Thiebaut stops in Steamboat

Candidate wants to move government to the people

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— Colorado's Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Bill Thiebaut said some state agencies should move out of Denver and into the portions of the state where they govern.

"Why should the (Colorado) Division of Wildlife be in downtown Denver when it should be on the Western Slope?" Thiebaut asked.

The Department of Agriculture could feasibly move to a rural portion of the state, he said.

"It demonstrates, in my mind, that we are moving government out to the people," Thiebaut said.

On Friday, Thiebaut, D-Pueblo, who also is the senate majority leader in Colorado, stopped in Steamboat Springs while campaigning for the lieutenant governor's office. He is running with Democrat gubernatorial candidate Rollie Heath, who is opposing incumbent Gov. Bill Owens.

Owens recently chose Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment head Jane Norton to be his running mate.

Thiebaut brings experience in the political world to Heath, who is a Boulder businessman with no political past. This will be the first election in Colorado where the governor candidates pick lieutenant governors as running mates. The lieutenant governor's only official duties are to head the Indian Affairs Commission and be the liaison to two tribes.

Thiebaut said the office could better serve the people in the future.

"The lieutenant governor can do so much more in developing policies," he said. "I don't intend to sit in an office in Denver and just read a newspaper. Rollie (Heath) realized that we don't need another bureaucrat in office. I think he also realized we need someone who lives in the outer parts of the state and has a family in the outer parts of the state."

If Heath and Thiebaut were elected, they would consider moving the lieutenant governor's office to Thiebaut's hometown of Pueblo as part of the plan to move state offices out of Denver, he said.

The running mates will have to pull off an improbable upset over the popular Owens for that to happen. Owens has gained national attention during his four years in office, appearing on news programs and in respected national newspapers. Republicans consider him one of the best governors in the country, and rumors are floating around about Owens being groomed for a higher office.

Maybe more detrimental to the Colorado Democratic hopefuls in November, Owens is running for his second term with a $5.5 million campaign fund against Heath's $1 million.

"When you are running against the $5 million man, it's difficult," Thiebaut said.

He said visiting small towns is one way to compensate for Owens' ability to buy television and radio time.

Along with Owens' political stature and campaign money, Thiebaut said the governor has skimped on education, focused too much on building roads in Denver, sided with oil interests, lacked vision for Colorado's future and contributed to the state's economic decline with an unhealthy tax cut.

Thiebaut paints Owens as a "crisis manager," only leading the state when he is forced to by disaster.

"There is no vision or policy or theme, just a reaction to problems," he said.

Republicans portray Thiebaut as an extremist liberal, who has opposed the important issues of Coloradans, according to GOP news releases.

Thiebaut calls the accusations political jargon and said he's done a fine job as the first Democratic senate majority leader in Colorado in 40 years. He has been at odds with the governor for vetoing a balanced budget to cut social programs and put more money toward epic Denver roads refurbishing.

Transportation issues that involve various means, including light rail and airports, are a more balanced approach to looking at Colorado's needs, Thiebaut said.

As senator, Thiebaut has supported the state's assistance to rural airports improving infrastructure as an important component to protecting the tourist industry in Colorado. That's a stance he'll continue to have in the future.

"If we don't invest in our airport infrastructure, then it will be dilapidated and useless," Thiebaut said.

Another issue Thiebaut supported was Senate Bill 15, which allowed small businesses, agricultural producers and many other entities in the business world to pay for health insurance through the state employee program. The bill also allowed a council to review insurance costs if they appeared to dramatically increase.

"The demographic wouldn't change dramatically, but the pool would be expanded that would reduce the premium," he said.

The bill died in the House.

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