more information about the candidates.

Find your polling or drop-off location here.

Voters are encouraged to mail their ballots back before June 20 to ensure they make it back to their respective county clerks’ offices in time for the June 26 primary. Voters who wish not to vote by mail can also vote in-person on the day of the primary.

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