Colorado’s Lieutenant Governor launches bid for top office

Nicholas Riccardi
The Associated Press
Colorado Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne
David Zalubowski/AP

DENVER — Colorado Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne on Thursday announced that she’s running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, casting herself as a nonpartisan manager and problem-solver who can protect core Colorado values from President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress.

“We have a president and a Congress not only unable to address problems, but actually making them worse,” said Lynne, 63. “We must keep Colorado climbing.”

The long-anticipated announcement culminates a slow-motion about-face for Lynne, whom Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper chose in 2015 to act as a nonpartisan manager with no future political ambitions as his term wound down and a crowded 2018 Democratic primary loomed.

Lynne worked for years in New York City government before entering health care management. She was the head of Kaiser Permanente’s Colorado operation when Hickenlooper named her as both lieutenant governor and the state’s chief operating officer.

But Democrats quickly began whispering about whether Lynne could be convinced to run because Hickenlooper is term-limited and cannot run in 2018. Though he hasn’t endorsed her, Hickenlooper has been publicly supportive. Lynne repeatedly praised the governor during her announcement and took care to stress that she wanted to defend the environment and immigrants, two core Democratic priorities.

Lynne noted that she’s climbed all of the state’s 58 mountains that surpass 14,000 feet (4,200 meters) and knows economic stress from raising three children as a single mother. And she said that she wants to work to both protect President Barack Obama’s health care law and lower health care costs, arguing that soaring premiums are crowding out pay increases and squeezing family budgets.

Colorado this week approved an average 27 percent increase in individual health insurance rates for next year.

Lynne joins a crowded Democratic field that includes U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, former state Sen. Mike Johnston and former state treasurer Cary Kennedy.

She contended that her experience will help her stand out. “I’m the pragmatic person with more experience than any other candidate,” she told reporters.