All Democratic candidates for Colorado’s next governor gave their distinct qualifications for why they should be the representative of the LGBTQ community.
All four Democratic candidates appeared at the EXDO Event Center in Denver on Thursday to a forum hosted by One Colorado, an advocacy organization for LGBTQ Coloradans and their families. Republican candidates were invited, but had committed to a Republican forum hosted by a local news network happening at the same time.
Daniel Ramos, Executive Director of One Colorado read questions that had been submitted online and said that of priority would be that “we must elect a pro-equality governor.”
Cary Kennedy, a former state treasurer, said she helped Colorado through the 2008-09 financial crisis, and helped “to keep Colorado on good financial footing,” and helping Colorado to become the “leading economy in the nation.” Her priorities are to make public education Colorado’s top priority and to reverse a trend of ranking at the bottom of for funding education while at the same time ranking at the top for general economy. Kennedy suggests a public health insurance option that would mean healthcare accessibility for all Coloradans. Protecting the environment, open space, air and water quality were other priorities that Kennedy listed as she closed her opening statement with, “You will see me defend the rights of everyone in our state.”
Mike Johnston, a former high school teacher and public school principal pointed to those experiences and also his experience running a school in a juvenile prison. Johnston highlighted his days as an adviser to President Barack Obama and his time in the Colorado state senate. It was this time in the senate that he says he was able to bring both parties together to pass over 100 pieces of legislation that had Republicans as co-sponsors. He asked the audience, “Who is the candidate of this state who has the most significant chance of winning the general election?”
“I would not be able to be on this stage, running for office if it wasn’t for your courage, and your integrity,” Representative Jared Polis said to those over 60 years old whom he asked to stand to receive his acknowledgement. Fighting tears, he celebrated those who were standing as “LGBTQ heroes.”
Polis currently represents Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District in the US House of Representatives.
“I’m asking for your support not to be the first gay governor of Colorado because I’m gay, I’m here because I believe I’m the most qualified, the most experienced, and the best candidate to win in November.”
Polis celebrated that he had started schools and his business successes, but that his highest honor was serving in Congress “alongside Barack Obama helping him achieve the Affordable Care Act, replacing No Child Left Behind, and raking in Wall Street.” He also would like to see Colorado achieve 100% renewable energy, universal healthcare and to “make sure that every Coloradans in all of our diversity are celebrated.”
Colorado’s current Lieutenant Governor and Chief Operating Officer Donna Lynne said that she originates from a working class background and that she has always experienced striving for equality having raised bi-racial children.
While acknowledging Colorado’s economic recovery and low unemployment status, Lynne recognized that not everyone was benefiting, “There are a lot of people we’re leaving behind and I want to fight for them.”
Lynne identified as being an “underdog” and added that her passions lie with having strong wages, access to healthcare, and affordable housing.
A question about personal experiences with LGBTQ Coloradans and their families brought stories about family and acquaintances, and in Polis’ case, about his own coming out as being gay which he says he kept to himself through high school.
Kennedy said that she was raised with old norms of a man and a woman forming a marriage which made her more grateful that her children have been raised instead with the norm that people are free to love and marry whomever they choose.
Lynne remembered her best friend growing up who took 15 years to share her sexual orientation to her and added that she would work for progressive healthcare for the gay community especially.