Candidates come to Club 20 to learn
If there are a lot of candidates for statewide office in town, it’s a sure bet that means Club 20 is meeting.
And even though this is an off election year, the 2017 Club 20 Fall Conference has attracted a few, including several who hope to replace Democrat John Hickenlooper in the governor’s mansion.
Among them are Republican candidates George Brauchler and Doug Robinson, and Democrat Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, who just made her bid official on Thursday.
Fortunately, those candidates don’t only come out here to hobnob with Western Slope officials, but actually to learn about issues important to western Colorado residents, said Christian Reece, executive director of Club 20.
“So many of the candidates don’t know what the issues are facing western Colorado,” Reece said. “In fact, I sat down with a candidate six months ago, and he had no idea that broadband was an issue in western Colorado. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? People are still using dial-up. You should know this.’ That was completely mind-blowing.”
She gives credit, however, to candidates who do come to western Colorado to at least find some answers even if they don’t know what questions to ask.
Take Brauchler for example. As the current district attorney for the 18th Judicial District in the Denver metropolitan area, the Republican knows much about public safety issues, from the courts to law enforcement.
But being governor necessitates more than just a rudimentary understanding of other issues, something he’s learned while campaigning on the Western Slope in the crowded race for the GOP nomination for governor.
“The one issue that I did not anticipate, but appreciate more than any of the other (issues), is water,” Brauchler said Friday shortly after meeting with the Grand Junction Economic Partnership about business issues. “On the Front Range, the water issue is when I turn on my tap, is it there? Getting around the state as much as I have over the past five months, water is a huge issue.” Brauchler said his lack of understanding about water issues prompted him to meet with numerous water experts, including those with the Colorado River District.
His main takeaway, which is still under development, is more storage and more conservation.
Robinson, another GOP candidate for governor who also arrived in Grand Junction on Friday to attend Club 20, said he’s learned just how crucial broadband is for rural parts of the state, adding that as a guy who’s worked in the high tech industry, he’s uniquely suited to help the state stay ahead of the technology learning curve.
“I checked in to the Budget Host motel (in Rangely) recently and I heard something I hadn’t heard in 10 years, which was the modem go off to validate my credit card. You know the sound,” he said. “It is not economical in some of these small towns for private industry to (install broadband), but that’s exactly where the role of government should be.”
His main focus as a result? “Public-private partnerships that gets this done,” he said.
Lynne was the only candidate for the Democratic Party nomination to make it to the Grand Valley for the Club 20 meeting, giving the keynote address at Saturday’s lunch.
For the past 18 months working as Hickenlooper’s chief operating officer, Lynne said she’s learned much about the workings of Colorado government.
As an expert in health care matters, Lynne said one of her main focuses will be on getting the cost down, which has been a particularly troublesome issue for rural parts of the state.
“We need to talk about having enough (health care) plans in the state, and providing statewide coverage,” Lynne said. “The increases in the individual market unfortunately are a function of people dropping in and out of coverage, and we need to figure out how to encourage them to stay in for the entire year. That’s what’s hurting a lot of the health plans.”
Other government candidates who did not announce plans to attend this weekend’s Club 20 event include Republicans Greg Lopez, Lew Gaiter, Stephen Barlock and Victor Mitchell, who is expected in town on Monday. Among the Democrats, were Jared Polis, Michael Johnston, Noel Ginsberg and Cary Kennedy.
One statewide official considering running for governor who did attend was Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton. Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is also expected to join the race, but did not attend Club 20.