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Dick Lamm – The Governor Who Led the 1970s Environmental Shift in Colorado Politics Has Passed

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Floyd Ciruli

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Dick Lamm’s election in 1974 as governor brought a generation of leaders, mostly Baby Boomers, into Colorado’s state and local government. They ran his campaign, worked in state government and staffed the campaigns in Colorado for many years. He had the wind of Watergate at his back and was joined in office by new Democratic Senator Gary Hart, Congressperson Tim Wirth, State Treasurer Sam Brown and control of the State House for the first time in many years.

He had begun his political career championing abortion rights when few were engaged on the issue and defeated most of the state’s political and business establishment by championing a ballot initiative to reject the 1976 Winter Olympics, which had already been awarded to the state. The establishment truly disliked him. But, he was highly popular with Colorado independent-style voters. Along with a zero growth philosophy, he was fiscally conservative and as independent of the Democratic Party establishment as the Republicans. Much of what he wrote and said in his career was provocative, frequently foreboding. He ran a quixotic campaign for the presidential nomination in Ross Perot’s Reform Party in 1996. No chance since Perot wanted it. Ultimately, he was a better professor and provocateur than politician.

But, he laid the foundation for nearly 50 years of Democratic governors (Republican Bill Owens from 1998 to 2006 the only exception).

Dick Lamm greets President Jimmy Carter
President Jimmy Carter was greeted by a receiving line of Colorado officials, including from left, Denver Mayor Bill McNichols, Lt. Gov. George Brown and Gov. Richard. Lamm. Behind Carter are two of meentourage which traveled with him on Air Force One, from left, Sen. Floyd Haskell, D-Colo. And Sen. Gary Hart, D-Colo., 1977 | Photo via Bill Johnson/Denver Post

Read: Colorado Leadership Over Four Decades