Johnston views independent voters as key in governor’s race | PostIndependent.com

Johnston views independent voters as key in governor’s race

Mike Johnston, one of the Democratic candidates for governor vying for election in the June primaries, speaks with prospective supporters at the Bluebird Cafe in Glenwood Springs on Sunday.

Former state senator and Western Slope native Mike Johnston believes he has the track record of working across the aisle that will appeal to independent voters in the first-ever open Colorado primaries in June, which will determine who will be running for governor this year.

"What really matters to people is getting things done, and what makes me different is that I have that track record in the state Legislature," Johnston, who served in the Colorado Senate from 2009-2017, said following a weekend campaign visit to Glenwood Springs.

And not only getting legislation passed, but doing it with bipartisan support in many instances, he said.

"I think independent voters understand and appreciate that," Johnston said.

Johnston, a native of Eagle County, is the only candidate with Western Slope roots in the crowded field of candidates vying for the Democratic Party nomination to run for governor this spring.

Like some of the other candidates, both Democrat and Republican, Johnston has opted to petition onto the primary ballot, meaning he won't have to earn the 30 percent delegate vote at the April 14 state party assembly to be on the ballot.

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"We wanted to talk to as many voters across the state, and managed to collect nearly 23,000 signatures in 30 days," he said of the January and February push to be the first to make the primary ballot.

"We found the petition process allowed us to get to more people, and a broader array of people," he said.

Two other Democratic candidates who are vying to replace Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is up against term limits, have also gone the petition route, including current Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne and Congressman Jared Polis. So far, former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy has been the favorite in the party nominating process.

Johnston brought his campaign to Glenwood Springs on Sunday, sharing his thoughts on issues ranging from economic development and health insurance costs to gun control with a gathering of about two dozen voters at the Bluebird Cafe. His family also spent part of the day at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

"We had a lot of good conversations about economic development on the Western Slope and how to grow businesses here," he said.

Rural economic development was something he said he focused on during his time in the Legislature. Keys to helping the Western Slope realize the same benefits of growth on the Front Range are to expand access to high quality broadband and making sure people have the skills they need to do the jobs that are available, Johnston said.

"The jobs are coming," he said. "We need to provide more career and tech education options for people just out of high school, and later in life as other jobs might disappear."

Regarding the high cost of health insurance in some rural areas, including resort regions on the Western Slope, Johnston proposes a public option in places where commercial health insurance carriers are scarce and expensive.

"People should be able to buy into Medicaid if they live in places where plans are too expensive," he said.

Johnston also touched on water issues, energy development, the environment and, one of the hotter topics these days, gun safety, in the aftermath of recent school shootings.

Johnston proposes a "four no more" strategy aimed at banning high-capacity magazines, an issue he championed in the Legislature, plus implementing universal background checks for every gun purchase, banning bump stocks, and creating gun violence restraining orders, "to keep guns out of the hands of those who are a threat to themselves or others."

The latter effort would allow family members, close relatives, teachers or law enforcement to identify someone who is mentally ill or making verified threats, and ensure that they do not have access to guns until that threat is resolved.

"I've been a gun owner all my life, and I do believe we need to protect Second Amendment rights," Johnston said. "What we need to look at is what we can do to stop these mass shootings."

Virtually all of the mass shootings over the past two decades could have been addressed through the controls he is proposing, Johnston said.