Pitkin County Democrats salute Rachel Richards | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County Democrats salute Rachel Richards

Among the speakers at the Pitkin County Democrats annual dinner Thursday were candidates in the November mid-term elections, but it was a longtime Aspen elected official leaving office who received one of the warmest receptions.

Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards, also a former Aspen mayor and city councilwoman, is on the final stretch of her third and final term, and she urged the gathering at T-Lazy-7 Ranch not to be complacent over the next two-plus months.

"I think this is our year more than ever," she said. "Whenever one talks about voter turnout for Kerry Donovan (the Senate District 5 incumbent seeking re-election), know everybody who turns out is going to put Diane Mitsch Bush (who is running against Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton) in Congress and flip western Colorado …"

Richards touched on a theme that the candidates who spoke also re-enforced — get out and vote and bring your mom and neighbor, too.

"It's our time to speak your values," Richards said. "Speak the truth, ask questions and work your butts off until this November. I honestly think the fate of our public lands, our climate, the quality of our rivers, our children's education — everything we've thought were established values, perhaps that I adopted in the '60s, could change so quickly, and we need to be active now.

"This is our time."

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Richards was introduced by Betty Wallach, who runs the Pitkin County Democrats with her husband, Howie. Wallach poured over some of Richards' most notable feats as an elected official for 25 years in Aspen and Pitkin County — including her helping orchestrate the city's purchase of Red Brick building, which came after the Aspen electorate approved the acquisition by a three-vote margin in 1992.

"Rachel worked very hard for that one," Betty Wallach said, adding that Richards also helped key the city's purchase of the Yellow Brick schoolhouse and Aspen Country Inn (senior housing), as well as the creation of seasonal housing at Burlingame, the city's lodging tax, the half-penny sales tax for open space and trails, and the 1⁄10 of a penny sales tax for the county's Healthy Rivers and Streams fund.

And, Wallach said, "She was a driving force behind Colorado's first rural transportation system, including bus-only lanes on Highway 82."

Richards has lived in the Roaring Fork Valley since 1978.

"I have a million stories I could tell, but I wanted to mostly say that there's nothing I've ever accomplished that wasn't accomplished because this community wasn't behind me, and this community stood forward.

"And I can look at every single table and see somebody I hit up to say, 'Can I use your name on this steering committee?'"

Richards is county commissioner for District 2; Kelly McNicholas Kury is the sole candidate to replace her.

Also honored at the banquet was Millie Hamner, a term-limited state representative from Summit County who also represents Aspen in House District 61. Former Aspen and Snowmass Village resident Gail Schwartz, once a state senator, introduced her to the audience.

The Democrat nominees who spoke included Bush, Donovan, Julie McCluskie, who is running for House District 61; Dianne Primavera, who is running on Jared Polis' ticket as lieutenant governor; Phil Weiser, who is running for attorney general; and state Rep. Dave Young, who is running for state treasurer.

Jena Griswold, the Dems' candidate for secretary of state, was scheduled to appear but she was sidelined by illness, according to Howie Wallach.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com

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