Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne formally announces exploratory effort in run for Colorado governor

Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne addresses a crowd of about 50 at a celebration on the steps of the Capitol in honor of Colorado’s 140th anniversary of statehood Monday, Aug. 1. (Photo by Nicole Cassou/The Colorado Statesman)Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne addresses a crowd of about 50 at a celebration on the steps of the Capitol in honor of Colorado’s 140th anniversary of statehood Monday, Aug. 1. (Photo by Nicole Cassou/The Colorado Statesman)

Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne announced Tuesday she is “actively” exploring a run for governor, her most public signal yet that she will shake up a crowded Democratic field, Colorado Politics has learned.

Colorado Politics first reported last month that she was considering a run for governor. She took that exploration to the next level on Tuesday morning with a news release explaining her thinking.

“Today, as we celebrate what makes the 38th state special on Colorado Day, I’m committed to doing everything in my power to make sure it stays that way,” Lynne said in a statement.

“For the last 15 months, I’ve been privileged to work with and help people in every Colorado county and have come to realize there is much more we can and must do to keep the state moving in the right direction.”

Lynne, 63, has served as lieutenant governor since May 2016.

Since being sworn in as Colorado’s lieutenant governor, Lynne has taken the reins on health care and state operational efficiencies under Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is term-limited after next year.

Hickenlooper offered a comment for her formal exploratory announcement.

“Lt. Gov. and Chief Operating Officer Donna Lynne is one of the most talented people I have ever worked with,” Hickenlooper said. “Her long record of exemplary success, both in business and in public service, more than earns her the right to run for governor. Colorado is fortunate to have someone with Donna’s dedication and tenacity who wants to lead our state.”

Recent changes in the Democratic primary for governor – which takes place next June – could push Lynne closer to a decision to run in the already crowded primary. U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Arvada surprisingly dropped out of the race, leaving an uncertain fate for the party.

Still left in the race is U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, former state Sen. Mike Johnston, former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy and Denver civics leader Noel Ginsburg.

Lynne could bring a more moderate approach to the race. Having served as the chairwoman of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, and given her prior work as the executive vice president of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Lynne has developed many contacts in the business community.

The Republican field also is crowded. District Attorney George Brauchler, entrepreneur and former state Rep. Victor Mitchell and investment banker Doug Robinson, who also happens to be Mitt Romney’s nephew, are the best-known candidate.

But more high-profile Republican names are expected to enter the primary, including State Treasurer Walker Stapleton. Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is also seriously considering a run on the Republican ticket.

Lynne’s health care agenda this year included measures aimed at curbing the opioid crisis, lowering the cost of health care outside of Denver, and bringing transparency to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, to name a few priorities.

While health care takes up about 35 percent of her time along with work on education, Lynne also serves as the state’s chief operating officer. In her capacity as chief operating officer, Lynne pushes a theme of “accountability” and “transparency.” Work includes improving annual performance plans for the state and conducting quarterly performance reviews across all departments.

When Lynne is not climbing 14,000-foot mountains in Colorado and traveling the state in between 14-hour work days, she is drawing upon her background in public service. She said her transition into office was relatively easy given her background in government, having spent a total of 20 years working in various positions in New York City government.

Lynne said she expects to make a final decision on entering the Democratic primary by early September. She is also expected to hold a media availability on Tuesday.

“Given the current state of affairs in this country, I believe we need pragmatic leaders who care about people and are willing to put politics aside and get things done,” Lynne said. “I’ve spent my career helping people and leading big organizations — both in government and in the private sector. That’s the kind of experience we need right now.”

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