After spending millions of dollars last year to make it easy for unaffiliated voters to help decide primary races in Colorado, DaVita Inc. President and CEO Kent Thiry, a Republican, announced Monday he won’t be running for governor next year but said he plans to support candidates and causes in upcoming elections.
“I have held onto the dream of running for office since I was 10 years old,” Thiry said in a statement. “That’s why it is with deeply mixed feelings that my wife, Denise, and I have decided now is not the right time for me to run for governor of Colorado. I remain passionately committed to advocating for bipartisan solutions to our challenges, as I would have done as governor.”
Thiry’s potential run in the GOP primary — and the tens of millions of dollars he might have spent on his campaign — threatened to swamp an already crowded field that includes prosecutor George Brauchler, entrepreneur and former state lawmaker Victor Mitchell and former investment banker and Mitt Romney’s nephew Doug Robinson.
Other potential candidates include State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and former CSU Athletic Director Jack Graham, who ran second in the U.S. Senate primary last year.
Even without Thiry in the race, next year’s gubernatorial election could set spending records. Mitchell loaned his campaign $3 million the day he launched it and told Colorado Politics he’s prepared to spend more to win the nomination, while Graham spent close to $2 million on his Senate run last year and is likewise prepared to fund a gubernatorial campaign if he decides to run, his campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, said last week. Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, an Internet entrepreneur multi-millionaire, for his part, is stepping down from Congress to run for governor and seeded his campaign with $250,000 last quarter with the potential to spend millions more.
The previously unaffiliated Thiry registered as a Republican on March 31, days before strategists with political consultants EIS Solutions began touting his potential as a centrist who can get things done.
It’s a theme Thiry stressed in his announcement Monday.
“Next November, there will be critical election choices all across this state. Denise and I will plan to eagerly support centrist candidates, common sense causes and other efforts that promote collaborative governance, and the ideal that principled compromise in the name of progress is vastly different from compromising your principles,” he said.
After thanking those who encouraged him to run, Thiry added, “We have more work to do together.”
Thirty spearheaded last year’s successful ballot measures Propositions 107 and 108, which establish a presidential primary in Colorado and create open primaries by allowing unaffiliated voters to cast ballots without having to register with a party, respectively.
EIS Solutions executive Kate Roberts, a Thiry political advisor, said the firm was confident Thiry could have made a run of it and predicted he’ll stay in the mix.
“Kent had a unique path in the race — social moderates, independents, fiscal conservatives and disaffected voters who are just tired of it all,” she said. “Those are still his voters, and Kent is still deeply committed to pursuing real change on their behalf. He loves DaVita and he loves the civic arena. Kent Thiry isn’t going anywhere.”
Thirty has cut a colorful and controversial path at the head of DaVita Inc., a giant kidney dialysis company based in Denver. HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” tore into DaVita’s business model and made fun of his swashbuckling leadership style.
Ryan Lynch, Brauchler’s campaign manager, told Colorado Politics that Thiry’s decision doesn’t change the dynamics of the primary.
“The results of yesterday’s Western Conservative Summit straw poll show us that the overwhelming grassroots support is already behind George Brauchler,” Lynch said.
Robinson applauded Thiry’s recent involvement in Colorado.