“When you get the first draft pick, you go after the best athlete,” Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper recently said of his choice of Colorado State University-Pueblo President Joe Garcia as his running mate in the race for the governor’s office in November.Hickenlooper said there will be plenty of time to hire position players who are more experienced in drafting legislation and lobbying legislators after Nov. 3, but he wanted someone who not only loved Colorado but “got Colorado.” Hickenlooper pointed to Garcia’s turnaround work at the Pueblo campus of CU and his work in finding savings as the director of regulatory agencies.
Known around the state for his revitalization of the Pueblo campus, Garcia said he first said no to leaving his job, but after considering the opportunity and speaking with members of the community, eventually found was convinced to join up with the former brewer.
“It struck me that I could continue to help those students and the community in a broader way by being lieutenant governor. So I was eventually persuaded that this would be good for the state,” Garcia said.
Garcia grew up in a military family in New Mexico, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a juris doctorate from Harvard Law School. He has further served as the executive director of the Department of Regulatory Agencies under Gov. Roy Romer and served as the Rocky Mountain States representative for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, among other jobs.
Garcia said his heritage and his community are important to him but neither had played a part in the decision-making process on his nomination. He plans on helping the Latino community the same way he planned on helping the rest of Colorado, through jobs and educational excellence.
“The Latino population is an increasing share of the state. It is an increasingly important demographic, especially when it comes to education,” Garcia said. “I would help them by focusing on economic development and education the same way that I would help the rest of the population. We all care about the same thing.”
Garcia said there’s a need for affordable, accessible education and providing help beyond the classroom, but he further explained that a large part of the solution, especially in the Latino community, is to engage the community and get people involved in breaking down cultural barriers so that families feel comfortable coming into the schools.
Joseph Salazar, a founding member of the Colorado Latino Forum and civil rights lawyer, said he was ecstatic with the decision by the mayor. Salazar said he had worked under Garcia at the Department of Regulatory Agencies and had nothing but praise. He also said that the nomination was likely to help bring in some southern Colorado votes that Hickenlooper might not otherwise be able to procure.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis ridiculed the Hickenlooper decision, saying the mayor was just looking to move government money into a different office.
“We’re going to beat them [Hickenlooper and Garcia]. We now have two professional bureaucrats running, both of them drawing government salaries while running for office.”
Former Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff, a U.S. Senate candidate, said that he excited about the mayor’s choice. “Mayor Hickenlooper has made a superb choice. I’ve known and admired Joe Garcia for more than a decade. He is an exceptional addition to this ticket and will be an extraordinary lieutenant governor.”
Hickenlooper said he chose Garcia not just for his work experience but for his ability to work in a non-partisan fashion: “Someone who is more interested in finding success and creating and realizing a vision more than being the center of attention.”