Steamboat Springs The Democratic candidacy for governor is no longer a one-horse race.
State Rep. Gary Lindstrom, D-Breckenridge, announced Thursday night his intent to challenge former Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter in the August Democratic primary.
Lindstrom represents Summit, Eagle and Lake counties at the Capitol. Last year was the first as a legislator for the former Summit County undersheriff, coroner and commissioner.
Lindstrom said Friday his decision to run for governor was spurred not only by a lack of Democratic candidates, but by a lack of candidates who understand rural issues and have progressive values.
"When the (Legislative) session wound down last May, a lot of names were being bounced around for governor, and no one really knew who was running," Lindstrom said. "Here we are in December, and we only have Bill Ritter as a candidate."
Denver Mayor John Hicken--looper, U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar and state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald lead the list of prominent Democrats who have said they would not run for governor. Rutt Bridges, chief executive officer of the Bighorn Policy Center -- a Denver public policy think tank -- pulled out of the Democratic race in August.
Lindstrom, 63, said he is pro-choice and supports same-sex marriage rights, open immigration and the legalization of marijuana.
He said he waited to announce his candidacy until Thursday, after campaigning for referendums C and D ended, in case "anyone came out of the woodwork."
He has received support since his announcement, he said.
"I've been getting a lot of phone calls from people on the Western Slope and in southern Colorado, saying they don't feel Ritter is a good candidate for them because he's a city guy and doesn't understand rural issues or resort-town issues," said Lindstrom, who has lived in Breckenridge for more than 30 years.
"I don't think there's anyone at the Capitol who really understands the importance of tourism."
Lindstrom said too much focus is placed on developing the I-25 corridor, along with the Denver metro area and the Front Range.
The state should look at bringing more light industry to rural areas such as Moffat and Lake counties, he said, along with developing mass transit -- such as light rail -- along the I-70 corridor.
As for illegal immigration, a growing issue in Colorado likely to play a part in next year's race, Lindstrom said trying to prevent people from entering the country has proved to be a waste of time and resources.
"I think we ought to disband the (U.S.) Border Patrol and put that money into health care and education," he said. "That whole program is worthless -- all it does is slow people down occasionally. The resort industry and our economy would collapse if we didn't have foreign workers."
As the newest entry into the race -- Ritter began campaigning in May -- Lindstrom has a lot of work to do.
He does not have a campaign staff yet, he said, and he has not filed his candidacy paperwork with the Secretary of State's Office. Candidates have 10 days after their announcement to file.
Evan Dreyer, Ritter's campaign manager, said Lindstrom is too far behind.
"If he does end up filing those papers, the race will be a lot harder than he's ever imagined," Dreyer said. "He has several insurmountable hurdles."
Dreyer said those hurdles include low finances, a lack of name recognition in the state and a six-month head start for Ritter in statewide campaigning.
Ritter has raised about $600,000, Dreyer said, and has much more of a foothold in Western Colorado than Lind--strom thinks.
"Bill knows issues pertaining to rural Colorado," Dreyer said, citing Ritter's childhood on a farm in Arapahoe County and his recent visits to Western Slope counties.
Ritter is meeting with Demo--crats today in Summit and Eagle counties, right in Lindstrom's backyard. Dreyer said the scheduling was planned well before Lindstrom's announcement.
Dreyer also said he does not think that Ritter, who is pro-life, will lose pro-choice votes.
"There are more voters who will vote on the many issues that they agree with Bill on than they will on a single issue," he said.
Another hurdle for Lindstrom, Dreyer said, will be trying to juggle a campaign while serving as a state representative in Denver. This year's session begins early in January and will last into May.
"Gary will end up spending time campaigning that would be better spent in the Legislature," Dreyer said.
Lindstrom said although he is aware of the "dawn till dusk" workload of a legislative session, he plans to campaign on nights and weekends.
Lindstrom also will continue to teach political science and sociology classes two nights a week at Colorado Mountain College campuses in Breckenridge and Dillon, which he has done for 19 years.
"That doesn't leave much time, does it?" he said.
Lindstrom said the need for a governor from the Western Slope will drive him, despite the time crunch.
"I would really like to see someone from rural Colorado in charge of state government," he said. "You don't see governors up here very often."