DENVER– In the West Foyer of the capitol here, where Governor Ritter announced his decision to leave politics months ago, Joe Gschwendtner (guh-shwent-ner), a Republican from Castle Rock, said he wants in and that he’s backing up his commitment to run for governor with $100,000 of his own money.
“I come from solid German Immigrant stock, my father fled from Germany when he was 16,” Gschwendtner said, painting a picture of himself as the first-generation son of a butcher, who entered the army and then struggled to the top of the corporate ladder. He said he would revive Colorado the same way he revives companies, by looking for unneeded expenditures, inefficiencies, and misdirected funds.
“I have personally experienced the advantages of opportunity that this country enjoys, the blessings of capitalism, the value of hard work and the rewards of the American entrepreneurial spirit. I am a living example of the American dream,” Gschwendtner said. That dream is in danger for many Coloradans, he warned, repeating the mantra of so many in politics this year: “The last thing we need is another career politician,” he said, apparently referring to six-term Congressman and GOP gubernatorial frontrunner Scot McInnis.
The newest GOP candidate for governor, battling McInnis and Evergreen businessman Dan Maes, is currently head of Consortium 3, a business consulting firm.
“My only special interest will be the economic stability of Colorado and the tax payers,” he said, arguing that he would demand accountability from the government and promised to find more than a billion dollars in savings to balance the budget.
“More than 80 percent of what I recover in business is sales and use taxes, clients overpay… 80 percent of what I recover comes from the State of Colorado or other municipalities, where my clients overpaid,” Gschwendtner said.
Lawmakers here are preparing to cut $600 million to cover a $1.7 billion budget gap next year. In other words, Gschwendtner’s bold billion-dollar promise is one that will have to be met by whomever wins election and it will fall to legislators to wrangle with each other again on where to make those cuts. Gschwendtner told the Colorado Independent that he did not know the ins-and-outs of the budget. He said would look at radical steps to reshape the government.
“I would call all the directors into the office and say ‘I want you to make-believe that you let go everyone in the department, then rebuild the department one block at a time.'”
“What does a state employee know about efficiency? They don’t want to lose their job. They don’t want to take a risk. They don’t want to do what is right. There is no bold thinking,” Gschwentner said.
Gschwentner proposed selling off large portions of the state’s land holdings to the private sector.
“I’m not suggesting liquidation but we have a billion dollars of property… maybe we can look at some of this stuff and say ‘Maybe we can sell this to private business.'”
Gschwentner acknowledged that he was focused on business and the budget and that governing is more than that. He said he understood that decisions were not always cut a dry and that “moral issues” had to be taken into account. “I’m a very compassionate person,” he said. “I believe life begins at conception and ends at a natural death.”
He said he thinks the government is obligated to protect and educate. “We can’t let the truly poor people, people who are truly not in charge of their lives because they do not have it up here or they are just simply handicapped,” he said motioning to his head. “We can’t let them fall through the safety net. So would I be an ogre and not take care of the most challenged segment of our society? Absolutely not.