Gov. John Hickenlooper announces commission to celebrate women's right to vote

Members of the Women's Vote Centennial Commission look on as Gov. John Hickenlooper signs an executive order creating the commission on Jan. 3.

Gov. John Hickenlooper -- in what's expected to be one of the last of his official actions as governor -- Thursday signed an executive order creating a commission that will help Colorado celebrate the 100th anniversary of the U.S. constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote.

"We want to make sure this anniversary does not pass unnoticed," Hickenlooper said at a Thursday news conference at the Capitol -- one that his staff billed as his last as governorF

Colorado has a leg up on that issue: Women were granted voting rights in 1893, a full 27 years before the final adoption of the 19th Amendment.

"We are proud that Colorado first gave women the right to vote," said Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, also a member of the commission.

The 25-member commission includes a "who's who" of women political leaders from both sides of the aisle: 

  • Five lieutenant governors
  • All four women state speakers of the House
  • Secretary of State-elect Jena Griswold
  • Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior and Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton
  • Current Attorney General Cynthia Coffman
  • Robin Hickenlooper, first lady of Colorado
  • Janet Suthers, first lady of Colorado Springs

The commission will be chaired by Cathey McClain Finlon, a noted business leader in Colorado. Notably absent, however: The first two women to serve as president of the state Senate: Joan Fitz-Gerald and Morgan Carroll, now the chair of the Colorado Democratic Party.

Hickenlooper pointed out that in the recent midterm elections, Colorado women cast 100,000 more ballots than men. Lynne noted that in Colorado, 87 women ran for statewide office, and the House is expected to be majority women for the first time in history when it convenes Friday.

"Giving women a seat at the table is good democracy," Lynne added.

Hickenlooper also talked about his presidential aspirations with reporters after the announcement, and how his wife regards his future.

"My first discussion for potentially running for president was with my wife. She is my deepest, most reliable confidante, and gives me great, honest feedback, not all of it complimentary. I've talked to her hundreds of times," he said, as well as with trusted friends and advisers.

"We're making progress," Hickenlooper added. 

As to a timeline, Hickenlooper said they intend to travel the state in January and February, as well as make a trip to Iowa and New Hampshire. The question is "can someone from an interior state like Colorado get traction?" he said.

Hickenlooper said he refers to himself as "an extreme moderate" and that the other question is whether he can compete in terms of fundraising on the national level. 

"But what we've done in Colorado -- this notion of bringing people together who don't compromise -- I still believe that has currency and value in America," he said.

The announcement by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren earlier this week that she was forming an exploratory committee, plus other expected presidential announcements by Democrats, adds urgency to Hickenlooper's timeline. He said he'd like to have until April to decide, but that waiting that long is probably not realistic. 

On a more local note, Hickenlooper said his successor -- Gov.-elect Jared Polis -- has all the ingredients to be a great governor.

"He's a hard worker, curious, always seeking out new ideas. He's also an entrepreneur," Hickenlooper said.

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