Thursday, April 27, 2006

Drinking Liberally with Gubenatorial Candidate Bill Ritter

Because of your stance on abortion, because of your stance on gay marriage, because of your entire liberal laundry list of progressive issues, you should be working to get Bill Ritter elected Governor of Colorado.
In every race, in every district, we need to pull things farther to the left. In places where no seeds have been planted, we need to till the soil and get it ready. Campaigns like that of Keely Marrs in SD-9 break the first cracks into the pavement, and create space where other growth can follow. Candidates such as Bill Winter and Angie Paccione can bring their districts to the balancing point and perhaps even push us over to victories. And then when the time is ripe, candidates like Ed Perlmutter and Bill Ritter can bring in the new harvest, solidly winning the seats that our work has earned.

No precinct is blue enough. We will keep fighting to win back our Republic, and we will do it intelligently. We will replace an Owens with a Ritter, a Beauprez with a Perlmutter, and when the time comes an Allard with a Udall, and who knows? Maybe even eventually replace a Ritter with a Carroll. The important thing is that we establish the beginning of the upward spiral, and that rather than being divided because no single candidate meets all of our personal agenda issues, we unite behind the ones that move us another step closer towards an environment that supports our core values and common goals.

Bill Ritter moves us in the correct direction, but because he is not everything to every progressive voter, there is a very real chance that Denver will stay home on election day. If that happens what will become of your progressive agenda? The right to choose will be in radical Republican hands, homophobia will be made law, health care and education will be sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit.

The alternative is so bad, that I would be willing to accommodate someone a lot less appealing than the former U.S. Attorney, but tonight I found that Bill Ritter is a candidate I can feel quite comfortable supporting. He and his pick for Lt. Governor, Barbara O'Brien, were the featured guests at tonight's Denver Drinking Liberally.

In introducing Ms. O'Brien, Ritter quoted Dick Celeste, the former Governor of Ohio. It was a curious choice, as Ritter and Celeste seem to me to be of fairly different sensibilities on most issues. Perhaps there is some common ground in that Celeste was once Director of the Peace Corps, and Ritter spent three years managing a nutrition center in Zambia. But if there is little else I see in common between the two, there was certainly enough in common between Ritter and O'Brien so that the quote, "When you choose your running-mate you choose someone who shares your passions," was very apt.

Ritter and O'Brien both shared a commitment to providing better health care and stronger educational opportunities, and to reducing our countries dependence on foreign energy.

O'Brien helped create the Child Health Plan, and related a story about a child whose parents had no insurance, and who put off seeking medical attention for fear of establishing an impossible to pay for 'pre-existing condition.' Through O'Brien's initiative, they were able to identify and treat the benign tumor and save the child. In a theme that I think will be very successful for the Democrats, she did not end the story there as a tale of an act of charity towards a child, but helped the crowd understand it as an investment in a healthy and productive citizen of Colorado who will have an appreciation for the constructive possibility of appropriate government. The Republicans sell our children and future to their cronies, the Democrats invest in our citizens.

Ritter took on a question about gas prices, and called for Colorado to take a leadership position in the New Energy Economy. He spoke of the energy possibilities in wind and biofuels in terms much like those Angie Paccione used when she visited our group from her district on the Eastern Plains. He seemed more skeptical of the current efficiency of ethanol, but he felt that tax incentives should be used to encourage biofuel crops from our farmers. He spoke of how we are the ninth windiest and sixth sunniest state, and using words that echoed ones that I have heard from Ed Perlmutter, he explained how energy independence makes sense not just environmentally, but was equally good for our economy and important for our national defense.

It was one of several ideas that Ritter advanced for encouraging high technology jobs to come to our state. An important aspect of that plan was fleshed out for me by Colorado University Regent candidate, Steve Ludwig. The race for Regent is the sort that is easy to let slip beneath my radar, but consider how vital a strong university system is to draw high technology companies to our state. In fact every key issue in Ritter's platform, from public education through sensible health care, requires competent leadership at our Universities. As I said at the start, we have to build the party at all levels. Promoting a healthy CU system can easily produce results in the short term and far into the future. In fact hold on a second, I am going to go to his website and request they send me out a lawn sign... done.

Another way that technology investment can help our State was outlined by O'Brien who said that bringing the internet to small town Colorado will provide a way for their entrepreneurial spirit to flourish. She was preaching to the choir when it comes to me. I think that bringing the net to both our rural areas and to the schools and homes in our low income communities will tap into creativity and resources in powerful ways. I also look forward to getting invited to Drinking Liberally Poncha Springs.

Ritter was next asked a series of questions about the Electoral College, and stated his preference to keep it as it stands. Speaking to the Denver crowd, he defended Wyoming's right to a voice in our Federal system over a louder voice for the City of Denver. I appreciated getting an answer that was so clearly at odds with the political expediency of the moment. Paradoxically, not telling me what I want to hear is sometimes just the sort of thing I want to hear.

Ritter fielded a number of environmental questions, and answered them the ways that Colorado Democrats tend to. He supported tighter air and water quality controls, and spoke of preserving open space while allowing for 'wise growth'.

O'Brien and Ritter both answered questions about the No Child Left Behind act, without either giving a clear call for full Federal funding. O'Brien said we needed to keep a strong core of math and sciences in our schools, but also were "responsible for the whole being" of our students and had to meet the challenge of maintaining our Arts and Sports programs.

When asked where the future Governor planned on finding the funds for this and the other programs he was advocating, Ritter said he would begin with a top to bottom audit much like the ones that were carried out in Texas and other states. One place he saw room to trim was in the money the Department of Transportation was spending on environmental impact studies for the toll roads. As Ritter voiced several anti-toll statements, I assume he means to cut out the studies by curtailing the road plans themselves.

O'Brien also suggested that there may be funds already in the system that just were being tied up in red tape, such as the 2004 money from Amendment 35 that has just now started to find its way through the bureaucracy.

When asked by a self-described gay activist about GLBT issues, Ritter was somewhere between the middle of the road and the left curb. He supports same sex partnerships, opposes cluttering the constitution with anti-marriage amendments, and said he supported "starting a public policy conversation" about recognizing gay marriages.

The activist was interviewed by Valerie Richardson of the Washington Times about his feelings on Ritter, and while he would have preferred Hickenlooper, he said that he would ultimately vote for Ritter, but he was concerned that many of his circle would opt to stay home. Her story on the evening will probably be available on the web this weekend.

On the abortion issue, Ritter voiced his support for emergency contraception, his personal opposition to abortion, and his legislative stance for choice. He said that Roe v. Wade was the settled law of the land, and did not support Colorado making laws that conflicted with it, and certainly did not support South Dakota's laws that made no exception for rape or properly safeguarded the health of the mother. Ritter did not speculate as to what he would do if Roe v. Wade had been overturned on the Federal level.

He was asked about what policies he had in place to meet the needs of the African American community, and he broadened the question to consider all "communities of color." He pointed out that the central issues of his campaign, health care and education, were ones that spoke broadly to all of Colorado, but were also of direct interest to those least served by our current system. "This is a State with great promise that is not living up to it's promise."

In the end, I was left feeling that Ritter was a good candidate, and vastly superior to Holtzman or Beauprez. While some of his stances are more moderate than mine, I was glad to see that they stood where they did out of conviction and not out of weakness or timidity. Hopefully his reasoned positions will give more reason for the right wing to stay home than the left, but if we want to create change in this state, we better work very hard to get our voters to the polls this November. Guarding our Senate and House majorities will not mean much if we have Tom Delay's friend holding the veto pen.


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