After repeatedly being asked by other Republicans, former Aurora city councilwoman Kathy Green decided to run for House District 36 this year — giving the Republican Party its first strong contender for the seat in the last four years.
Green had been asked to run four years ago, and again in 2006, but it wasn’t until this year Green decided to run and only after giving the matter a lot of thought.
“I took three weeks actually to make up my mind and it’s primarily [because] I knew it’s a huge undertaking,” said Green, a Republican who has lived most of her 49 years in the Aurora area.
Green said she’ll craft her legislative agenda in the coming months by talking to voters on the campaign trail. But she said her experience with Aurora’s water issues would serve her well at the state level.
During her eight years on Aurora city council, Green developed a reputation for being fiscally conservative and responsive to her constituents’ concerns.
With the district’s current representative, Morgan Carroll, setting her sights on an open state Senate seat, the open race for HD 36 is now between Green and Democrat Su Ryden, another longtime Aurora resident who is making her first foray into running for public office.
Green spent eight years on Aurora’s city council representing the growing northeast corner of the city before term limits forced her to step down in 2005.
She wanted to spend time taking Spanish classes and remodeling her home but said she knew she’d eventually run for office again. When state Rep. Michael Garcia, D-Aurora, resigned earlier this year after being accused of exposing himself to a female lobbyist in a bar, Carroll was the obvious choice to run for the state Senate seat he’d been pursuing and Green’s phone began to ring.
“Kathy is very well-known in that part of the community, and she’s served it well and she’s a very energetic bright woman who would represent the interests [in HD 36] of everyone regardless of party,” said Aurora City Councilman Bob FitzGerald, a Republican who worked with Green on city council for two years and was the first to call her about running for the seat.
During the past two election cycles, Carroll didn’t see much competition from across the aisle.
“I haven’t seen a particularly strong Republican candidate yet,” Carroll said. “That is hard for me to explain. I know that’s not for lack of wanting to get rid of me.”
The district leans Democratic, with 13,433 registered Democrats, according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. But there are also 10,066 registered Republicans and 13,922 independents, according to numbers compiled in April.
But Green’s involvement with community groups such as the Sand Creek Regional Greenway and her years on Aurora’s nonpartisan city council give her name recognition in the community and relevant experience.
“Former office holders are by definition almost better candidates,” said Aurora city councilman Steve Hogan, currently a Republican who served one term in the legislature in 1975-1976 as a Democrat. “I think the Republican Party is learning that.”
But Green still faces a challenging trend.
While a majority of Aurora city council members are, and have historically been, Republicans, when it comes to the state Legislature voters go for Democrats. Currently eight Democrats whose districts include at least portions of Aurora hold seats in the state House and Senate. The city’s two Republican legislators, Sen. Nancy Spence and Rep. David Balmer, represent a small part of Aurora and draw most of their votes from more conservative areas like Littleton and Centennial.
The lack of strong Republican candidates vying to represent Aurora at the state level might also be because the jump from city council to the state House is not necessarily seen as a step up. Being a state representative requires more working hours during the legislative session and candidates must run every two years, as opposed to every four to be re-elected to city council.
Although state Senator Stephanie Takis, D-Aurora, served on city council before being elected to the state legislature, more politicians have been moving in the opposite direction, with both Hogan and Aurora City Councilwoman Molly Markert serving in the state House before being elected to their current local offices.
Tomorrow: Meet the Democrat in the race, Su Ryden