Gary’s race for governor begins in earnest
SUMMIT COUNTY – With the calendar flipped to 2006, the countdown has begun for hometown gubernatorial candidate Gary Lindstrom to get moving in his campaign to be the state’s next governor. And he has some real work to do.”There are four-and-a-half-million people in Colorado, and there’s probably 4.3 million that have never heard of me,” Lindstrom said Tuesday from his Lakewood Meadows home. “But I think that I’m better known throughout Colorado than people would give me credit for.”The clock is ticking for Lindstrom to win the valuable name recognition he needs to have a shot at the Democratic nomination. Well-known former Denver district attorney Bill Ritter is the most visible, furthest-along candidate for the top spot on the state Democratic ticket, and is the only other person to formally announce his candidacy thus far.And if you run down a traditional electoral checklist at this point in the race, it seems Lindstrom is behind on all counts. Ritter announced his candidacy for the state’s top job upon resigning his DA job in January 2005; Lindstrom made an official announcement of his decision to run in early December.Ritter has hired a campaign manager. Lindstrom hasn’t yet, saying that he is still weighing potential candidates for that job, as well as a director of fundraising.And, speaking of money, Ritter has raised a lot of it – more than $680,000 through year’s end according to Ritter campaign spokesman Evan Dreyer. The Ritter campaign raised more than $220,000 in the fourth quarter of 2005 alone, Dreyer said.
Lindstrom to this point has raised about $10,000, an amount he doesn’t intend to grow unexpectedly because of his grassroots campaign strategy, which he says will appeal to small donors. “But I’m getting money almost every day,” Lindstrom said.The race statewide, however, isn’t all about money. The nomination process by the state Democratic party begins with precinct caucuses across all corners of the state. Every precinct needs to have held a caucus by March 21, the first real deadline in the race. That’s where Lindstrom says he’s going to focus most of his attention between now and then; he’s working now to get people who support his candidacy into leadership positions in precincts everywhere.Within each county, a caucus needs to be held by April 21, when delegates to the May 20 State Assembly are decided. A candidate that receives 30 percent of the delegate vote at the State Assembly is put on the ballot in November as the Democratic candidate for governor.”Right now it’s an open race, so it really just depends on who can woo the hearts and minds of the party regulars,” explains Pat Waak, chair of the Colorado Democratic Party. “If I were running for governor, I would be out looking for as many delegates as I could at the county level.”And that is where Lindstrom says he is most focused. He says that since announcing his candidacy in December, he’s been in contact with about half of the county Democratic parties in the state.For his part, Lindstrom doesn’t feel like he is racing to catch up to Ritter, who often is mis-described as the only Democratic candidate in the race by the major media around the state.
“(Ritter)’s not out there stumping. I know of just two places that he’s been to on the West Slope,” Lindstrom said. “He’s not getting any publicity. He’s not necessarily talking to groups.”Lindstrom said he thinks the current players in the governor’s race aren’t out in full force yet. He called Ritter, and Republican nominees Bob Beauprez and Marc Holtzman, “pretty anonymous at this point.”And on the issues, Lindstrom took Ritter on directly.”Bill Ritter has not come out with an agenda or a platform. I have looked at his website and he’s pretty much non-committal on everything,” he said.Ritter campaign spokesman Dreyer took umbrage at that.”We would respectfully, but definitively, disagree with Gary on that. Bill’s very clear on his positions on a whole host of issues,” Dreyer saidRitter’s campaign hasn’t caught fire among state Democrats, partly based on Ritter’s outspoken, moderate, faith-based stance on abortion – a non-starter for many among the state’s Democratic base.
Ritter hadn’t won many high-profile endorsements either, until Tuesday. After much speculation about a possible candidacy of his own, House Speaker Andrew Romanoff finally announced that he would not seek the Dems’ nomination for governor, and he threw his support behind Ritter at the same time.But does a rural, regional outsider really have a chance to make a race of it?”I do know that outside of the Denver metro area, there are people who are sympathetic to someone who is not from Denver,” party chair Waak said. “Still, the bulk of the delegates are in metro counties, so I would say that any candidate who is running needs to really work those areas.”In advance of the precinct caucuses in March, that’s what Lindstrom will be doing – working party leaders to generate momentum from the county level upwards.He’ll have to juggle a busy schedule to do it, though. The state Legislature again meets in working session starting next Wednesday, and will be in session for 120 days into May.”I’m not going to step back from my responsibilities as state representative … it’s my number one priority. My number two priority is to get elected governor,” Lindstrom said.Duffy Hayes can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13611, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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