While Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis told a crowd of nearly 150 people packed into a Grand Junction coffee shop on Saturday that he will be a governor for the entire state, his speech focused on issues near and dear to the Western Slope.
Protecting public lands. Expanding broadband internet infrastructure to rural areas. Working to get the Bureau of Land Management to relocate its headquarters to Grand Junction.
Polis' whirlwind tour of western Colorado comes a week before the fall Club 20 conference and debates, which Polis has been criticized for skipping. Polis will attend a debate with his Republican opponent, Walker Stapleton, at Colorado Mesa University on Oct. 6.
On Saturday, Polis took questions from residents on climate change, public employee benefits, access to mental health care and more.
Polis repeatedly returned to the topic of public lands, separating himself from President Donald Trump.
"We need Western governors and a Colorado governor who will tell this president, or any president, we will not sell off our public lands," Polis said.
He also emphasized the need to balance public land use — taking advantage of the abundance of natural resources while also keeping people safe and preserving recreation opportunities.
"One of the biggest potential risks to western Colorado is the privatization of public lands," Polis said. "Once our public lands are carved up, there's no going back to our heritage and our way of life in western Colorado."
Grand Junction resident Kevin Mahoney said he came to the meet and greet to hear what Polis had to say.
"I want to see what kind of changes he can make to Colorado, because I feel like we've been pretty stagnant," Mahoney said.