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Publish Date: 8/22/2006

Ritter: Dems won’t get free pass

LONGMONT — Democrat Bill Ritter says he’d veto legislation that he thinks would be bad for Colorado, even if it’s sent to him by a Democrat-controlled Legislature.

One of the checks and balances built into state government, Ritter said Monday, is a governor’s responsibility to be “a gatekeeper for good public policy.”

During a meeting with Daily Times-Call editorial board members, gubernatorial candidate Ritter was asked whether he could find himself rejecting bills from fellow Democrats, who currently have majorities in both houses of the Legislature.

“Sure,” Ritter said, adding that he’d already given business groups that assurance when asked the same question.

Then-Gov. Roy Romer, also a Democrat, appointed Ritter to be Denver’s district attorney to fill a vacancy in 1993. Ritter then won election to that post in 1994 and was re-elected in 1996 and 2000.

However, Ritter said Monday that his history has not been one of working up through the ranks of public office “as a Democratic politico.”

“I have at times taken stands different from (other) Democrats on issues,” said Ritter, who is vying with Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez to be Colorado’s next governor.

Gov. Bill Owens vetoed 91 bills, most of them sponsored by Democrats, the past two years. Beauprez told this newspaper’s editorial board Aug. 11 that he probably would also have rejected “the vast majority” of those same measures.

Ritter on Monday did not list any specific examples of bills that he’d veto if he’s governor.

He said, however, that “Democrats, I believe, governed responsibly” during the past two years his party has dominated the legislative branch.

Ritter said that this year, for example, Democrats made “sound investment decisions” about allocating the first round of additional budget money that voters authorized state government to keep and spend when they approved Referendum C last November.

The Democratic candidate said if Republicans regain control of one or both legislative branches, he’d be able to work across party lines, something he said he’d done with Republican-majority Legislatures and Owens when Ritter represented the bipartisan Colorado District Attorneys Council at the Capitol.

Ritter said Owens had shown leadership in working in a bipartisan fashion with Democratic legislative leaders to negotiate and campaign for Referendum C, a measure Beauprez opposed.

“I think Bill Owens showed a lot of political courage” in supporting that compromise measure and “did the right thing for the state,” Ritter said.

“I would try to model myself after that kind of leadership,” Ritter said, when it comes to “doing those things that are right for the state, that addresses the people who are in need of good public policy.”

Beauprez said during his own meeting with the newspaper’s editorial board that he’d prefer working with a Republican-majority Legislature but that as governor he’d be ready to work with whichever party controls that Colorado General Assembly come January.

Meanwhile, Ritter said Monday that his management style would differ from Owens’.

Ritter suggested the Owens administration has sometimes not been open enough about explaining how and why it is conducting the public’s business.

Ritter pointed to the governor’s refusal last summer to let several department heads testify at a special Senate committee’s hearings on state government purchasing and contracting practices.

Coloradans deserve “transparency” from their government, Ritter said.

He said that when it comes to appointing people to manage state departments, if he’s elected governor, he’d take what he learned as a district attorney:

“I believe you find really smart people,” Ritter said, “and you bring them in and you build upon their assets.”

John Fryar can be reached by e-mail at jfryar@times-call.com.

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