Ritter sworn in as governor
DENVER Democrat Bill Ritter was sworn in Tuesday as Colorado’s 41st governor, vowing to build a strong economy and rise above partisanship as he takes over the state’s first Democratic-dominated government in four decades.Wearing a blue suit and cowboy boots, Ritter beamed broadly as he took the oath of office outside the Capitol on a chilly, sunny day.”This is about hope and unity, not about Republican or Democrat,” he said. “It’s about possibilities and promises, not right versus left.”Ritter takes over the governorship from Republican Bill Owens, who was term-limited, and will work with Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate. He is expected to lay out his plans in detail in his state-of-the-state speech Thursday.Citing Colorado’s frontier history, Ritter said the state needs to remain true to its legacy.”We are still a bold and daring people with a frontier spirit, hardy and well-meaning, brimming with hope about what lies ahead,” Ritter said.
Ritter said men like Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were visionaries with bold spirits, the kind Colorado needs now to build a new economy around renewable energy and bioscience.”Our task today is to build on our strengths and successes. Our task is to think big, to be bold and to take risks,” he said during a 15-minute speech.Crystal Collins, a 16-year-old high school junior who attended the inauguration, said she believes Ritter will keep his promise to help children.”We need to stop kids from dropping out of school and they need to be able to get jobs. I believe Ritter will do it,” she said.After the inauguration, Ritter met with lawmakers and emergency operations officials to go over the state’s efforts to cope with blizzards that paralyzed parts of the state.Ritter said the state is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to get emergency aid to cover the $2 million the state spent on missions to rescue cattle and people stranded by the storm, not counting the millions of dollars spent by counties. He said two counties – Otero and Baca – qualified for aid. He said other counties are having trouble qualifying for federal assistance because snow gauges are still buried in snow.
Ashley Panter, 20, who attended a Capitol reception after the ceremony, said she wanted to celebrate with the Ritter family because she had attended sixth grade with the governor’s son, August.She said it was strange to think of her friend’s father as the governor but expected him to stay the same, freely giving out hugs to his children’s friends.”He’s just a very warm, friendly, down-to-earth man,” Panter said.Republican Secretary of State Mike Coffman was sworn in separately at his office two hours before the main ceremony. Coffman, the former state treasurer who dropped his bid for governor last year, scheduled his own ceremony after Ritter refused to allow him to speak at the larger one.Supreme Court Justice Allison Eid, who presided at Coffman’s ceremony, said Coffman wanted his staff to hear his promises to uphold the state Constitution. Coffman has vowed to be bipartisan and fair to special interest groups.Coffman then took the oath a second time in the main ceremony on the Capitol steps, along with Democrat Cary Kennedy as the new treasurer and Republican John Suthers as attorney general for another term.
Earlier, Ritter, who is Catholic, and about 250 others went to Mass at Holy Ghost Roman Catholic Church in downtown Denver. His children and other relatives led some of the prayers, readings and songs. His daughter, Tally, asked the audience to pray for her father and all public servants.”May they be wise, humble and just,” she said.Two women protested silently outside, holding a sign that read “Catholic? Image Does Not Make it So.” One of the women, Florence Sebern, said Ritter – a Catholic who has done lay missionary work in Zambia – has taken positions on abortion and other issues that conflict with church teachings.Before Ritter and O’Brien were sworn in, the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute tribes offered a blessing and Owens made a brief address, thanking his family and fellow officials for their help during his two terms.Owens was barred from running again by term limits.
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