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Colorado’s candidates for Governor
Photo courtesy: Colorado State Publications Library

By James Mejía

Over the next several months, La Voz will feature each major candidate for Colorado Governor. This week, Democrat Cary Kennedy is profiled.

Manual High School in northeast Denver has a strong political tradition. Alumni include Denver’s first African American mayor, Wellington Webb, Seattle’s first African American mayor, Norman Rice, and Denver City Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth. Manual alum and current Denver Mayor, Michael Hancock, appointed classmate Cary Kennedy as the City’s Chief Financial Officer in 2011 and in 2014, named her Deputy Mayor. She left those positions in 2016 to start a consulting firm.
Kennedy is back in the spotlight since her April announcement on Facebook Live as a Democratic candidate for governor. From behind the wheel of her car, Kennedy extolled her service as State Treasurer, rallied against Washington politics and emphasized education as the most important issue facing the state. The technologically innovative announcement attracted substantial attention but was roundly criticized for showing the candidate driving while distracted. From snark to congratulations, the announcement provoked 174 comments, was shared on Facebook 200 times and received 660 reactions.
Since the rough start, Kennedy has hit her stride, showing evidence of a well-organized campaign benefitting from two previous statewide efforts. Kennedy was successful in her 2006 State Treasurer’s race, beating Republican incumbent Mark Hillman. She talks about her electoral success as “… the only Democrat in the race that has run and served statewide.” In 2010, Kennedy lost her seat to current Treasurer, Walker Stapleton. If both Kennedy and Stapleton are successful in their party’s primaries, they will face an electoral rematch for the governor’s seat in November of 2018. As to who she wants to face if successful in her party’s preliminary contest, Kennedy demurred.
Besides her top policy topics of education, Kennedy wants to, “… fight against fearful White House policies including hateful immigration rhetoric which is personal for me.” She notes the need for strong Democratic governors who can, “… lead from the states.”
Kennedy joins a race which will certainly break records for fundraising during the Democratic primary given a crowded field of well-connected candidates. US Congressman Jared Polis is able to bring personal wealth to the race, former State Senator Mike Johnston has taken advantage of declaring early and jumped out to a fundraising lead. Lieutenant Governor, Donna Lynne has national connections and ties with the Hickenlooper machine that bode well for financing an expensive campaign and businessman Noel Ginsburg will look to long established business and social ties to build his campaign treasure chest.
Once a Democratic primary that was likely to be won by former US Senator and US Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, his decision to bow out has left the primary wide open. Two other well-known Latinos have also declined to run for the seat – State Representative, Joe Salazar is running for Colorado Attorney General, and former Lieutenant Governor and current President of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, Joe García, has decided to stay put.
On Friday November 10th, attorney Cecilia Espenoza listened to Cary Kennedy talk about her campaign at the weekly Denver Latina coffee klatch known as ‘cafecito.’ For Espenoza, the issue of statewide electability resonated. “Kennedy talked about running and winning statewide. She highlighted issues like education and healthcare which are important to our community.” Espenoza continued, “She also wants to make sure this is not an ugly race. She does not want to destroy the party during the campaign.”
For cafecito regular and Denver attorney, Teresa Casillas, Kennedy needs to, “Fine tune her package and focus on her audience while telling her story.” Kennedy left a positive impression on Casillas who said, “Her message and energy was very positive. I want to get to know her.”
Mexican native, Yunuen Cisneros attended the Friday meeting and along with other attendees, pushed Kennedy to talk more about her personal connection to immigration. Kennedy is married to Manual classmate and physician Saurabh Mangalik, whose family emigrated from India. Together they have two teenagers that Kennedy referred to as “mixed.” Cisneros thinks Kennedy “Can make a stronger connection on immigration with Latino audiences.”
In turn, any candidate for governor will have the floor at cafecito if invited by a member. Kennedy was the guest of Dulce Sainz, who left as a Latino organizer for Conservation Colorado to head Bernie Sanders’ Colorado campaign. With Sanders’ Colorado victory on her resume, she was hired by Kennedy to coordinate Latino outreach for the governor’s campaign.
Kennedy was launched into the public eye for authoring the Colorado Funding for Public Schools Initiative, known as Amendment 23 which required statewide public school funding to keep pace with inflation. Kennedy is quick to note that Amendment 23 was the first funding increase in the state after decades of decreased resources. The constitutional amendment was passed by Colorado voters in November of 2000.
Policy Highlights:
Education: Kennedy’s #1 issue. Wants to increase funding for schools to ensure every Colorado child by the age of 19 has the opportunity for college or skill training adequate for entry into the workforce. Also has a plan to increase teacher pay. Charter Schools – Must be held to the same standard as traditional public schools and the success of some students in charter schools should not come at the expense of traditional school students. “For choice to be authentic, neighborhood schools have to be a good choice.”
Healthcare: Believes in the expansion of the Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) program which has covered an increasing number of Colorado children for medical treatment and wants to fight against rising costs of healthcare. Favors universal health care. “I believe healthcare is a right.”
Environment: Plans to pursue economic development through clean renewable energy sources. “The oil and gas industry is important for the state and has a long history here but must be regulated to ensure the health and safety of Coloradans.” “Communities have lost trust and they need a voice to balance the industry. I want to help Coloradans have a process that protects their communities.”
For More Information: Wikipedia – Cary Kennedy, Facebook – Cary Kennedy for Governor, Web Site –





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