Dem tackles questions

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter visits Steamboat

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— Tucked into a corner of Creekside Cafe and Grill, democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter answered questions, asked some of his own and laid out his plans for Colorado's future during a visit with local democrats and the public Friday.

Ritter, a former two-term Denver district attorney, is the only democrat running to replace term-limited Gov. Bill Owens, a republican. The gubernatorial election is in November 2006.

Ritter spoke to about 12 people Friday. Some attendees asked about statewide issues such as education, health care and the environment, and others focused on more regional issues.

Ritter outlined some of his plans for Colorado, such as addressing the ever-growing cost and inaccessibility of health care. About 767,000 Coloradans are uninsured, thou--gh 76 percent are emp--loyed, he said.

"The state is in a crisis," Ritter said. "Everyone agrees this is a crisis."

Ritter said he int--ends to focus on short-term and long-term solutions to health care issues, including making immunizations more available during the next couple of years.

The candidate also addressed concerns about the environment, saying Colorado should model itself after Arizona. Instead of focusing on environmentalism, Ritter said, residents should think of themselves as stewards of the land and should focus on the notion of balancing resource use and protection.

"We have to think about what our resp--onsibility is to the land. We have to have an investment mentality when it comes to our enviro--nment," he said.

Ritter also expl--ained his ardent support of referendums C and D, saying their passage would allow Colorado to live up to the promise it holds for its residents.

"There is a face to all of the budget cuts that have been made in Colorado. We need to think of our civic duty more broadly," he said. "If C and D fails, there will be less money for everything."

Ritter said the passage of referendums C and D, which would relax Taxpayers Bill of Rights restrictions, allowing the state to keep and spend more revenue, would provide more money for health care, education and human services.

At this point in his campaign, Ritter said, the best way his supporters could help was to work every day to get referendums C and D approved by voters this fall and to fundraise for his campaign.

"We will continue to have these conversations," he said. "I am listening."

Lynn Abbott, a member of Routt County Democrats, said she thought Ritter's visit to Steamboat was crucial because it allowed locals to meet the candidate and have their voices heard.

"We peppered him with a lot of questions. It was a very diverse dialogue," she said.

"It's extremely important our needs are heard, because our needs are much different than those on the Front Range," Abbott said. "He was a very good listener."

Resident Diane Mitsch Bush also agreed that Ritter was a good democratic candidate and said she was glad to have had the opportunity to ask him some tough questions.

"I thought he was really straightforward. It's clear that he's really thought about these issues," she said. "He knows Colorado."

Mitsch Bush said she particularly liked Ritter's beliefs that prevention is key to keeping Colorado out of peril and that the state should remain focused on investment.

"This notion of prevention and investment is crucial. We've really lost ground in health care. We've lost ground with energy. His approach was very useful," she said.

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