Be civil, Ritter urges

Gov. Bill Ritter greets Pat Tindall of Grand Junction at Two Rivers Convention Center at the Mesa County Democrats’ annual Spring Fling dinner on Friday.

People need to display a lot more civility in discussing issues facing the state and nation, Gov. Bill Ritter and other Democrats said Friday.

And those same people need to be armed with facts, not innuendo or outright lies, the governor and others told about 1,000 members of the Mesa County Democratic Party at its annual Spring Fling dinner.

“I understand there’s a level of anger and a level of frustration,” Ritter said. “But there’s a great deal of instability in the discourse, and we can’t as a country find common ground if our political discourse is darkened by that level of instability.”

Ritter, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Secretary of State Bernie Buescher all told the county Democrats that until civility returns to that political discourse, the state and the nation will never accomplish anything.

The three, and other politicos at the event, referred specifically to the tea party movement and the issues it has rallied about and protested against in recent months, particularly over health care reform.

Bennet, who is facing a primary election challenge from former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who also attended the dinner, said people have the right to have whatever opinions they choose.

“But they don’t have the right to choose their own facts,” said Bennet, who shook hands with a few tea partiers rallying outside the Two Rivers Convention Center before the dinner began. “The last thing we need now is the polarization. We just don’t need that.”

The Democrats praised each other for standing up to it, saying the only way to combat what they called “fear-based campaigning” is by continuing to try to educate voters about the issues and how the party believes they should be addressed.

As in past years, the annual dinner attracted top names in state government, including U.S. Rep. John Salazar, Colorado Democratic Party Chairwoman Pat Waak and Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett, the recently announced candidate to run against Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.

Ritter said that while he has suffered many attacks on some of the things he has done in his 3 1/2 years as governor, he stood behind them as difficult-but-necessary choices.

Chief among them were changes to regulations on the state’s oil and gas industry. He said it was necessary not only to revamp the makeup of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission that oversees the industry, but vital to impose stricter regulations designed to protect water and the environment.

“We took on the oil and gas rules because it was the right thing to do,” he said. “We changed the oil and gas commission so that it has representation from the industry, but wasn’t controlled by the industry. We changed the oil and gas rules so that we could say we’re confident that when we drill, we do so in a way that protects our water, protects our air, protects our communities.”

Although the governor chastised his Republican attackers over the years at the dinner, earlier in the day he praised some of them for coming together on a bill he plans to sign Monday.

That measure would convert several Denver-area, coal-fired power plants to burn natural gas. Doing so will help clear the air on the Front Range and help boost jobs on the Western Slope, he said.

In addition to attending the dinner, the governor toured the Hilltop Child and Family Center, met with health care leaders in the city and talked with unemployed Coloradans at the Mesa County Workforce Center.


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