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Larimer County lawmaker Kevin Lundberg becomes fourth Republican in race for Colorado state treasurer

Author: Ernest Luning - July 29, 2017 - Updated: July 30, 2017

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State Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, talks with audience members after the premiere of "The Last Bill, a Senator's Story" on Saturday, March 18, 2017, at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Littleton. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)State Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, talks with audience members after the premiere of “The Last Bill, a Senator’s Story” on Saturday, March 18, 2017, at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Littleton. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)

After serving 15 years in the Legislature, state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, a Berthoud Republican, hopes to bring what he’s learned about Colorado government to the office of state treasurer. On Saturday, Lundberg declared he’s running for the open seat in next year’s election, becoming the fourth Republican in a primary race that’s likely to get even more crowded.

“I believe that the treasurer can be the conscience of the state — the watchdog, not just over the wallet of the state government but for the people of Colorado,” Lundberg told Colorado Politics in an interview before announcing his candidacy. “When issues like (the Taxpayer Bill of Rights) come up, I believe the treasurer can speak with some authority and say this is or isn’t the best way to go.”

Lundberg said his membership on the Joint Budget Committee has given him a well-rounded knowledge of Colorado’s government and its finances, preparing him to take on the job of CFO for the state.

“As treasurer, I believe you have the opportunity to engage in many public policies as they’re being developed. I wouldn’t get a vote in the Legislature but would have an ability to speak with a greater voice as a statewide elected official,” he said.

“For instance, Senate Bill 267 is a bill that clearly stepped over constitutional grounds, and I believe violated TABOR in a big way,” Lundberg said, shaking his head and frowning. He was referring to an omnibus bill passed in the final days of the legislative session to do away with the state’s hospital provider fee while funding roads and rural schools, among numerous other provisions. The measure has drawn strong criticism as an end-run around TABOR from some conservatives.

Lundberg, who turned 65 on Saturday, was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2002. He’s represented Senate District 15 on the northern Front Range since 2009, when he was appointed to fill a vacancy, winning election to the seat twice since. He owns a video production company.

Considered one of the Legislature’s more conservative members and a fierce civil libertarian, Lundberg won a Republican primary against Boulder businessman Eric Weissmann in 2012 but then went on to lose his bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis by about 17 points. (Polis is running for governor in next year’s election and giving up the seat.)

The incumbent state treasurer, Republican Walker Stapleton, is term-limited after next year’s election and is considered a likely candidate for governor.

The three Republicans already in the race for state treasurer are state Rep. Justin Everett of Littleton, Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn and state Rep. Polly Lawrence of Roxborough Park. Businessman Brian Watson, a former legislative candidate, and Republican National Committeeman George Leing — he challenged Polis unsuccessfully in 2014 — are also potential GOP candidates.

State Rep. Steve Lebsock of Thornton is the only Democrat in the race.

The state treasurer manages roughly $6.5 billion in more than 750 state funds and is an ex officio member of the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association board. The office also runs the state’s Unclaimed Property Division, which reunites people and businesses with unclaimed property and cash through the Great Colorado Payback.

Lundberg said he intends to be “a clear voice on the PERA board urging fiscal prudence,” adding that he’s concerned too many states aren’t handling their public employee retirement plans well. “That means things like a realistic assessment of what the portfolio can produce on an annual basis. It means keeping a tight control on costs other than the benefits themselves for the retirees.”

Lundberg plans to serve out his Senate term, which runs through next year, and said he’ll seek the GOP nomination through the caucus and assembly system rather than trying to petition his way onto the primary ballot.

“I believe that’s the way to really connect with the people that ultimately have to work with you shoulder-to-shoulder in the general election. It’s a good system and it helps winnow out the folks who maybe aren’t as serious as others.,” he said.

Lundberg has served in numerous capacities during his tenure in the General Assembly. He currently chairs the Senate Appropriations and Legislative Health Exchange Oversight committees and is founder and chairman of the Republican Study Committee of Colorado. His previous posts include assistant Senate  majority leader, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and vice chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I believe I can bring to that office some elements I don’t see others offering,” Lundberg said. “The big distinction I see is that I would utilize the role of state treasurer as a way to look after the wallet not only of state government but individual citizens — and that’s pointing out where state policy maybe isn’t doing as good a job as it could be doing.”

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.