Democrat Robert Bowen wants to present an alternative for voters in Colorado House District 38.
The 67-year-old Centennial resident, who served as a state representative from Denver from 1982-89, ran for the seat in 2014 as well, losing to Kathleen Conti, R-Littleton, by a wide margin. Conti is not pursuing re-election, choosing instead to run for county commissioner.
“It was gerrymandered to be a safe Republican district,” he said of the district, which includes west Centennial, most of Littleton, Bow Mar and Columbine Valley.
In November, Bowen will face the winner of the Republican primary contest between former District 1 County Commissioner Susan Beckman and Navy veteran Mike Williams.
“Not everybody in this district is going to agree with any of the three of us on everything,” he said. “I think that people deserve, in a democracy, to have a choice.”
He had not planned to run after being injured in a car crash last fall, but he was nominated from the floor at the Arapahoe County Democratic Assembly in March after no candidates from the party declared for the race, and accepted.
Bowen said that when he served in the legislature before, he criticized the state Democratic party for not competing in heavily Republican districts.
“I said 'you're depriving voters — they don't get to hear our side of the story and they don't get to have a choice,'” he said.
Bowen said the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights needs to be amended in order to fund education and infrastructure.
“We need to reform TABOR,” he said. “People don't have the guts to do it.”
Bowen advocates for an expansion of the light rail to relieve heavy traffic on Interstate 25, including an east-west line across the south suburbs.
“You've got to finance those things, and you've got to have people willing to stand up and call for them,” he said.
Bowen also said he would make the case in the House for raising the minimum wage, which he says would be helpful to Colorado's economy, though he doesn't think such a bill would pass either legislative chamber.
He also said that the cost of higher education has increasingly been placed on the backs of students or their parents.
Bowen hopes to have a public debate with Williams and Beckman in the coming months.
“I think the local offices are important and there ought to be a debate, and I'm willing to have one with both of them,” he said.
Bowen says he can be critical of his own party, for instance opposing the use of superdelegates in the presidential nomination race, which he says is undemocratic.
Despite the district's Republican majority, Bowen sees some cause for optimism. For instance, he thinks a Bernie Sanders presidential nomination would help him by turning out people who otherwise may not vote.
“Nobody runs a race unless they think that there's some chance that they might win,” he said.
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