A Woman for the Capitol


Sydney Hodgson | @SydneyLHodgson

Cary Kennedy was one of the first candidates to enter Colorado’s gubernatorial race, declaring in April she would run for the seat. The field is full, with 25 registered candidates as of September 25th including ten Democrats, nine Republicans, four unaffiliated, and three of other parties with a handful of other potential candidates on the fence. Colorado has never had a female Governor, something Kennedy, who has been backed by Emily’s List, is hoping to change in 2018.

No stranger to the capitol, Kennedy formerly held the positions of Deputy Mayor and CFO of Denver as well as State Treasurer. At the time of the Great Recession, she was managing the state’s finances. She made the decision to move taxpayer money out of Wall Street banks before they collapsed, a factor attributing to the state’s booming economy today. These experiences make her a fiscally and forward-thinking candidate, one her campaign touts as uniquely qualified to lead Colorado on a path of continued innovation.

Recent talk of Amazon’s new HQ2 and predictions from the New York Times on it’s pending location offer an opportunity for Denver to continue to grow and to potentially be the new home of one of the world’s most innovative companies. Kennedy understands the appeal of Colorado.  “We have a real commitment to this place, to our community, to our employees and to protecting our environment. It is a more sustainable and inclusive economy than you are going to find almost anywhere. And there is a real commitment by the people who live in Colorado to do it better, and I think that’s the kind of value Amazon would also see in a forward looking place.” In her previous roles Kennedy helped usher in investment deals and bring business to the region, but with a company like Amazon she sees the potential to partner on something pivotal and new, like a sustainable, net zero energy campus supported by a strong transit system.

Opportunities like this mean new, high paying jobs and economic growth, but Kennedy also knows that they aren’t always good for Coloradans. They can mean a sharp increase in population, heightening the strain on our already full neighborhoods, roads and outdoor spaces. In 2016, Colorado was the second fastest growing state in the country and is projected the population will increase to 6 million through 2020.

Kennedy talks to Sydney Hodgson about the challenges and opportunities within Colorado's growth and the need to invest in public education. 

Kennedy talks to Sydney Hodgson about the challenges and opportunities within Colorado's growth and the need to invest in public education. 

Kennedy makes her stance on this issue clear. “We should not be reactive to the large numbers of people that continue to move into the state. We should be proactive about what we want Colorado to look like and we don't want it to look like: California. Let's do it better, let's do it smarter, let's do it in ways that keep this the place we all love.” That includes modernizing and expanding the state’s public transportation systems to cut down on traffic and employing strong land management to protect our public lands and keep our water clean. “It is going to take strong leadership in the capitol with a real vision for how we continue to protect this beautiful place that we love, and accommodate this growth in ways that really keeps Colorado special, and and affordable.”

Kennedy started her career working for Roy Romer, who introduced his Smart Growth Initiative in the 1990’s. This initiative was all about working regionally to make sure growth has minimal impact on the land, and this vision continues to inspire her today.

While Colorado’s economy has been booming in recent years, the state’s investment in public education is among the lowest in the nation. This is something Kennedy intends to change. “It is just not acceptable that our economy ranks number one and our investment in public education ranks near the bottom. It isn’t what anybody here wants,” Kennedy claimed. “We value education and are a highly educated community and state, and we should have among the best public education systems in the country, but we have some real work to do to get there.”

Kennedy is rife with experience when it comes to working for improvements in the public school system. She wrote and led the campaign for Amendment 23 in the 2000 elections, which reduced budget cuts for public education. As State Treasurer, Kennedy started the Building Excellent Schools Program, which is renovating 381 schools across the state. “I created that program to help our poorer school districts be able to renovate those old buildings and provide modern learning facilities, because regardless of where kids grow up they should be able to access the same high quality education,” Kennedy explained.

Districts continue to grapple with budgets, however; cuts have caused school districts in many rural communities to reduce the school week to four days, and many struggle to find quality teachers and modern facilities. “That is how severe the budget cuts are in our state,” Kennedy explained. “Kids in poor communities and kids in rural communities are not getting the education they need to be successful in the highly knowledge-based economy we are building here, so we are leaving our own kids behind.” You can feel the passion in Kennedy’s voice when she speaks about education. She truly believes in it’s power to change lives, and this personal conviction and passion can be a dynamic force in politics.

The one lesson Kennedy learned from the most recent election cycle is that we all have a stake in the outcome of elections, and voters need to work to get the people they want in office. Sitting out is no longer an option, and the energy and momentum Kennedy is seeing all across the state is exciting and promising for the road ahead.  

Coloradans will head to the polls to elect a new governor on November 6, 2018. Follow The Broadview Denver for news and interviews on the gubernatorial race and other ballot issues that affect women across the state.