Greeley Democrat Dave Young, a lawmaker and former teacher, joins race for Colorado state treasurer

Author: Ernest Luning - October 31, 2017 - Updated: October 31, 2017

State Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, announced on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, that he's joining the race for Colorado state treasurer. (Photo courtesy Dave Young)State Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, announced on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, that he’s joining the race for Colorado state treasurer. (Photo courtesy Dave Young)

Saying he wants to make sure the effects of its robust economy are felt throughout Colorado, state Rep. Dave Young, a Greeley Democrat and member of the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, jumped in the race for state treasurer Tuesday, joining another state lawmaker and a businessman in the Democratic primary.

“I am running for treasurer because I believe we need to put Colorado on better financial footing, where prosperity from our growth is shared,” Young said in a statement, noting that rural parts of the state are struggling despite Colorado’s rapid growth.

“As just about anyone can tell you, teaching 13-year-olds and 14-year-olds requires patience, commonsense and fairness. And teaching requires you to listen, too. Those are the values I will bring to the job of getting Colorado on the right track,” said Young, who taught math and technology in Weld County public schools for 24 years and then spent a decade on the University of Colorado Denver faculty.

After he retired from teaching, Young was appointed to fill a vacancy representing Democratic-leaning House District 50 — covers Greeley, Evans and Garden City in Weld County — and has since won election to the seat three times.

With Young in the race, three Democrats and six Republicans are vying for the job held by term-limited State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a Republican running for governor in next year’s election.

Colorado’s state treasurer manages roughly $6.5 billion in more than 750 state funds and sits on the board governing the state pension fund, the Public Employees Retirement Association. The treasurer also runs the state’s Unclaimed Property Division, which reunites people and businesses with unclaimed property and cash through the Great Colorado Payback.

Young told Colorado Politics the three terms he’s spent on the Joint Budget Committee and his experience chairing the House Appropriations Committee have given him “a deep look into the finances of the state,” preparing him for the treasurer’s office.

“I think I bring some skills and value to this position,” he said. “I want to be a treasurer who brings accountability and transparency and financial responsibility to the office.”

Young said he intends to bring his policy chops and collaborative skills to bear on the state’s financial health.

“We cannot treat Colorado’s investments like a casino where rich investors gamble our money,” he said in a statement. “As Colorado’s chief financial officer, I will focus on making investments that support Main streets and middle-class families across Colorado. I will get back to basics by eliminating risky and costly investments, ensuring our tax dollars are invested wisely and protecting the pension system so many Coloradans depend on.”

As far as PERA, the $44 billion retirement fund that  provides benefits for more than 560,000 current and former state employees, Young said he thinks it’s important to keep a focus on “the bigger picture” when addressing questions about a potential $32 billion in unfunded liabilities.

“I think PERA is a component of a healthy state economy,” he said. “We want to ensure taxpayers aren’t on the hook for an unsustainable program, but we want to ensure the active employees and the retirees have a healthy program as well. One of the success stories of PERA has been how long it’s been around, since before Social Security. I think as we approach the proposals that are on the table right now that bigger view and that longer view are ones we ought to take into account.”

While he declined to offer a specific policy prescription for the pension fund, Young said, “It’s important we don’t look for quick fixes, that we look for things that are sustainable.”

Young said he intends to remain on the JBC and to continue chairing the House Appropriations Committee. “Those are  intense roles and take a lot of time,” he acknowledged, “but that was my commitment to the people of House District 50.”

Democrats already in the race include state Rep. Steve Lebsock of Thornton and Denver businessman Bernard Douthit, a political novice. Both have reported modest fundraising through September — Lebsock took in $26,364 in contributions since April and had $12,715 in the bank at the end of the lasts quarter, while Douthit raised $9,445 and had $25,341 on hand after loaning himself $20,000.

Lebsock told Colorado Politics he “welcomes a robust primary,” adding, “I remain the most qualified person running for Colorado state treasurer. Marines never shy away from a fight. This Marine will continue to fight for the people of Colorado.”

The crowded Republican primary field includes state Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud and state Reps. Justin Everett of Littleton and Polly Lawrence of Roxborough Park, as well as Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn, prosecutor Brett Barkey and businessman Brian Watson.

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. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.