Stapleton taps Republican state lawmaker Lang Sias as running mate

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DENVER -- In a bid to carve out the middle ground in an increasingly polarized political environment, Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton has picked Lang Sias, a moderate state lawmaker and former U.S. Navy pilot, to be his running mate.

A Republican state representative from Arvada, Sias served in the military for nearly three decades, including a stint as an instructor in the storied Topgun program.

In politics, he's flashed an independent streak, swapping his party registration from unaffiliated to Democratic and back again before joining the Republican Party in 2007.

He's only run for office as a Republican, losing a bid for Congress and two state senate elections before he was appointed to fill a state House vacancy in 2015.

In a statement, Stapleton, the current state treasurer, touted Sias' "experience working across the aisle to get things done" at the state Legislature, saying his bipartisan efforts "make him an ideal candidate" for lieutenant governor.

Sias, 59, has also worked as an attorney for a technology law firm, and is now a pilot for FedEx.

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 President Donald Trump, who remains popular among Colorado Republicans, but sports dismal approval ratings among the rest of the electorate.

Democrats, meanwhile, have taken the opposite approach, nominating a candidate in U.S. Rep. Jared 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 announced earlier this month that Dianne Primavera, the CEO of Susan G. Komen Colorado, would be his lieutenant governor if he's elected in the fall.

Primavera, 68, is a four-time cancer survivor who served eight years in the state House, representing a suburban Denver district.

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