DEL NORTE—At the Rio Grande County Democrats First Annual JFK Dinner last Saturday, Oct. 29, several Democratic candidates for various 2018 elections were present to discuss their views, campaign goals and to differentiate themselves from their opposition.
Federal office candidates present included two candidates for Congressional District 3, currently held by Scott Tipton. Six candidates or surrogates attended for the gubernatorial race; current Governor Hickenlooper is term limited. Four campaigns for the state attorney general also attended. Cynthia Coffman, a Republican, is currently the district attorney and is considered a plausible Republican candidate for governor although she has not declared a candidacy.
Both of the current Democratic candidates for Congressional District Three (CD3) were present at the dinner and were given seven minutes each to discuss their campaign goals. Diane Mitsch Bush, currently the state house representative for District 26, the vice chair for the house Agriculture, Livestock, & Natural Resources committee and the chair of the Transportation and Energy Committee and a former two-term Routt County commissioner spoke first about her goals first. Mitsch Bush discussed her 30 years of experience with agriculture issues and her background being raised by a single parent. She praised the education she received as a child in Minnesota and stated Colorado needs to take on similar values of investment in education, infrastructure and “investing in our people.” Mitsch Bush stated she is known for working across the aisle and criticized Scott Tipton’s decision to vote on a federal budget that makes serious cuts to the U.S. Forest Service and agriculture loan programs. Mitsch Bush explained her economic goals focus on remembering “our environment is our economy” and bringing back manufacturing to keep the American Dream in CD3.
Chris Kennedy, also a CD3 candidate, spoke next, playing the song “Common Ground” by Tommy and The Painkillers for attendees, to fit with his speech’s theme, “standing together on common ground.” Kennedy, a former Marine, emphasized how every community has its own issues but finding commonality with those issues is “how we take back our state houses, governorships and definitely how we take back CD3.” Kennedy discussed how his time in the Marine Corps taught him the value of “leaving nobody behind” which is vital in winning CD3, by understanding what is best for all Coloradoans, and acknowledging their rights to universal healthcare, their right to love who they want and their right to quality public education for all among others. Kennedy also agreed with Mitsch Bush’s statements about infrastructure and broadband.
Candidates or representatives for six democrats’ gubernatorial campaigns were present and spoke on behalf of their values. Surrogate Gabrielle Aragon of San Luis spoke on Mike Johnston’s behalf. Aragon discussed Johnston’s background running a small business, a bed and breakfast, with his family and the long line of educators in his family he takes pride in. Although Johnston graduated from both Harvard and Yale, he dedicated himself to education and helping impoverished youth, including work in rural Mississippi and as a principal in Colorado, doubling a school’s graduation rate from 50 to 100 percent. In the Colorado legislature, Aragon discussed Johnston’s work on the Asset Bill for Dreamers and the Jump Start Bill to help small businesses get a tax break. If elected to governor, Johnston wants to start a free two-year college tuition program for Coloradoans.
Candidate Noel Ginsburg was unable to attend, but his son Corey attended in his place, which he joked was fine, “you’re getting the smarter, better looking version.” Ginsburg praised the quality of the other democratic candidates, stating Colorado is in good hands with whomever wins the primary, before talking about his father’s business background starting Intertech Medical and Intertech Plastic. Ginsburg also worked with the Colorado I Have a Dream Foundation, which provides wraparound services for at-risk youth and Careerwise Colorado, which provides youth apprenticeships. All of Ginsburg’s work, his son stated, prepares him for finding innovative solutions to bridge gaps and build policies which will work for all Coloradoans.
Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne spoke next on her campaign, talking about her work bringing her to all 64 counties in Colorado, where she has been looking for the problems she can begin working on if elected, and focused on keeping healthcare affordable and addressing the opioid crisis. She discussed her work to restrict opiod prescriptions to seven days, not 30 and working toward affordable housing and infrastructure. Lynne discussed her 20 years of work for three democratic and one republican mayors as well as her 20 years of work in the private sector managing 16,000 employees. She emphasized her dedication transparency and being someone who can take over on day one. “ My promise is not to be a person who just talks about concepts and ideas.”
