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Colorado Lt. Gov Donna Lynne joins Democratic primary field for governor

Author: Ernest Luning - September 7, 2017 - Updated: September 8, 2017

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Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, a Democrat, announces she's running for governor of Colorado on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, at the Spring Cafe in Denver. She joins a primary field of four candidates, including U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, former state Sen. Mike Johnston and businessman Noel Ginsburg. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, a Democrat, announces she’s running for governor of Colorado on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, at the Spring Cafe in Denver. She joins a primary field of four candidates, including U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, former state Sen. Mike Johnston and businessman Noel Ginsburg. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

Colorado Lt. Gov Donna Lynne, a former top executive at Kaiser Permanente, entered the Democratic gubernatorial primary field Thursday saying her experience running big organizations makes her the ideal candidate to take over for term-limited Gov. John Hickenlooper.

“Colorado has made a lot of progress under Gov. John Hickenlooper, but there’s more to be done,” Lynne said at a Denver cafe across from the state Capitol before embarking on a statewide tour. “Many of the challenges we face are tough and complicated. But that doesn’t scare me because I’ve been doing tough and complicated my whole life.”

Hickenlooper appointed Lynne to be lieutenant governor and the state’s chief operating officer — charged with overseeing government operations — last year after her predecessor, Joe Garcia, stepped down to take a job running a higher education organization. Lynne said at the time she wouldn’t run to succeed Hickenlooper but told reporters President Donald Trump’s election helped change her mind.

“What I said was — and I’m not being cute — was, ‘no plans to run for governor,’” Lynne said, adding that she hadn’t considered running until recently. “I think we had an election on Nov. 8 that had a profound impact on all of us in Colorado and around the country.” She said connecting with government employees in her travels around the state has also motivated her to run.

Lynne announced a month ago she was considering a campaign and forming an exploratory committee.

“What we are seeing today is absolutely reminiscent of what we saw back in the 1960’s — racism, sexism, disregard for the environment and disregard for women’s rights,” Lynne said. “Just look at the president’s cruel action to repeal DACA. We are here in a small business that understands the value that immigrants have in this country. We have to stand together for the values we share and refuse to lose the progress we’ve made together.”

Although Hickenlooper hasn’t endorsed Lynne, he urged her to consider running and has offered her campaign his blessing. While praising the entire Democratic primary field at an event last month, the governor said  Lynne would make a “great governor,” adding, ““She’s like like a Hoover vacuum cleaner of problems — they just disappear, and everybody’s happy.”

Lynne joins fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidates  U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, former state Sen. Mike Johnston, former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy and Denver civic leader Noel Ginsburg.

“I think I’m the pragmatic person with more experience than any other candidate managing billions of dollars of budgets, large organizations like the state of Colorado, and I think that really matters,” Lynne said. “I know policy, but I also know how to get things done.”

Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, a Denver Democrat, introduced Lynne as a problem-solver and “a woman for all seasons.”

Lynne plans to kick off her campaign with events through Saturday in Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Salida, Edwards, Grand Junction, Durango and Alamosa.

Lynne could bring Hickenlooper’s more moderate, business-friendly approach to the race, having chaired the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and served as executive vice president of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals. In addition, she was group president for Kaiser’s Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii regions, overseeing an $8 billion budget with 16,000 employees and 1.4 million members. She was named to Modern Healthcare magazine’s Top 25 Women in Health Care list in 2015 and she holds a doctorate in Public Health from Columbia University.

Before entering the health care field, Lynne was director of New York’s Mayor’s Office of Operations under Mayor Rudy Giuliani and had held several positions with the Mayor’s Office of Labor Relations before that. Giuliani named Lynne senior vice president of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation in 1997. She moved to Denver to run Kaiser’s state operation in 2005.

An outdoor enthusiast, Lynne has climbed all of Colorado’s 14ers and skied at all but one of the state’s ski areas. She and her husband, Jim Brown, live in Denver and have five adult children between them.

This is a developing story. Check back with Colorado Politics for more.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.


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