Democrat Bill Ritter keeps an eye on horizon, governorship |

Democrat Bill Ritter keeps an eye on horizon, governorship

Rutt Bridges pulled up short on one side of him.John Hickenlooper might jump into the race on the other side.But the way Bill Ritter sees it, he cant become too focused on who else is competing to become the Democrats choice to run for governor.You have to keep your eye on the horizon, Ritter said during a visit to the Post Independent in Glenwood Springs Friday. Its sort of like a footrace. The more you look to your left or right, the less you gain than when youre looking ahead.Still, Ritter said Bridges withdrawal from the race Thursday will make things a lot easier for him in the Democratic primary.Bridges, a former businessman who now runs a think tank, brought a lot of personal wealth into his campaign. Ritter said Bridges had said he was willing to put $3.5 million to $4 million of his own money into his campaign.It certainly would have been a hurdle to get past the money of a self-funded candidate, Ritter said.As for Hickenlooper, some political observers think the popular Denver mayor would be an automatic front-runner among Democrats if he joins the race for governor. So far, he has said he doesnt want to run.If Hickenlooper changes his mind, it wont change Ritters plans, he said.I have a lot of respect for John, but Ill stay in this race, he said.Ritter, formerly the district attorney in Denver, works for the Hogan & Hartson law firm in Denver. His coworker is another former politician, Glenwood Springs native Scott McInnis, who previously served in Congress and is a Republican.Ritter served as DA for eleven and a half years before term limits forced him out of the job.Currently, Marc Holtzman, of Carbondale, and Bob Beauprez of Wheat Ridge are candidates on the Republican side. Candidates will be looking to replace Gov. Bill Owens, who will leave office next year.A Colorado native, Ritter was raised on a small farm east of Aurora. He was one of 12 children.I called my mom and told her I was running for governor and she said, Which one are you? Ritter said with a smile.Ritters father was a heavy-equipment operator and dryland wheat farmer. Ritter began working in construction at the age of 14. Four years later, he began working his way through college as a pipe-fitter.After a stint of about six years as a prosecutor, Ritter moved with his wife to Zambia, where they ran a nutrition program under the auspices of some Catholic priests.Ritter said seeing how desperate conditions were there changed his perspective toward life. Ritter was in Zambia just as the AIDS epidemic was hitting there.We look at a lot of things and say they are problems, he said. In Zambia, You begin to understand the difference between issues and problems.After a few years as a federal prosecutor following his return from Africa, Ritter was appointed by then-governor Roy Romer to a vacancy as DA.He oversaw about 200 people in that job, ran a community justice program and was involved with one of the first and biggest drug courts in the nation, he said. He also ran programs to aid victims of sexual assault and to help prevent financial exploitation of seniors.Ritter also faced the frustration of prosecuting illegal immigrants whom he couldnt then get deported.As a candidate, he supports a reasonable guest worker policy as a way to alleviate security concerns about who is entering the United States and to better integrate immigrants into the economy.On another key issue in Colorado, Ritter supports Referendum C and Referendum D, which would ease Colorados budget problems. He said he hopes voters will understand how necessary it is to have the budget get healthy as the economy gets healthy.Failing to pass the measures would impact funding of areas such as higher education, human services and transportation, Ritter said.Ritter said a lot will be required of Colorados next governor. For one thing, he said, the Front Range population could grow by 2 million people by 2025 or 2030, he said.It will require a person of vision to look at all of the issues that come with that kind of growth, he said.He recognizes the importance of water to western Colorado, and said people on the growing Front Range need to look at conservation, efficiencies, reuse, and some level of water storage as alternatives to going across the Continental Divide in search of water.Ritter said Colorados next governor will have some say in the federal governments management of the Roan Plateau near Rifle, including what happens to roadless parcels in an area targeted for natural-gas drilling.He sees gas development on private lands as a balancing act that involves accommodating drilling but at the same time respecting the property rights of the landowners.Regarding tourism promotion, Ritter believes the state should be doing more.Part of leadership is saying that this is an investment that we need to make and this investment will have a return, he said. Ritter said recent Democratic victories in Colorado elections have energized him. A self-described moderate, he believes he would stand a good chance against a Republican in a general election.Ritter cites Czech poet-dissident Vaclav Havel and Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain as people who inspire him, and said his run for office reflects the commitment he has made his entire life to public service.Its not just something Ive done, its been my passion, he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext.

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