Republican George Brauchler won the Western Conservative Summit’s straw poll for next year’s gubernatorial election in Colorado with nearly twice the vote of his nearest competitor, organizers announced Sunday.
Brauchler, the 18th Judicial District attorney, led the vote with 39 percent of the vote in the highly unscientific poll. Entrepreneur and former state lawmaker Victor Mitchell came in second with 20 percent, followed by early Trump supporter Steve Barlock with 7 percent, Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton with 6 percent and former investment banker and Mitt Romney nephew Doug Robinson with 5 percent, organizers said.
All the top finishers were Republicans. The lengthy straw poll ballot listed 29 candidates — 18 Republicans, seven Democrats and one third-party candidate — who have declared or been mentioned as potential candidates to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper after next year’s election.
All of the top finishers spoke at the confab except Stapleton, who isn’t yet a declared candidate for governor. Brauchler, Mitchell, Barlock and Robinson participated in question-and-answer sessions moderated by Colorado Politics reporter Joey Bunch on the Summit’s main stage throughout the weekend. Brauchler also addressed the gathering on Saturday night just prior to an address by headliner Jay Sekulow, Donald Trump’s attorney.
Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute sponsors the Summit, which is in its eighth year and drew roughly 3,500 people from 40 states, organizers said.
The straw poll was conducted by Littleton-based Approval Voting USA, an organization that promotes the use of approval voting, a method that allows voters to indicate support for multiple candidates. Summit attendees were invited to cast ballots using both methods at a booth in the massive exhibition hall at the Colorado Convention Center, where the Summit was held over three days.
Using the approval-voting method, Brauchler won by an even larger margin, with 58 percent of the vote. Mitchell came in second with 28 percent, followed by Stapleton with 22 percent, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman with 21 percent and state Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, with 17 percent. (Because voters could make more than one choice, the percentages add up to more than 100.)
“George Brauchler is the clear conservative choice for governor of Colorado,” his campaign manager, Ryan Lynch, told Colorado Politics after his win was announced. “The results of the WCS straw poll show that the enthusiasm for his candidacy is continuing to grow.”
The Summit, billed as the largest gathering of conservatives outside Washington, D.C., has featured straw polls for president and vice president in past years.
Last year, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich led the pack in a poll that asked attendees who Republican Donald Trump should pick as a running mate. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton came in second, followed by former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. (Trump’s eventual selection, then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, wasn’t among the 16 candidates listed on the straw poll ballot.)
Carson posted back-to-back wins in the presidential preference straw polls in 2014 and 2015, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won in 2013. Summit attendees picked Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as their preference for the Republican vice presidential nomination in 2012. Summit organizers inaugurated the straw poll the year before that, when restauranteur Herman Cain scored a surprise win months before briefly leading the pack as the GOP’s frontrunner for the 2012 presidential nomination.