Erik Underwood, a tech entrepreneur, discussed his background being raised by a single mother as one of six children (including his sister Erika and himself being one of two sets of twins). “I know what it is to struggle and to dream about something bigger than myself,” Underwood stated, discussing his mother instilling values of integrity, honesty and “treating everyone like your neighbor.” Underwood emphasized “being a policy guy” looking for how to use policy to get from point A to point B, and outlined his “Outward-Inward” campaign, “from Rural Colorado to Urban Colorado and everything in between,” which he said was the strategy most missed in 2016, realizing both areas are struggling with bringing in jobs and opportunities. Underwood also announced his pivotal policies included a free in-state college tuition program for students with a B+ GPA or better, which he will fund by removing the cap on lottery funding. Underwood also announced, “I’m the only candidate here who wants to repeal TABOR.”
Cary Kennedy discussed her experience as state treasurer for 10 years and how in that position she kept tax payer money from being lost in the 2008 financial crisis because she saw millions of dollars of state investments in one Wall Street firm and moved it before the crisis. Kennedy also stated as treasurer she works on the BEST program, which has brought in 100 million dollars for new schools in Rio Grande County, mentioning she is aware of Del Norte’s efforts to pass a bond measure for a new school as well. Kennedy outlined three main points she will work on if elected governor: making public education our “number one priority”, ensuring “healthcare is accessible and affordable” and “keeping Colorado the place we all love,” by investing in rural infrastructure, preventing the sale of public lands and not letting Donald Trump’s policies take Colorado backwards.
Congressman Jared Polis was the last to speak about his race for governor, talking about the need for progressive voices throughout every level of government, especially when addressing “manufactured crises in Washington” nearly daily. “We need to make sure defense isn’t all we do,” he said, stating he is running to “turn bold ideas into results,” despite discouragement from those who tell him the only way to win elections is to disavow standing up for vulnerable people and communities. Polis discussed the small businesses he has started, including Techstars and Patriot Boot Camp, both designed to help entrepreneurs. He served six years on the state school board and was elected to Congress in 2008, where he helped replace the Now Child Left Behind Act with the Every Student Succeeds Act. Polis also said if elected he will implement a plan to have Colorado using “100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2040.”
The last event of the evening was a forum for the present candidates for Colorado’s attorney general position. The three present candidates for attorney general, Joe Salazar, Brad Levin and Michael Dougherty, then held a forum moderated by Valley Publishing and local attorney Matt Hobbs spoke on behalf of candidate Phil Weiser.
Weiser is a first-generation American who “believes in freedom of opportunity for all… and is committed to fighting for broadband, water rights and combating the opioid epidemic,” Hobbs stated, further outlining Weiser’s values of clean land, clean water and clean air. Hobbs also discussed Weiser’s experience, first working for Judge Ebel on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, then as a clerk for two Supreme Court justices, Byron White and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and serving as deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice and as senior advisor for Technology and Innovation at the White House’s National Economic Council during the Obama Administration, and then as dean of the University of Colorado’s Law School. “He’s an effective leader who knows how to get things done,” Hobbs added.
Dougherty is currently “second-in-command for the District Attorney’s Office for Jefferson and Gilpin counties” has served in the Criminal Justice Section for the Attorney General’s Office and has worked for the Manhattan DA’s office, among other positions. Levin has 30 years of experience practicing Law in Colorado through his firm Levin Sitcoff. He is also “on the National Executive Committee and National Commission of the Anti-Defamation League and has previously served as chair of the Mountain States Regional Board and the National Litigation Oversight Committee and the board of directors of National Jewish Health.” Salazar is currently representative for State House District 31, but heavily emphasized his familial roots and personal history in Costilla County. He discussed his work as representative combating private prisons and “debtor’s prison” jail sentences and has previously worked as a civil rights and criminal investigator for the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.