|Benjamin Stapleton | Photo: Denver Public Library, |
Western History Collection. Photo by Harry Rhoads
During Benjamin Stapleton’s first term, the Klan was a power in Colorado and Denver. It was a populist, anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, anti-Black movement after WWI. Stapleton, a Democrat, joined and cooperated with them. But, he shook them off as their brief period of power waned. Free of their influence, he built the controversial Municipal Airport (later called Stapleton). In his second three-terms after 1935, Stapleton oversaw the creation of the Denver Civic Center, Red Rocks Amphitheater and mountain parks, the Valley Highway (I-25) and much of Denver Water’s infrastructure.
Pundits quoted in the article thought that candidate Stapleton will weather any attacks on his ancestor as irrelevant and unfair.
I suggested whatever the fairness of the attack, Stapleton should be ready and needs a response given the negative nature of current campaigns and the concentrated power of social media.
Pollster and political analyst Floyd Ciruli said Stapleton need not shine a light on the issue unsolicited but should have a response ready to go if the topic comes up.
“He needs to be ready to deal with this,” Ciruli said. “He needs a stock answer if it comes up again.”
Stapleton, when asked for his reaction to those who might use the legacy of his great-grandfather against him, gave the Post a short statement.
“All reasonable people understand my great-grandfather died in 1950, about 25 years before I was even born,” Stapleton said. “I am focusing on the future.”
In the end, Ciruli said, everyone on both sides of the race should remain alert to an incendiary and unpredictable issue like Klan affiliation popping up during what is expected to be the most expensive and hard-fought contest for governor ever in the state.
“Social media is just out of control today,” he said. “Both sides should be ready for it.”
No public polling of the issue has surfaced, but no doubt the campaigns have numbers. In a question of removing confederate statues (some have suggested Stapleton’s name be removed from various locations in Denver), Democrats favor it, but a majority of the public doesn’t, with most Republicans in opposition.