Colorado Democrat takes issue with White House’s ‘anti-immigrant rhetoric’ |

Colorado Democrat takes issue with White House’s ‘anti-immigrant rhetoric’

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cary Kennedy stumps for votes Wednesday at Outer Range Brewing in Frisco.
Eli Pace / |

Democrat Cary Kennedy is staking her bid to become Colorado’s next governor on universal health care, heightened education funding and protecting the environment, but the former state treasurer says recent attacks against immigrants hit much closer to home.

Kennedy is married to Saurabh Mangalik, who emigrated to the U.S. from India with his family when he was 7 years old.

“The hateful and demeaning rhetoric we hear coming out of Washington towards immigrants, it is personal for me and for my family,” she said. “Immigrants built this great state.”

Kennedy cited President Donald Trump’s efforts to institute a travel ban targeting a majority of Muslim countries and his well-known campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border as examples that have raised her ire. She also took aim at another gubernatorial candidate.

“And we’re talking about Tom Tancredo entering the governor’s race,” she said.

Tancredo is a former member of the U.S. House who’s again running for the Colorado governor’s seat. He’s perhaps best known for his staunch opposition to illegal immigration.

Kennedy and Tancredo are running in crowded fields featuring eight Republicans and six Democrats so far, with Gov. John Hickenlooper being term-limited and unable to seek re-election.

Stumping for votes Wednesday in Summit County, Kennedy stopped by the Summit Daily’s office in Frisco before a meet-and-greet later in the day at Outer Range Brewing to talk about her campaign platform and how she thinks she can win, not just the June primary, but the general election in November 2018.

Health care

In addition to education funding and environmental issues, Kennedy is making universal health care one of her biggest campaign platforms, and she knows that Summit County faces some of the highest premiums for health insurance in the country.

The good news is about 94 percent of Coloradans currently have health insurance, and Kennedy’s plan is more about giving people options and keeping costs down than it is about bringing a large number of new people into the market.

“What I have proposed is that we offer a public health insurance option for everyone here in Colorado,” she said. “It would give anyone in the state the opportunity to purchase Medicaid or either one of the health plans that are provided to our state employees.”

Kennedy sees the move as one that would increase options and drive down costs, particularly in communities with a limited number of providers.

“It would introduce some competition,” she said, later adding “we won’t go backwards. We’re not going to let people lose their coverage.”

Education funding

For decades, Kennedy has been a proponent of increased funding for Colorado schools, and that’s one of the biggest selling points of her campaign.

Most notably, Kennedy helped write and pass Amendment 23, which she contends “is the only measure that’s passed statewide in 30 years” to increase funding for Colorado public schools.

Kennedy also touts a statewide program that she spearheaded as treasurer, in which $1 billion was steered to address aging and dilapidated facilities in some of the state’s poorest communities.

Some of the facilities that have benefited from the program, Kennedy said, used to not have central heat, while others suffered from sewage backups and other major problems.

“I’m so proud to have created the Building Excellent Schools Today program,” she continued, adding that the money came by redirecting revenue from things like grazing leases and didn’t require raising any taxes.

For Kennedy, however, that’s not nearly enough, and if elected, continuing to increase school funding will be one of her biggest drives.

“Our current system today, our public schools are underfunded and inequitably funded,” she said. “It’s a real crisis in rural Colorado.”

Some schools have cut back to four-day weeks while Colorado’s teachers are among some of the lowest-paid in the country, Kennedy said, adding that as a result, Colorado is losing quality educators to nearby states.

“I talked to a superintendent up here not too long ago who lost his best math teacher to Wyoming where they pay $20,000-$30,000 more for the same job,” she recalled. “We have to be competitive, and that is why I’ve called to raise teacher salaries.”

Environment vs. growth

Growing up in Colorado and having graduated from Manual High School in Denver, Kennedy has seen the state’s population more than double during her time here, and it’s expected to double again in the coming decades.

Protecting the environment remains one of her paramount issues. However, Kennedy readily admits there’s a balance to strike between managing growth, protecting public land and providing access to members of the public who, in high numbers, can often damage that environment.

“We can’t stop the growth, but what we can do is make the smart investments so that our growth is more sustainable (and has) less impact on our land,” she said. “It’s less water use per capita. It is transitioning to clean, renewable sources of energy, and it’s land-use strategies that really protect our open space and our public lands. We’re here because we love Colorado, and it’s important, as we grow, that the governor and leadership in this state really set out the vision of protecting everything that we love about Colorado.”

Kennedy also supports clean-energy initiatives and adding more charging stations for electric vehicles along Colorado’s most traveled interstates.

A path to victory?

According to a campaign-financing report published Oct. 17 in the Denver Post, Kennedy currently stands third in fundraising among the five Democratic gubernatorial contenders, trailing former state legislator Mike Johnston, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynn and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis by significant margins while maintaining a slight lead on businessman Noel Ginsburg.

Many expect Johnston and Polis to spend millions by the time the primary is decided, and few think Kennedy can compete with them when it comes to money.

Asked about going up against such resources, the former state treasurer pointed out she’s the only one in the primary who has “run, won and served” in a major statewide office.

Kennedy was referencing her time as state treasurer from 2007-11. She lost her bid for re-election in 2010 to the current state treasurer, Republican Walker Stapleton, who’s also come into the 2018 governor’s race on the GOP side of the ballot.

According to Kennedy, it was a different political climate eight years ago, and aside from Gov. Hickenlooper, who’s term-limited and can’t run again, few Democrats fared better that year than she did, losing to Stapleton by less than 1.5 percent.

“I outperformed all the other down-ballot Democratic candidates both times I was on the ballot,” she said.

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