Dianne Primavera will join Jared Polis as his running mate for governor.
The Democratic candidate chose a former state lawmaker with a track record of fighting for health care access to join him on the ticket. Polis shared his decision in an exclusive interview with Colorado Matters. Political watchers are still waiting on Walker Stapleton’s choice.
“Coloradans and Americans are just getting ripped off on health care,” Polis said. “Dianne, far and away, will be the best partner in helping to fix this here in Colorado and save families money and expand coverage.”
Primavera is the CEO of Susan G. Komen Colorado, a foundation that supports breast cancer prevention and treatment. The work is personal for Primavera. The mother of two faced her first breast cancer diagnosis when she was 38-years-old. At the time, the doctor told her she only had five years to live.
Primavera said she lost her job, her health care and her marriage during her first year in treatment. She’s survived four bouts with cancer in the 30 years since that first diagnosis.
Those experiences are what motivate her work on health care reform.
“I’ve walked in the shoes of people who are sick and people who are trying to juggle raising a family and being ill at the same time,” she said.
Primavera spent four terms in the state legislature, representing a House district that covers Broomfield, Superior and parts of Erie. She narrowly lost her first run for the seat in 2004. In 2006, she won the race for the seat thanks, in part, to her “Pasta and Primavera” fundraisers. Some of her campaign literature even included her father’s recipe for pasta primavera.
In 2010, Republican Donald Beezley unseated Primavera by a margin of just a few hundred votes. She reclaimed the seat two years later and served until 2016, when she was prevented from seeking re-election due to term limits
In the legislature, Primavera focused her attention on transportation and health care issues. She managed to pass the Colorado law that requires minors to wear helmets on motorcycles. Another successful bill protected personal medical information from state tax audits. Over her career as a lawmaker, she fought to increase access to cancer medications and screenings.
The Polis campaign took to Twitter to tease their pick ahead of the announcement. One hint: she has two dogs and two fish. Primavera’s dogs are named Porkchop and Mini-Me. Her fish are named Kennedy and Lincoln.
Another hint was the pick would be a Colorado native. Primavera was born in Denver and attended Regis University and the University of Northern Colorado.
Polis doesn’t think being a native son (or daughter) should be a prerequisite to be governor. While he too was born in Colorado, he pointed out that both Gov. Hickenlooper and former Gov. Owens are Centennial State transplants.
Polis, however, does take issue with his opponent, Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, claiming he’s a “fourth-generation Coloradan.” Stapleton’s family has deep roots in Colorado, but he was born and raised on the East Coast.
“If you’re not a native, I don’t think it’s a problem, but own up to it,” Polis said.
CPR News did ask Stapleton and his campaign who their pick for Lt. Gov. would be, but so far they have not said who will join the Republican ticket. Colorado law requires candidates to name their running mates no later than a week after receiving a party nomination. That means Walker must decide by July 3, 2018. His nominee has until a month after the primary to accept.
Eric Walker, a spokesperson for the Colorado Democratic Party, speculated that Stapleton might choose immigration hardliner Tom Tancredo. Ahead of the testy state Republican convention, radio host Steffan Tubbs asked Stapleton if he would consider Tancredo for the role. Stapleton praised Tancredo as a law-and-order Republican with a strong record against sanctuary cities.
When pressed if he would consider him, Stapleton said “we’ll see.”
“There’s lot of reasons why Walker Stapleton would make a terrible governor,” said Eric Walker. “But floating Tancredo as his running mate and saying he’d love to have him on the ticket is close to the top of the list.”
The Stapleton campaign, reacting to the news of Polis' running mate, later said that voters of both parties will “reject the radical Polis-Primavera ticket” in favor of their candidate.
“This rushed announcement from Jared Polis can't distract from the fact that Democrats are not united heading into the general election and remain divided over Polis's plans to destroy Colorado's energy industry and its 230,000 jobs, force Bernie Sanders-style single-payer health care on the state, and raise taxes on hardworking Coloradans,” said Campaign Manager Michael Fortney.
Editor's Note: This story was updated to include comment from the Stapleton campaign.