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Ex-GOP Senate candidate will run for Colorado governor as a Democrat

April 10, 2017 Updated: April 11, 2017 at 6:07 am
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photo - (Courtesy of Erik M Underwood/Twitter)
(Courtesy of Erik M Underwood/Twitter) 

Erik Underwood is unique among those who have announced or are expected to announce they're running for governor.

He's likely to be the only primary candidate who belonged to a different party last year.

Underwood ran for U.S. Senate last year as a Republican but got only six votes in a crowded field at the state party convention. El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn got on the ballot in April and won the primary in June, before losing to incumbent Michael Bennet in November.

A moderate, Underwood said he didn't leave the GOP. It left him, and he summed up that feeling in one word, "Trump."

Underwood, a 37-year-old businessman from Boulder, said he plans self-finance his campaign, so he won't file paperwork and begin campaigning until this summer.

The field so far includes U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, former state treasurer Cary Kennedy, Denver businessman Noel Ginsburg and former state Sen. Mike Johnston on the Democratic side. For the Republicans, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler and former state Rep. Victor Mitchell have announced their candidacies, and all eyes are on State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman potentially to join the race.

"We need fresh faces with new ideas, instead of recycled faces with old ideas ... I'm looking to provide strong leadership that is fair and in-line with our Colorado values," he said Monday.

He said he's uniquely positioned to attract moderate Republicans and conservative-leading unaffiliated voters to the party, as well as retain moderate Democrats. And as a person who hasn't been elected to public office before, he retains an outsider's perspective.

He called candidates in the race so far "great people" but "establishment people who just don't get it. They don't understand what the last election meant."

The top two issues that motivate Underwood the most are transportation and healthcare, specifically expanding Medicaid help to more people, he said.

In the statehouse, the two issues are argued as a trade-off, that there's not enough money to pay to expand interstates and keep up with rural transportation needs because the state's share of Medicaid is too much.

The price tag is more manageable, however, with Underwood's other mission as governor: lead the repeal of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights.

While the state's economy has been strong, lawmakers say they're cash-poor when it comes to transportation, because the better the economy, the more the state has to refund to taxpayers under TABOR, they claim.

Underwood said he would also work on a state solution to immigration, offering undocumented residents who stay out of trouble and pay their taxes a path to citizenship.

"It's a small step that would not tear families apart," said Underwood, who calls the program COOTS for "Come Out of the Shadows."

Underwood ran as a Republican for Congress in Georgia, when he was living in Atlanta, in 2007. He finished last among 10 candidates.

His political experience also includes work in Washington, D.C., for the late Republican Sen. George Voinovich, who was a former Ohio governor.

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