The election for Colorado treasurer is just under two years away and already a crowded field of Republicans is expressing interest in the position.
At least four candidates have told ColoradoPolitics.com they are considering a run, and others are being encouraged to run.
Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a Republican, is term-limited in two years, so the Colorado GOP is angling to keep the seat in Republican control.
The treasurer’s race often flies under the radar in Colorado politics, with many observers suggesting that the position offers a stepping stone to higher office. Stapleton is a prime example. He is considering a run for governor in 2018 though he has not yet made a formal announcement.
High-profile Republican names considering a run for treasurer in 2018 include state Rep. Justin Everett of Littleton and state Sen. Owen Hill of Colorado Springs.
“I have never made it a secret that the treasurer role is an important spot to defend the taxpayer against the financial foolishness of our government,” Hill said. “Walker Stapleton has done a great job and I am certainly considering whether that would be the best job for me to keep fighting for my constituents.”
Everett said, “I’ve thought about running for treasurer, bringing something to the table, fiscal conservatism and really someone who wants to be an active chief financial officer for the state.”
Rich Sokol, the owner of Personicare, a business that provides medical care for accident victims without health insurance and an active member of the Republican Party, said he is leaning in the direction of running.
“I really want to serve, and I’m very concerned about where we’re headed as a state and the fiscal issues that we’re going to face,” said Sokol, who has a background in finance, having worked on Wall Street and for investment companies.
The next state treasurer will inherit fiscal woes that date back to the economic downturn, despite the state’s booming economy. Stapleton has made reform of the state’s retirement pension fund a priority, and the next treasurer will likely pick up where Stapleton leaves off.
The Public Employees’ Retirement Association faces about $30 billion in unfunded liabilities and saw only a 1.5 percent return on retirement investments last year. The treasurer sits on the PERA board as an ex officio member.
Also considering a run for treasurer is former 2nd Congressional District candidate Nic Morse, who ran unsuccessfully this year against incumbent Democrat Jared Polis. Morse only garnered 37 percent of the vote in the left-leaning district.
“Our state faces serious financial problems that require forward-leaning and unique solutions to the liabilities we currently hold, such as PERA,” Morse said in a statement. “I hope to present some of these ideas into the public sphere in an effort to help lead the conversation about a solid path forward for Colorado.”
Former 2nd Congressional District candidate George Leing, who ran unsuccessfully against Polis in 2014, earning 43 percent of the vote, said that he has been encouraged to run by GOP members who were impressed by his congressional campaign.
“I haven’t really gotten to that point,” Leing said. “It’s something that some people have mentioned to me. I’m flattered that anyone would think of me because it’s a very important role. It’s something I might think about down the road, but I don’t think we’re at that point yet.”
Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn, who is well-known in Colorado Republican circles, is another name coming up as a possible candidate. But Horn says she hasn’t given a run much thought.
“I am flattered that my name has been mentioned favorably in political circles,” Horn said. “For now, I’m 100 percent focused on doing the best possible job for the citizens of Routt County as their treasurer.”
Brian Watson, the founder and chief executive of Northstar Commercial Partners, a commercial real estate investment firm, is another name being mentioned by Republicans as a possible candidate for treasurer. Watson was unavailable to comment for this story.
Jefferson County Treasurer Tim Kauffman also has been floated as a possible candidate, but Kauffman said he is not currently considering the opportunity.