Last week Colorado Confidential reporter Jason Bane caught up with Governor-elect Bill Ritter as he worked at his transition office in Denver. Ritter talked candidly about his transition efforts, his reflections on the campaign, and about what policy issue he is most excited to tackle.
What have you been doing since the election?
I’ve been deeply mired in transition in the best sense of the word. Over 300 people are involved in this, and we set up 18 committees around departments where I have some appointment power, so we organize around the appointment power.
By December 15th all committees will have met four times. They’ve done the things we asked them to do, including looking at transition memos from the [Bill] Owens administration as well as looking at the Colorado Promise and where I may want to take that agency as it fits with that promise. It’s been great. I’m very happy about how it’s going.
What is a typical day like for you now?
I still have some morning workout times. I also have morning meetings at various places and at the transition office. I meet with the transition team. I meet with legislative leadership. Really on several fronts I’m looking into the transition.
I’ve been looking at people and resumes and bringing them in and making sure they know what they are doing. We have policy people with one foot in transition and one foot in the legislative session, and there are constant discussions about agenda.
We’ve also begun planning the inauguration and the state of the state address. Really it’s been about January 9 and getting in place the government, the things we need to for the inauguration, and really hammering away at the transition.
Read more on the flipside…Did you get a chance to take any time off after the election?
I did take four days off right after the election, and that was not enough. It’s been an intense 18 months, and in the last several months – if you looked at August, September, October, November – at best I might have taken a day off each month. And many members of my staff didn’t take one day off.
In terms of policy, what issues are you most excited about getting started on? What’s going to be first on your agenda?
Renewable energy has to be at the top of the list. We can do so much more about it. I’m also putting together a blue ribbon committee on transportation and looking at how we dovetail our promise on concentrating on health care on a Colorado plan with the Senate Bill 208 commission.
But I’ll tell you, I’m excited about the process of renewable energy.
I remember sitting with you in Spring 2005 just before you formally announced your candidacy. We were at a county party event, watching the event from the back of the room, and they wouldn’t let you speak to the crowd because they said you weren’t “formally” a candidate yet. When you look back over the course of this campaign, how do you reflect on how far you came and where you are today?
I look at it as an evolution. If you think about it, this is a business where you have to prove yourself, and you have to prove yourself constantly. I’ll have to prove myself on a daily basis [as governor], so campaigning readies you for that, in a sense.
I was a long shot, as most people thought. You could look back on that day and think, that’s an indignity. I’m the first to acknowledge that this was a very ambitious undertaking. What came of that was a whole host of incidents that in retrospect may have seem like I was slighted.
There were slights along the way and there were indignities along the way, but that was how things evolve. You either prove yourself or you don’t. You do need to prepare yourself to suffer the indignities.
Two years ago Ken Salazar was elected to the U.S. Senate as a former attorney general. You were elected as governor as a former district attorney in a year when there were a lot of former prosecutors elected to higher office around the country. What is it about having that background that really appeals to voters?
I think this was an unusual election cycle for a list of reasons. It did not hurt me as a Democrat to point to a centrist background from my background as a DA. I do think that when you are running as a Democrat, people are looking for ways to identify you with the center in terms of problem solving, so it helps a great deal [to have a background as a prosecutor].
When you look back at the campaign, was there a moment that was a clear turning point for you? Do you recall a specific instance where you thought, “I’m really going to do this. I’m going to win.”
No, there wasn’t. It’s kind of like the way you wear a boot out. You keep wearing it and wearing it, and it starts brand new and before you know it you’ve got this old boot.
There was no turning point for me. There were wastershed events. [Denver Mayor] John Hickenlooper deciding not to run was big. Challenging Beauprez for running a commercial where the information was obtained illegally was a watershed day. There were watershed days, but there was no day where we said [the race] was ours.
Were you surprised at how big the margin of victory turned out to be? (Ritter won by more than 15 points)
Our polling had been telling us that it was going to be significant in the last month. Our pollster was phenomenal, and he kept saying, “It can’t get better