Ritter Focuses On Goals For Colorado, Democratic Party

Now that the campaigning is over, Gov.-elect Bill Ritter faces the challenge of getting his team in place so the administration can hit the ground running when he takes office in January.

From the beginning, Ritter was the unlikely candidate. Some said he was too Denver-oriented, not enough of a statewide base, was too pro-life and was not the candidate the national party really wanted.

But for Ritter, it was a matter of defining his vision and being confident he could help voters understand and embrace it as their own.

"I am trying to begin creating the Ritter culture in government, and you do that by putting people in those department heads who reflect your vision," said Ritter.

Throughout his campaign Ritter focused his message on economic development, the environment, education and health care.

He talked about the politics of inclusion and of working together. Now, as he picks his team, he's aiming to prove it can be done.

"This is about finding the best people, and if the best people happen to have an 'R' behind their name as opposed to a 'D', then I'm going to go out and try and get them to serve the state of Colorado," said Ritter.

While Ritter does not criticize current Gov. Bill Owens, who he says has been gracious and helpful during the transition, he said Coloradans will see a completely different style of governing than the highly partisan Owens.

"I think, in my own experiences with the legislature and the legislative process is that the governor had a very hands-off approach to it, and people you know went about their way and had their agendas," said Ritter. "Then you found out if the governor liked something or not, basically when he decided to sign something or veto it, in a lot of cases."

"I think again, that you need to reach across the partisan divide that exists and figure out Republicans and Democrats can work together, and the governor has to give you some signals," said Ritter. "I would give signals about how I feel about things. So that you can say, 'listen I'm not going to sign anything that comes across my desk that looks like that, but I will sign this if you find this compromise place.' I think the compromise is the right place because it is what Coloradans want."

During the campaign, Ritter was critical of Owens for not using his office as a bully pulpit to personally promote new business in the state. Ritter said that is going to change.

"I learned through, I guess the grape-vine, that a medical device company was moving to Boulder, bringing 300 jobs to Boulder," said Ritter. "I'm the governor elect, but I picked up the phone and called the CEO and said 'thank you very much.' I think that the governor of the state is one of the chief marketers whether it's the Democratic National Convention for the state or the city or a medical device company that's adding to its Boulder office. You really have to be out there saying this state is open for business."

Ritter has been lobbying fellow governors in the west for the 2008 Democratic Convention and the D.N.C. chairman, Howard Dean, telling them a Denver convention is really a "western" convention.

He said he believes it will benefit all the western states and has asked other governors to help raise money.

The message from Ritter is clear: Democrats need to be a party for all voters and a convention in the west, away from New York City, with a centrist message, will reinforce that.

It appears that Ritter, along with the election of many other Democratic Party governors in the west, may indicate some movement of the party to the center.

Ritter said he clearly thinks that is where the party needs to be.

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