Kent Thiry is one of the most interesting names being floated for Colorado governor. The Republican business titan and public policy do-gooder, however, has lot of open doors into the state’s political arena, but hasn’t yet decided which way he might step, a close political adviser said Wednesday afternoon.
Thiry, the 61-year-old chairman and CEO of Denver-based DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc., has not set a timetable for his decision to either join the governor’s race, champion another ballot initiative or play some other role in Colorado politics and policy.
“Kent is a brilliant leader and one of the most accomplished CEOs in America,” said Kate Roberts, a senior political operative at EIS Solutions and the campaign manager of the successful Raise the Bar ballot amendment last year, a campaign on which Thiry was a financial supporter.
Last year Thiry also helped pass Proposition 107 to create a presidential primary in the state and Proposition 108 to allow unaffiliated voters to participate.
“And it’s not secret: He has a passion for public policy and public service. Last year’s victory with the open primary initiative really fanned that fire, and Kent is clearly thinking about his next steps in the public sphere. Is that another ballot initiative, perhaps getting behind the redistricting reform push, which has a lot of similarities to the one he shepherded so many years ago in California?”
Thiry also might decide to run for public office down the road, Roberts said.
“I think all of those options are on the table, and Kent is looking at them in a methodical, systematic way,” she said. “This much is certain: This guy has special leadership gifts and an equal desire to continue to help solve problems for the state and the country. Whatever he does, I’d bet on him succeeding.”
Candidates are jumping in the race lately to shore up allies and financial backing. Thiry is a wealthy in his own right with plenty of wealthy friends to support him if he chooses to get in the race, but he lacks name recognition outside the Denver metro region’s political circles.
The Republican field already includes Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler and former state Rep. Victor Mitchell, and State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman are expected to announce decisions soon.
The Democratic side is more crowded nearly 17 months from Election Day. The top names include U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, former state treasurer Cary Kennedy, Denver businessman Noel Ginsburg and former state Sen. Mike Johnston already in the race. Former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Erik Underwood said this week also is considering a run in the Democratic primary.
Thiry has lived in Colorado since 2009, when he moved his company from California to Denver.
DaVita is a Fortune 500 company providing dialysis and other kidney care at 2,350 outpatient dialysis centers in the United States and 154 other centers in 11 foreign countries with $6.1 billion in annual revenues.
Thiry is one-half of a power couple. His wife. Denise O’Leary, a private venture capitalist, serves on the boards of Medtronic, American Airlines Group and Calpine Corp.