Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston offered state-centric solutions to questions about health care, public lands and climate change during a campaign stop Monday at the Durango Public Library.
Johnston represented northeast Denver as a state senator from 2009 to 2015. He is running for governor in 2018 in an already crowded field of candidates seeking to replace Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is term-limited.
Other Democrats in the race include Congressman Jared Polis; former state treasurer Cary Kennedy; and businessman Noel Ginsburg. Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter was expected to drop out of the race Tuesday, according to The Denver Post.
Republicans in the race include Doug Robinson, a former investment banker; Victor Mitchell an entrepreneur and businessman; and George Brauchler, the district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, which includes Denver-area counties.
Johnston drew about 40 people to his third meeting in Durango and faced questions on topics that have captured the national political spotlight. He offered ideas on how Colorado can pursue renewable energy, reduce health-care costs and help more people find work in a changing economy through education.
By 2040, Johnston would like Colorado to rely 100 percent on renewable energy by encouraging wind and solar generation and improving the ability to store power in batteries. He also wants to accelerate the plan to close coal plants.
“I think those are the right aggressive steps,” he said.
He also wants the state to provide two years of free or skills training to anyone willing to provide service to the state, such as working on fire mitigation or trail repair.
Addressing a question on protecting public lands, Johnston said it is important that Democrats keep control of the governor’s seat to ensure that public lands are not sold, because they are an economic life-blood for certain parts of the state.
To help control the rising costs of health care, Johnston wants medical providers to be held financially accountable for the long-term health outcomes of patients and more emphasis placed on preventive care.
He framed himself as a coalition-builder who would bring Republicans, Democrats and independents together.
In 2013, he successfully recruited Republican support for the ASSET bill that allowed undocumented students to pay in-state college, an effort that failed 11 times in row, he said.
“I think this next governor is going to be more than policy-maker. They are going to have to be a community-builder,” he said.