GOP Candidate for Colorado Governor Picks Ex-Democrat as Running Mate

Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton announced Lang Sias as his running mate Wednesday.
by | July 17, 2018 AT 10:00 AM

By Anna Staver

Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton announced Lang Sias as his running mate Wednesday.

Sias, 59, is a former U.S. Navy pilot and currently represents House District 27, which covers Arvada.

Stapleton's Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, picked cancer foundation executive and former state lawmaker Dianne Primavera as his running mate earlier this month -- solidifying himself with the left wing of his party.

Sias is a more moderate pick for Stapleton, who ran to the right in the primary by embracing President Donald Trump's policies on immigration and "sanctuary cities."

The Arvada Republican co-sponsored bipartisan legislation in 2018 to examine Colorado's health care costs, and he was part of the last-minute compromise bill to reform Colorado's Public Employees Retirement Association.

Stapleton cited their work together on PERA as one of the reasons he chose Sias as his running mate.

Although Sias has spent four years in the Colorado House, he did lose two bids to join the state Senate. In 2014, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners called Sias a liberal Republican who was weak on gun rights.

Sias was a registered Democrat until the early 2000s.

"I thought, probably foolishly, that the Democratic Party had room for people with the views of, say, a John Kennedy, which I found out was, frankly, not the case," Sias said.

But Stapleton and Sias say they don't expect problems pulling support from the right wing of the party. During the primary, Stapleton earned the endorsement of conservative firebrand Tom Tancredo, a former congressman and three-time gubernatorial candidate.

The selection suggests the Republican ticket will attempt to win over political centrists in a state that's been trending blue of late, but where a plurality of voters doesn't identify with either party. The pick appears tailor-made to push back against frequent Democratic attacks tying Stapleton to Trump, who remains popular among Colorado Republicans, but sports dismal approval ratings among the rest of the electorate.

Colorado hasn't elected a Republican governor since 2002, and Trump lost the state to Hillary Clinton by a wide margin in 2016.

Stapleton has won statewide office twice in Colorado, but the political climate was different in 2010 and 2014.

"I hope to always be an underdog," Stapleton said. "And I hope to be the beneficiary of low expectations throughout my life in elected office."

Democrats, meanwhile, have taken the opposite approach, nominating a candidate in Polis, who is well to the left of the current Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, a political moderate. Polis has endorsed an assault weapons ban, a universal health care program similar to Medicare, and converting the state to 100 percent clean energy by 2040.

"I know Walker is the executive Colorado needs because he will move our state forward and save us from Jared Polis' disastrous economic policies," Sias said in a statement.

Polis earlier this month selected Primavera, the CEO of Susan G. Komen Colorado, as his running mate. Primavera, 68, is a four-time cancer survivor who served eight years in the state House, representing a suburban Denver district.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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