It's a crowded ballot for the University of Colorado at-large regent seat, with four candidates vying for the chance to lead the statewide system and help select a new university president this year.

Republican Ken Montera said he wants to be a regent because of the dramatic impact CU had on his life.

Montera and his siblings were the first in their family to go to college, and Montera was able to attend CU through a scholarship.

After receiving a business degree, Montera went on to work for companies such as Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo and Limited Brands. Montera said his experience overseeing thousands of employees and managing billion-dollar budgets will inform his role as regent.

During his campaign, Montera said he's heard over and over again that the cost of higher education is a major issue across Colorado.

"We've got to figure out how we can make college education more affordable for Colorado families because there are people in rural communities who aren't even thinking about CU because of the cost and the barriers of getting to those campuses," Montera said. "I think that's the number one thing we've got to focus on."

Democrat Lesley Smith worked at CU as a scientist and educator for 30 years before deciding to run for election.

"My passion is education and I want every student across Colorado to have a chance for a great education at CU, and that's something I would fight for as a regent," Smith said.

Smith said she would bring a unique perspective to the board as a former faculty member.

"If I get elected, I will be the only one on the board that has such an extensive career at CU in terms of research and teaching," Smith said. "Boards are always strongest when they have a diverse group of individuals and backgrounds."

Smith said her biggest goal is to make CU more affordable, and while reducing tuition significantly would be "very difficult," there are other ways to help with the cost.

Some programs that offset tuition and fees are exclusively available at the Boulder campus because of its significant research arm, Smith said.

"I view that as an equity issue across campuses," she said. "How can we get these programs at the other schools?"

Unity party candidate Christopher Otwell and Libertarian James Treibert could not be reached for comment.

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