Republican Walker Stapleton acknowledges that many in the political world believe he is positioning himself for a political future beyond that of the treasurer’s office. But the outspoken state treasurer says his only true intent currently is to seek re-election for another four years managing the state’s finances.
“I’m focused on doing my job right now, and I enjoy dealing with economic fiscal issues, and if I didn’t enjoy my job, I wouldn’t be running for re-election,” explained Stapleton.
“If I can win re-election, if the people will have me continue to serve, then at some point in the future I’ll pick up that discussion with my wife and figure out if I want to continue to serve Colorado, but I’m concerned with running the best race I can for re-election now,” he added.
Stapleton shrugs off the notion that the treasurer’s office serves as a stepping-stone for him to leap into higher office.
“I wouldn’t have run for the job in the first place if I didn’t want it,” he said. “I think the notion of politicians running for jobs as a stepping stone is ridiculous.
“Far too few people actually put their heads down and do the jobs that they were elected to do, and I hope I’m sending a message to people that I’m the type of person who puts his head down and does the job that he or she was elected to do for the people of Colorado and continues to do that job,” Stapleton added.
Republicans have hailed the job Stapleton has done for his conservative approach to spending, but it has put him at odds with the state employees’ union and those who manage retirement benefits in the state.
He raised eyebrows by filing a lawsuit seeking to open the books of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association fund, and he has repeatedly fought to lower the projected rate of return on investments. He has also advocated for lowering cost-of-living raises and increasing the retirement age.
Most recently, Stapleton became one of the leading Republican voices to oppose a ballot initiative last year that would have raised taxes by nearly $1 billion for K-12 education.
At 39 years old, Stapleton has a long line of public service running through his veins. He and former President George W. Bush share the same great-grandfather, George Herbert Walker. And his paternal great-grandfather is former Denver Mayor Benjamin Stapleton, who served from 1923-1931 and then from 1935-1947. Craig Roberts Stapleton, the candidate’s father, is a former United States ambassador to France and the Czech Republic.
Perhaps it is the long line of politics in his blood that makes him an outgoing and confident public servant. Stapleton attributes his family history to his ability to work across party lines.
Most notably, Stapleton and Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, have not only an excellent working relationship, but they also have a close friendship that takes them to concerts and sporting events together.
Most recently, Stapleton and the governor found themselves enjoying the New Orleans funk styling of horn genius Trombone Shorty together at the Ogden Theatre.
“It’s pretty normal. It’s definitely pretty normal,” Stapleton said of what it is like to attend a concert with the governor. “We both enjoy music greatly. It’s just a fun thing to do together. I don’t think of him as the governor…
It’s just like any friend,” added Stapleton. “You can have deep policy disagreements, but hopefully my friendship with him provides the opportunity for me to have a listening ear on stuff that concerns me in terms of fiscal and economic issues.”
He points to his relationships across the aisle as proof that both parties can work together. But that isn’t stopping Stapleton from campaigning for his party. At the Republican State Assembly he plans on bringing a message of unity.
His former Republican opponent seeking the nomination for treasurer four years ago, J.J. Ament, plans to stand with Stapleton at the assembly in a public display of party unity, something the GOP continues to grapple with.
Stapleton is hopeful for his party, especially after recent developments, such as Republicans clearing the way for U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner of Yuma to run for U.S. Senate against Democrat Mark Udall.
“We’re using it as an opportunity to try and send a message of unity to the Republican Party,” explained Stapleton. “When we as Republicans, or conservatives, or tea partiers talk about economic and policy issues, we have a chance to win and win big.”