Donald Rosier, a former Jefferson County Commissioner, said Friday he's running to unseat state Rep. Lisa Cutter, the Evergreen Democrat who last year won a House seat that had been in Republican hands for decades.
"Being county commissioner was a great opportunity — working with, being a part of finding solutions to issues that affect individuals," Rosier told Colorado Politics. "I really want to continue that work in House District 25. I don't believe it's currently being represented well. I don't believe Lisa Cutter is spending the time to meet with the community, to understand the true issues that are affecting House District 25."
Cutter, a 56-year-old public relations executive, defeated Republican nominee Steve Szutenbach by 5.4 percentage points last year in the mountainous southwest metro district, which includes Evergreen, Conifer and Morrison, part of Colorado's 2018 blue wave that swept Democrats into office up and down the ballot across the state.
Cutter's upset win came on the heels of the Republican incumbent, state Rep. Tim Leonard, abruptly ending his re-election bid 10 weeks before voting began. The GOP picked conservative activist Szutenbach to run for the seat over the more moderate Rosier at a vacancy committee meeting.
Following the 2018 election, former state Rep. Rob Witwer, who represented the district for two terms last decade and whose father, John, represented it before that, took to Twitter to rail against Republicans for losing a seat that had previously been "impervious to wave elections like this."
“GOP: This is what happens when you put partisan ideology ahead of constituent service, community presence, outreach, local issues and listening," tweeted Witwer, who later announced he was changing his voter registration from Republican to unaffiliated.
Rosier, a 53-year-old civil engineer, said he's running to restore a sense of civility in state government.
"I didn't see much civility this last legislative session," he said. "The Democrat majority — Lisa was right there with them — didn't have the civility of working with other elected officials. It was more, 'We're going to ram this through, come hell or high water; we're just going to do it.'"
He said he was alarmed to see so many bills speed through committees without adequate time to hear from Coloradans.
"There's no way constituents or interested parties had an opportunity to review all those bill or present testimony," he said. "Everybody should have an opportunity to weigh in. To try to ram things through is not good governance."
Rosier added that his own party shares some of the blame, noting that this summer he declined to sign a petition to recall Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, one of six GOP-led recall attempts that failed to make the ballot this year.
"We have to be careful of recalls," Rosier said. "I think — this comes back to that civility process — yeah, we're going to disagree with individuals from time to time. But one person does something we don't like, and we want to throw them aside, and everything has to be our way?"
Listing several of the Democrats targeted with recalls, Rosier said: "Polis, [state Rep. Tom] Sullivan, [state Sen. Brittany] Pettersen— is what they did an actual recallable event, or is it just an event that disagreed with what I thought? It's my job, it's my duty as a voter, as a resident within a specific district — it's my job to show up at the polls and vote and say, 'You're gone, I want somebody else in there, you're not representing me right.' But just because I disagree with an action, I think we use recalls way too often."
In her first legislative session, Cutter, who sits on the House Education and Public Health Care & Human Services committees, was a prime sponsor of seven bills, and all of them were signed into law by Polis.
Among her bills were legislation to create media literacy guidelines for Colorado students, improve mental health care coverage for Medicaid recipients, increase transparency for state lobbyists, and protect residents against lawsuits targeting free speech, known as strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPP.
Rosier said that his top legislative priorities include figuring out funding for transportation and infrastructure needs, increasing teacher pay and imposing "fiscal restraint" on state lawmakers.
"It's fiscal responsibility — all the bills that were approved last session, they were so over-subscribed," he said. "They over-spent tremendously. I don't know how to do this, but more, I guess you would call it, fiscal restraint — before we pass all these bills to understand where these dollars are coming from, what's the short-term and long-term funding mechanism."
As far as transportation funding, Rosier said there isn't "one way to go that would be the silver bullet" but rejected the endless debate that has left the state with billions in unmet needs.
"We need to put pencil to paper and go beyond that. We need to have action on how that is going to be funded — how we allocate our general fund dollars," he said. "We need to look at a variety of funding mechanisms."
Rosier added that the state should look to how the Pikes Peak region deals with funding its transportation projects.
"They have gone out time and time again and asked for transportation dollars — listed projects, said here's our priorities, if we get through all these done, we'll go on to the next ones, and then they go back and show what they've done, proven up that they are good stewards with those dollars."
Elected twice as a Jefferson County commissioner, Rosier stepped down in late 2017, about a year before the expiration of his second term, to take a position as general manager for a proposed master-planned community in northwest Douglas County that could see as many as 33,000 residents when it's built out. He said he's wrapped up that job after successfully getting the project off the ground by setting up various metropolitan districts and plans to devote full time to his legislative campaign.
In 2016, Rosier mounted a bid for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Michael Bennet but didn’t make the primary ballot.
According to the Colorado Secretary of State's Office, Cutter has raised $15,464 for her re-election campaign and had $6,859 on hand at the end of September.