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EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne as Dems’ state assembly begins

April 14, 2018 Updated: April 14, 2018 at 10:23 am
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Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne outside the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, April 14 2018. Photo by Marianne Goodland.

Colorado Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne showed up outside the 1stBank Center in Broomfield Saturday morning, site of the Democrats’ state assembly, with her mind unchanged about her route to the ballot. She’s still awaiting word on her petitions to become one of who-knows-how-many Democratic candidates for governor.

Lynne has served as lieutenant governor since 2016, when she was tapped by Gov. John Hickenlooper to replace departing Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia. She is attempting to petition onto the Democratic primary ballot.

Lynne spoke to Colorado Politics about life on the campaign trail and her outreach to Colorado voters.

Colorado Politics Q: How goes the campaign?

Lynne: It’s great! I’m here today in Broomfield, continuing my “Meet Me on Main Street” campaign. It dawned on me as we were doing petitions, I’m meeting people who didn’t even know there is an election or even a primary. I just want to touch base with all of them. I’ve been to 20 plus Democratic Party events where candidates get a chance to speak and 100 people show up. There’s a whole electorate out there that needs to be engaged with everyday problems, and that’s what I’m trying to understand. And communicate my passion to represent them.

Colorado Politics Q: What are you hearing from unaffiliated voters?

Lynne: I’m hearing a lot of unaffiliated voters who say they will vote Democratic and say they are Democrats. There’s a little confusion about that. I’ve heard a lot of enthusiasm from unaffiliated voters and an excitement that they’ll be able to vote this time.

Colorado Politics Q: What kinds of issues are unaffiliated voters raising?

Lynne: Housing continues to be the biggest issue. When I started as Lt. Gov., outside of the Front Range I heard it all the time. It’s continuing wherever you go — almost a tie with healthcare in terms of what people bring up.

(Lynne recounted meeting a family in Lakewood last week whose adult son had moved in with them because he couldn’t find an affordable place to live. But it’s also a problem for small business as well, she added, pointing to a couple who owns a small business on Colfax and is losing their location because the rents have become too high.)

Colorado Politics Q: What are you hearing from rural Colorado?

Lynne: I’ve been out in rural Colorado probably more than any other elected official because I’ve sort of adopted them. Club 20 (the Grand Junction political group) gave me an award last week, the Building Bridges award.

I am hearing their concerns about transportation — they want to make sure it’s not just a Front Range I-70/I-25 issue. They have safety issues, the speed of moving goods across the state, whether agriculture or otherwise. They’re still concerned there’s a divide between the Front Range and the rest of Colorado. When I was in Buena Vista, Salida and La Junta, they also talk about housing. We have state employees; I’m a bit of a champion for public sector employees, having been one for a long time and knowing the great work they do. They have to travel long distances, especially for prisons, because they can’t find housing in the communities in which they work.

Colorado Politics Q: What about economic development for rural communities?

Lynne: They’re not looking for a handout. That’s what I’m hearing from rural Colorado. They want the tools to be able to think about economic development. The state has a program — Blueprint 2.0 — that gave technical assistance to rural communities. Maybe tourism isn’t the most conventional thing in this community, but we’ve got great mountains, rivers, other things. rural tourism is huge or tiny homes, ways that rural communities can produce things that don’t have to be produced on the Front Range.

Colorado Politics Q: What about water?

Lynne: A crisis is an opportunity and we have a crisis with the snowpack this year. We have a phonebook-size implementation plan — the Colorado water plan — and we have an implementation plan, that ‘s the big push right now. We have some big storage projects like NISP (a plan to build two new reservoirs in Northern Colorado) that we have to figure out the financing for and accelerate. I honestly think water has to be the next big conversation.

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