Ritter stumps in Lindstrom’s back yard
FRISCO – Former Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter braved a near blizzard to keep his appointment with leading Summit County Democrats. Just days after Summit County’s favorite son – state representative Gary Lindstrom – announced his plans to run against Ritter to be the Democratic Party’s candidate for governor in next year’s statewide election, Ritter kept his campaign schedule intact and met with local political leaders at the Backcountry Brewery in Frisco on Saturday.”I really believe that we’re at a place and time in this state where we need a different type of leadership,” Ritter told the tableful of local Democrats. “And a different vision about where we should go in the 21st century.”Though the heavy snows Saturday kept the crowd small, Ritter did speak to a receptive audience – including many of the local Democratic politicos who will be instrumental in garnering support for the Democratic nominee when the election cycle ramps up next year. Attending the rather intimate affair were County Commissioner Bill Wallace, Summit County Democrats chair Sandy Briggs, and other local leaders like Howard Hallman, Tom Looby and Don Parsons, among others.Ritter, who grew up in a farming family, and eventually served as Denver’s district attorney for more than a decade, stressed the need for the next governor to fully grasp the issues affecting people beyond the Front Range.”My sense is you can’t be governor of this state unless you really do understand all the issues – and not just the Front Range issues – but all the issues that impact the rural and rural resort areas,” Ritter said.Ritter covered a lot of ground in his brief meeting in Frisco.Talking about growth along I-70, Ritter backs the current I-70 Coalition that has been formed to provide input to the governor, and he hopes a comprehensive plan can come out of that activity.”I think what we need is a transportation plan in this state. We need to ask ourselves what the I-70 corridor should look like,” he said. “As a state we need to really think about planning for the next 20, 25, 30 years. We can’t wait to plan for all these new people on the Front Range.”Continuing he said, “I think that there is growing political will to do something better and different with I-70. I think you can build political will to look at different things other than just highway widening.”Water was a hot button issue as well.”I think the next governor of the state is going to have show real leadership around the water issue,” Ritter said. “It is a finite resource and it has to be treated that way.”He pointed to a number of new “reuse” plans being implemented on the Front Range as evidence that people there are “starting to get it.”Health care was also a subject Ritter feels needs immediate action. With more than 767,000 Colorodans without health insurance, Ritter hoped there would be “a statewide conversation” about the issue, and he’s hosting a doctor and provider forum in February to come up a system tailored to Colorado’s specific problems.Along those lines, Ritter also lamented Colorado poor performance toward child immunization compared to other states. “There’s no reason that we can’t be in the upper quartile (in child immunizations) with not a huge investment of money,” he said.Immigration was a topic raised as well. Ritter predicted that a measure restricting social services to illegal aliens – like Arizona’s recently-passed Proposition 200 – would be put to Colorado voters next year. “I oppose it,” Ritter said unequivocally.”I think we’re so much better off to know who’s here, to have them be integrated into the economy, and that’s the opportunity part of it. At the same time we need to figure out if people who are undocumented here are paying their fair share,” he added.On the environment, and in particular the recent jump in permits for oil and gas exploration around the state, Ritter was steadfast in his desire to protect more wild areas.”I think we’re moving way too fast to extract oil and gas, and not just on the Western Slope” he said. “We have the ability to provide energy resources to this country, but we cannot do it on the backs on the Western environment.” On the pine beetle problem, as well as the mercurial cyanide heap leach mining ban, Ritter said he’d need to know more before taking a position.Finally, on facing off against local favorite Gary Lindstrom, Ritter seemed to welcome the challenge.”America is a great country,” he said. “Anybody who has the ability to go down and file their state papers and have some desire to run can do that. That’s politics.”
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