Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne and some of her most prominent supporters are unabashed in their assertion that it’s time for a woman to occupy the Colorado Governor’s seat. Lynne’s September entrance into the Governor’s race took away the exclusive narrative, “time for a woman” from early entrant and former State Treasurer, Cary Kennedy, and divided the community of like-minded women.
At a recent coffee meeting of professional Latinas, Lynne was introduced by Veronica Figoli, head of the Denver Public Schools Foundation, but endorsing in a personal capacity. Her support of Lynne was echoed strongly by Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel at Children’s Hospital, Michelle Lucero, also acting in a personal capacity, calling Lynne, “wicked smart” and saying she was, “creative in coming up with good solutions.”
Strong backing from prominent women is a cornerstone of the Lynne campaign but far from her only base of support. She has the blessing of current Governor and appointing authority, John Hickenlooper, and frequently invokes a continuation of his work as a principal aim. The air of incumbency will work to Lynne’s benefit as will her appeal to Hickenlooper centrists but unlike other top candidates, she has never run for public office in Colorado.
Lynne has said that Hickenlooper vowed to remain neutral if all Democratic candidates ran positive campaigns. In a Colorado Public Radio interview, Hickenlooper said, “Someone like Donna Lynne, who is so talented, when she enters, it makes that commitment all the much harder.” In political terms, that’s a pretty strong endorsement. In addition, Hickenlooper has given Lynne more official opportunities to speak on behalf of the State, belying his pledge. Lynne recently told an audience that Hickenlooper told her she’s the most qualified.
There is no secret Hickenlooper is “exploring” the idea of running for president. Senior loyalists openly talked about his intent during the recent holiday party circuit. Continuing to back Hickenlooper for a larger political future is a bet his most loyal are willing to gamble. Lynne is perceived as a Hickenlooper insider and part of his political machine and that moves even some reluctant supporters into her camp.
Like other top candidates, education makes Lynne’s list of top issues along with Healthcare, Affordable Housing and Infrastructure. Though immigration didn’t make it onto Lynne’s top three issues list, when asked about it by attorney Maritza Dominguez Braswell at the December ‘cafecito’ meeting for Latinas, her answer satisfied Braswell enough to want to learn more about Lynne. “This kind of female candidate can bring a sense of perspective to see beyond the now.” Braswell said, “Women are collaborative in the political climate and for me, a critical component is her commitment to diversity.” At that meeting, Lynne connected with the audience over policy issues, especially education, but also as a mother having raised 3 half Puerto Rican kids in a discriminatory society. She talked about New York real estate brokers refusing to sell them property because of her mixed marriage.
Besides serving as Lieutenant Governor, Lynne has taken on the role of Chief Operating Officer for the State. She cites her experience helping to manage a $30 billion budget and 31,000 employees. Among Lynne’s strongest points as the former Executive Vice President of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and as a Columbia University health care Ph.D., is her experience as a healthcare policy expert who defends Obamacare. The bigger the issue of healthcare becomes during the campaign, the greater her opportunity to display her background for centrist Coloradans. However, for the most liberal Democrats, her affiliation with what has been tagged as the “Big Health” industry, will be a detriment.
Barbara Broehl served as the Manager of Colorado’s Department of Revenue for six years in the cabinet of Governor Hickenlooper. She acknowledges Lynne’s experience but still has questions about Lynne’s personnel policies. “Because Donna has been in an administrative role, a supporting role to the Governor, we don’t yet know about her commitment to diversity.” Broehl continued, “I want to know how she will populate her cabinet.”
Colorado’s governor race fundraising for the third quarter put the race on pace to be the most expensive in state history. Lynne led all Democratic candidates except Jared Polis in fundraising for the quarter. No one is expected to “outraise” Polis anyway since he will put in his own resources to remain competitive. Colorado Secretary of State reports show that Lynne had more “Cash on Hand” after the third quarter than any other Dem except for early entrant, Mike Johnston, who leaped out to a sizable lead in fundraising last year.
Lynne earned her early political stripes working for four New York City mayors from both political parties over the course of 20 years. At the cafecito meeting, Lynne told the story of her first motivation to enter a career in public service – November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy’s assassination. It was that event, she said, that spurred her interest in working in government.
Lynne is on the older side of the Democratic primary lineup, but at 64 she touts physical fitness, having summitted all Colorado’s 14ers and taken on other recent adventures including a 10 day-long white-water rafting trip down the Colorado River of the Grand Canyon.
Candidates for Governor can either gather signatures through a petition process or go through their political party’s caucus process to have their name appear on the November 2018 ballot. Lynne plans on gathering petitions to allow her to visit all 64 counties, listen to citizen concerns, and increase name identification. Lynne says she can work both sides of the aisle and calls herself “progressive and pragmatic.”
Colorado’s precinct caucuses typically take place the 1st Tuesday in March and the County Assembly is held one month later. The party’s State Assemblies are held 73 days before the June primary election. Caucuses are organized and held by major political parties and for the latest dates and information, those parties should be consulted.