The Democratic race for Colorado governor grew again on Monday with news that former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy would enter the competition.
Colorado Politics sat down with Kennedy last week ahead of her formal Monday announcement.
"I grew up with brothers and sisters who didn't have the same opportunities that I have been given, and I saw firsthand how important it is for all kids to get a great education and to have opportunities in order to be successful in their lives," Kennedy said, highlighting that she is one of 10 siblings in a "blended family" thanks to foster programs.
Kennedy announced her candidacy on Monday, one day after Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter kicked off his campaign for governor. She officially announced her candidacy for governor live on Facebook at 11:30 a.m.
The field of Democrats quickly took shape after former Interior Secretary and U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar announced that he would not seek the party's nomination to be the next governor of Colorado. With Salazar out of the way, several candidates began announcing.
Already announced in the race on the Democratic side is former state Sen. Mike Johnston of Denver. Johnston just had a record-breaking fundraising period, with at least $625,000 for the first quarter of 2017.
Democrat Noel Ginsburg, a Denver manufacturing entrepreneur and civic leader, has already declared his candidacy in the 2018 gubernatorial race, along with Johnston.
And U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder is also considering a run for governor. Polis would also rattle the primary, as he has name recognition and wealth behind him.
But political analyst Eric Sondermann said Kennedy presents a unique challenge in the race.
"Cary has a women's crowd that has checkbooks, and they have been waiting for this moment," Sondermann said. "Women are probably the No. 1 constituency in the Democratic Party, and in the aftermath of the Hillary defeat, they are also the most aggrieved constituency group."
Kennedy served as state treasurer before losing re-election in 2010 to current state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a Republican. Stapleton is likely going to run for governor next year.
On the Democratic side, Kennedy is the only candidate for governor who has won a statewide election.
"What I learned is to listen more," Kennedy said of her failed re-election bid. "To really listen to the people of Colorado. I have had the opportunity to travel this state a lot, particularly in the last six months, and every community in Colorado is unique."
A background in finance
Kennedy brings extensive financial experience to the table. In January she stepped down as Denver's chief financial officer and deputy mayor. She will focus on managing money responsibly as a cornerstone of her campaign.
Kennedy is also focusing on making investments in critical state resources, including education.
"I'm running for governor because there's some things that we need to get done and I'm the right person to get them done," she said. "It's making sure that every child growing up in Colorado has the opportunity to get a world-class education."
She said wise investments in areas such as education builds a strong future "so that we can keep Colorado the place that we all fell in love with."
Those that know Kennedy the best say she was born to lead, especially on financial issues. With the state's greatest problems revolving around funding for transportation, schools and roads, Kennedy could carve a path forward, her supporters say.
"She knows more about that than probably anyone in the state," said Denver District Attorney Beth McCann, a former state lawmaker who knows Kennedy well and encouraged her to run.
"She would be a terrific governor .. What she has that I don't see in any other candidate is the background of really that deep dive into the financial challenges of both the state and the city."
A longtime Colorado resident, Kennedy grew up in Evergreen and Denver and graduated from Manual High School. She is married to Saurabh Mangalik, who serves as the team doctor for the Denver Nuggets. They have two children.
Potential Republican challengers
Whoever wins the Democratic primary will go on to take on a Republican next year, as the GOP faces their own contested primary.
District Attorney George Brauchler, who served as the lead prosecutor in the case against Aurora theater shooter James Holmes, recently announced his candidacy, becoming the first high-profile Republican in the race.
DaVita Healthcare Partners chief executive Kent Thiry is also said to be considering a run for governor on the Republican ticket, as is former U.S. Senate candidate and Colorado State University athletic director Jack Graham.
Former Republican state Rep. Victor Mitchell has already launched a campaign. A total of four Republicans have so far filed paperwork to run.
Kennedy says she's ready for the challenge by drawing upon Colorado principles.
"We are successful in so many ways because we breakdown the silos and the bureaucracies," Kennedy said. "We build partnerships . we work together to address the challenges in our communities."