Ken Salazar is a family man, always has been. That’s why those who know him well weren’t surprised he opted out of the governor’s race. A Democrat, Salazar would have been the instant front-runner for the office held for the last eight years by his party. His southern Colorado agricultural upbringing and humble roots alongside his professional legal training seems to transcend regional and party politics throughout the state.
His absence from the race deprives the Latino community of their best chance at the Colorado governorship in history and has left other aspirants chomping at the bit to get on the campaign trail. The former U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Interior and Colorado Attorney General made it clear that he needs to “put family first” and implores voters to “support a candidate who is going to be responsive to all Coloradoans including the Latino community.”
With Salazar out of the race, there is some speculation that another Latino might enter the fray. The very popular former Lieutenant Governor, Joe Garcia, deferred to Salazar and took the top job at the Western Interstate for Higher Education. Time will tell if there is renewed interest in the governorship.
On the Democratic side, Salazar’s decision not to run prompted three well known party insiders to immediately throw their hats in the ring. Sitting Congressman, Ed Perlmutter may be the most popular Democrat in the state. He has been able to carry a surprisingly progressive agenda representing a region of the state considered to be largely centrist with a sizable Independent contingent. His indefatigable campaigning and constant push to stay in touch with constituents makes him hard to beat. The six-term congressman wants to oppose Trump and the Republican controlled Congress.
Thus far the only candidate that has declared her intention to run for governor who has already been elected statewide is former State Treasurer, Cary Kennedy. Kennedy keys on an education focus to differentiate her from other candidates, “I want every student in Colorado to attend a great school, which is why I passed an amendment that increased funding for our public schools and created a program that is renovating aging school buildings in Colorado’s poorest communities.”
Kennedy grew up with foster siblings and is married to an Indian immigrant, lending to her understanding of challenges in other communities. “I don’t face the same barriers that so many people face – economic, social, racial and political – but I know that these barriers are real.” Kennedy is the only woman who is rumored to be eyeing the race.
If Kennedy has her way, she would win the Democratic nomination, setting up a potential rematch with her Republican nemesis, Walker Stapleton who is rumored to be considering a run. Stapleton ousted Kennedy from the Treasurer’s seat in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014.
Challenging Perlmutter and Kennedy is the first Democratic who entered the race, Colorado Senator Michael Johnston. He cites his success passing Latino-centric legislation as to why he might appeal to Latino voters, “I have a demonstrated lifelong commitment to Latino issues in Colorado including serving as the primary sponsor of the ASSET bill (Colorado’s Dream Act), the prime sponsor of legislation creating a driver’s license for undocumented residents, legislation preventing our county jails from holding residents for federal immigration authorities and a bill preventing sheriffs deputies from sharing the immigration status of inmates with federal immigration authorities.”
Johnston made a name for himself among the education reform community as “the principal of a school that served a predominantly Latino population in Adams County.” He touts contact with the Latino community as why he is uniquely positioned, “I’m the only candidate who has spent most of their career working shoulder-to-shoulder with Latino families and that experience shapes you in ways no book or seminar ever could.”
Joining the trio of Democratic office holding veterans is Denver businessman, Noel Ginsburg. Ginsburg is the president and founder of Intertech Plastics, specializing in injection molding. The long time civic leader will more than hold his own while discussing the ever important issue of education alongside other candidates. Ginsburg has been a consistent advocate for creating new and better ways for Colorado students to follow school to career paths.
Ginsburg and his wife, Leslie, support a class of students from Lincoln Park in Denver’s westside through the I Have A Dream Foundation and he served as the Chair of the Education Committee for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. In a bold political move, Ginsburg was the sole candidate from either major political party to file by the end of 2016.
The winning Democrat will likely face off against a seasoned Republican. Besides State Treasurer, Walker Stapleton, who has not declared he will run, District Attorney George Brauchler is a long-awaited candidate for hopeful Republican voters.
Brauchler emerged as a leading Republican when he prosecuted the Aurora Theater shooting but also served as a worthy adversary to Democrats, digging at Governor Hickenlooper for his indecision on the Nathan Dunlap death penalty case. Thus far, Brauchler is the only military veteran in the race, a distinction he will certainly use to his advantage.
When asked why he should be the candidate for Latino voters, Brauchler responded, “…Voters should be skeptical of any candidate who claims to cater to their specific demographic, culture, or race, or gender, or any other identifying characteristic. What makes a good Governor for Colorado is not how they claim to treat one group over another—that is how we remain divided as a community.” Brauchler continued, “What makes a good Governor for our state is how they ensure that every family has the opportunity to live, love, improve and prosper free from discrimination and unnecessary barriers to liberty.”
Secretary Salazar considers the top issues for Latinos in the next election as “jobs, education – preschool through college, and civil rights.” He encourages Latinos to vote in big numbers this election cycle, “The Latino community has great power given the numbers in Colorado. But it is a nonexistent power if people don’t vote.”