Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said as governor she would bridge the divide between rural and urban parts of the state, including wealth disparity and broadband development.
“I see the diversity, but I also see a disparity in how different parts of the state have recovered from the recession, and that concerns me, because I feel some people and some places have been left behind in the recovery process and have not rebounded like the Front Range,” Coffman said in a phone interview with The Durango Herald on Friday. “I want to make sure we don’t leave ... small towns behind.”
If elected in November 2018, Coffman said she will make sure rural residents aren’t forgotten as state leaders deal with serious growing pains on the Front Range.
“Make sure that when you’re thinking about any project or investment in Colorado, you are also looking at the impact and the needs outside of the Front Range, and that has equal importance and significance,” she said. “That is generally the tone that I will set as governor.”
Coffman, who announced her candidacy this week, joins a crowded field of candidates to replace Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is term-limited. Coffman is in her first term as attorney general.
Other Republican candidates who have entered the race include Steve Barlock, George Brauchler, Lew Gaiter, Greg Lopez, Victor Mitchell, Doug Robinson, Walker Stapleton and Tom Tancredo.
Six Democrats have declared their candidacy.
Coffman has lived in Colorado for a little more than 20 years. During that time, she has worked as a staffer in the Legislature, worked for five years doing legal and regulatory work with the Colorado Public Health and Environment, worked as former Gov. Bill Owens’ legal counsel for about a year and has worked for 13 years in the Attorney General’s Office.
“I believe I have the most broad and deep knowledge of how state government works and how to govern,” she said.
Democrats picked up big gubernatorial wins this week in Virginia and New Jersey, but Coffman said it’s too early to say how national politics will affect Colorado’s election less than a year from now. Coloradans recognize the importance of having a strong relationship between Colorado and Washington, D.C., but it’s not the most important thing in selecting a governor.
Coffman said she is concerned about mining operations being shut down and ranchers who can’t afford to stay in business because of low cattle prices or lack of water. Forward progress is good, she said, but if workers can’t succeed in the current economy, the state should help with workforce development and appropriate training for jobs that can be attracted to rural Colorado, she said.
In a similar vein, Coffman said she’d make it a priority to make broadband available throughout the state.
“There’s been a lot of talk about it, but we haven’t been able to execute and do it quickly,” she said. “... How do small business owners build a business on the internet if they can’t even get on the internet?”
Coffman deflected a question about the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and Gallagher Amendment, which limit tax collections and have been blamed for hampering the state budget and dozens of local government budgets, including special districts.
“We would need to set a longer conversation,” she said. “I don’t want to give it short shrift.”
Coffman said she met last month with Doug Benevento, Region 8 administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, and she is encouraged by what she is hearing about the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund near Silverton.
“I think you all are going to be seeing more activity and attention than perhaps you’ve seen in the past,” she said. “That’s something as governor that I want to have eyes on.”
“You have some of the best tourist opportunities and most beautiful scenery in the state, and I want to make sure in our tourism messaging, we address anyone’s concerns that there’s a cleanup going on in your community.”