With Colorado's wildfires occupying most of the media's focus these days, it's tough to get attention for other issues. It's even tougher if you are trying to get notice as a third-party candidate.
When retired biostatistics professor Ron Forthofer announced last week that he was running for governor on the Green Party ticket, none of the state's three largest dailies showed up for any of his news conferences, held in Colorado Springs, Denver and Longmont.
Forthofer has experienced such snubs before. When he ran for Congress two years ago, challenging Democrat Mark Udall in the 2nd Congressional District, he and every other third-party candidate in Colorado were omitted from the Rocky Mountain News' voters' guide, provoking activists from the minor parties to picket the newspaper's offices.
Still, Forthofer, who received 4 percent of the vote in his district in 2000, believes that neither of the two major-party candidates in the race, Republican Gov. Bill Owens and Democratic candidate Rollie Heath, are talking about the issues that matter to average Coloradans.
"There's a definite need for a Green candidate to come forward and represent the people," Forthofer said while announcing his run on June 20 at Colorado Springs' East Library.
According to Forthofer, candidates and the media need to discuss how to secure living wages, affordable housing, food, education and health care for everyone in Colorado, while simultaneously protecting the environment. Instead, he says, media reports about the gubernatorial race have focused more on which candidate can raise the most money. "It's hard to find out where either Owens or Rollie Heath stands," Forthofer lamented.
The focus on money isn't surprising given how corporations have hijacked the government with their campaign contributions, he says.
"We must wrest control of our government out of the hands of big-money interests and return control to the people," Forthofer said. "We must put people and planet before profit."
Noting that 700,000 Coloradans lack health care -- a number that's increasing as health-insurance premiums skyrocket -- Forthofer advocates a universal health-care system that does away with private health-insurance companies. While Owens and Heath propose different ways of tinkering with the system, what's needed is a bold solution, Forthofer maintains.
"We must perform radical surgery on our failing health-care system," he said. "Band-Aids are not enough."
Forthofer also advocates voluntary public financing of political campaigns, and free media access for candidates, to lessen corporate influence on the electoral process. He proposes raising more state revenue by imposing "green taxes" on polluters and changing funding mechanisms to help struggling school districts. And he wants to make Colorado a "world leader" in renewable-energy research and development.
Heath, when reached for comment, said he wasn't overly concerned about Forthofer's candidacy. Democrats often complain that Green candidates "take away" votes from Democratic candidates, thereby helping Republicans win close races.
"If you're asking me, 'Would I just as soon he not be in the race?,' I guess my honest answer would have to be 'yes,'" Heath said of Forthofer. "But I don't think it's going to be of major consequence."
On the other hand, a spokeswoman for Owens' campaign predicted Forthofer's entry would "definitely" impact the race.
"The Green Party candidate will likely take votes away from our Democratic opponent," said the spokeswoman, Cinamon Watson.
Forthofer says he expects to raise about $40,000 -- less than 1 percent of what Owens has already raised -- and rely mostly on "people power" for his campaign.
"We're running a race to win, but our expectations are definitely not of winning," Forthofer said. "We hope to raise issues and build the Green Party into a real force."
-- Terje Langeland