Denver Post endorsement for Colorado governor: Jared Polis

Editor’s note: This represents the opinion of The Denver Post editorial board, which is separate from the paper’s news operation. Read more endorsements here

Gov. Jared Polis has delivered on his campaign promises, deftly handled a deadly global pandemic and all the while remained above the ugly political fray that has sullied so many modern politicians.

Polis has done well for Colorado over the past four years, and voters can cast their votes for the Democratic entrepreneur with Boulder roots without hesitation.

When we endorsed Polis in 2018, we expressed skepticism that he would be able to fully fund all-day kindergarten – it was a political football that had been passed from administration to administration for years, leaving Colorado parents to pick up the tab if they wanted or needed their school-aged children to have a full day of school.

But Polis delivered, finding room in the budget in 2019 to sign a bill into law.

Then in 2020, Polis helped convince voters to reform and increase the state’s nicotine tax in a thoughtful way to fund 10 hours of preschool for every 4-year-old in the state. Polis signed an implementing bill into law in 2022, and we hope he is elected again so he can ensure the program runs smoothly and that kids start their education off right.

These are not small accomplishments, and early childhood education, whether it’s preschool or kindergarten, is one of the most important interventions to ensure academic success for any child.

Polis’s opponent Heidi Ganahl, a Republican who is currently on the University of Colorado’s Board of Regents, has also made education a top priority of her campaign.

She points to the fact that Colorado’s education system is failing to get a majority of students performing on grade level in math and reading. Ganahl says there’s too much money being spent at the administrative level in districts across the state, and she is right. The data shows administrative costs have ballooned.

Ganahl says she would use incentives in the state budget to encourage districts to get more money in the classrooms for increased teacher salaries and reduced class sizes. Those are also proven ways to move the needle on academic performance.

We like this idea and hope Polis collaborates with her after the election. We do not, however, support Ganahl’s plan to create a statewide education savings account so that parents can use the state portion of their student’s public school funding to subsidize private school tuition. The Post editorial board has long supported vouchers if they are implemented in a narrowly tailored way to help get low-income students out of the poorest-performing schools.

Ganahl and Polis both have made the reduction of crime a top priority for their campaigns.

We like that Polis has set an exact target — Colorado will be among the 10 safest states in five years. Are we skeptical that his plan will work? Of course, but we were also skeptical that Polis would be able to get the state on track to be using 100% renewable energy for our power grid by 2040, and after four years, we are on track to be at 80% by 2030.

Polis, who did invest $130 million in the last budget for local law enforcement, diversion programs, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and other needs, says his approach will be multi-pronged.

“We’re going to continue to support law enforcement at the local level,” Polis said, adding that he also supports sentencing reform for some crimes, improved efforts to reduce recidivism and increased mental health treatment programs.

Polis has been criticized, and not only by Ganahl, for being soft on crime in part because he and lawmakers reduced criminal penalties for drug possession, including fentanyl, and other crimes, including motor vehicle theft.

We appreciate his humility, a rare quality in politicians these days, and his willingness to relook at some of those decisions.

“There’s a number of crimes that I support longer sentences for,” Polis said. “But, you know, they are going to get out. You steal a car, whether it’s 6 months or 6 years, we’re not going to put you in prison for 80 years for one car. So how do you make sure that there is a lower likelihood of that person committing a crime when they get out?”

He’s asked the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to look at sentencing reform for car thefts and for fentanyl.

But Polis is clear he does not think sentencing reform alone will fix the crime problem. It has to include mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment and investments in proven recidivism reduction programs.

Ganahl said she’d reverse the catch-and-release policies that Polis and lawmakers have put in place and remove policies that make Colorado a sanctuary state so lawmakers can work with immigration officials to more easily deport criminals who are in the United States illegally.

We have not seen statistics showing that crimes in Colorado are disproportionately being committed by immigrants who are in America without proper documentation, but we do support the deportation of those who commit violent or gang-related crimes.

Ganahl did not elaborate on how she would protect victims of crime who are afraid of deportation because of their immigration status, but she did say her policies would be compassionate.

She also said she would reform the parole board and turn over membership of that board as part of her tough-on-crime agenda.

Yet, at the same time, Ganahl is asking voters to look past the current Republican realities. While presenting herself as a law-and-order supporter, Ganahl has linked herself too closely to a fringe Republican movement — led by former President Donald Trump — aiming to undermine America’s democracy and turn Americans against one another with outrageous claims that a vast conspiracy of Democratic Party operatives have rigged our elections.

Ganahl did not want to talk about the issue when asked if she was concerned about Trump’s actions.

“I’m concerned about a media that is completely biased and out of control … I know who you are going to endorse, so we don’t have to complete the conversation if this is how it’s going to go,” Ganahl said. “Danny (Moore) and I have both said loud and clear that Biden is the president, the media just doesn’t want to cover it, and we are focused on beating Jared Polis.”

We urge voters to support Polis.

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