Bill Ritter

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Bill Ritter
Bill Ritter official photo.jpg
41st Governor of Colorado
In office
January 9, 2007 – January 11, 2011
Lieutenant Barbara O’Brien
Preceded by Bill Owens
Succeeded by John Hickenlooper
Personal details
Born (1956-09-06) September 6, 1956 (age 57)
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jeannie Ritter
Children August
Abe
Sam
Tally
Alma mater Colorado State University
University of Colorado, Boulder
Religion Roman Catholicism
Signature

August William "Bill" Ritter (born September 6, 1956) is an American politician. He was the 41st Governor of the state of Colorado, from 2007 to 2011. He is a member of the Democratic Party. Before his election in 2006, he served as the district attorney for Denver. He was the first native-born governor of Colorado since 1975, as well as being the first Democratic governor to serve with a Democratic majority in the Colorado General Assembly in 50 years. Ritter did not run for a second term as Governor in 2010.[1]

Early life and childhood[edit]

Ritter was born in Denver and raised on a farm in far eastern Aurora among his 11 brothers and sisters (he was born sixth). He attended Gateway High School while he lived in Aurora. He also attended St. Anthony Catholic High School in San Antonio, Texas from 1970–1972. His father, Bill, was a heavy equipment operator in the construction industry. His mother, Ethel, was a homemaker until the family began to struggle economically[citation needed] and she found work as a bookkeeper when Ritter was a young teenager. At 14 years old, he went to work full-time in the construction industry, and joined a local labor union. He continued to work in the construction field, which ended up financing his college education (along with student loans). He enrolled in Colorado State University and completed a bachelors degree, and then pursued a degree at the University of Colorado School of Law in Boulder. By 1981, he had earned a Juris Doctor (J.D.) and was hired as a Deputy District Attorney for the City and County of Denver.

Career in law[edit]

In 1990, Ritter took on a position in the US Attorney's office, and returned to the Deputy DA's office two years later. In 1993, Ritter was appointed as Denver's District Attorney. As DA, he created one of the nation's first drug courts, as well as taking on white collar crime in metropolitan Denver.[citation needed] He worked extensively on the prosecution of sexual abuse and domestic violence, as well as criminals offending senior citizens.

Ritter advised United States Attorney General John Ashcroft on affairs after the September 11, 2001 attacks.[citation needed]

Charity work[edit]

Ritter served on the Denver Foundation's Human Services Committee, the Mile High United Way Board, and the Denver Public Schools' Commission on Secondary School Reform.

In 1987, Ritter and his wife Jeannie moved to Zambia as missionaries for the Catholic Church, where they would open a food distribution and education center. Upon their return to the Denver area in 1989, Governor Roy Romer appointed Ritter to the DA's office, citing his missionary work as an "important factor" in the decision. During the 2006 campaign, Ritter's work in Zambia was often emphasized by his campaign and the press.[2]

Governorship[edit]

Ritter speaks during the final day of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.
Ritter visiting with members of the U.S. Armed Forces from Colorado in Iraq, December 2007

Violent incident[edit]

On July 16, 2007 a man was shot and killed outside Ritter's offices. The man stormed the Capitol holding a pistol and threatening to kill Governor Ritter. He was shot and killed by a member of the governor's security detail.[3]

Popularity[edit]

At the start of his term, Ritter was relatively popular with rural Coloradans, who in the past have tended to vote for Republican candidates (particularly Front Range voters). This may have stemmed from Ritter's rural roots. His popularity also extended to the Democratic strongholds in Colorado: the continental divide ski resorts such as Aspen and Vail, as well as the Denver-Aurora metropolitan area. An August 2007 poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports showed Ritter's approval rating at 60%, while 36% were disapproving and 4% remained undecided.[4]

By July 2008, however, Ritter's approvals had begun a sharp decline, with a Rasmussen poll showing his approvals at 45%.[5] His numbers failed to improve—an April 2009 poll by Public Policy Polling showed the governor's approvals had further slid to 41%, with 49% disapproving of his performance. Perhaps more significantly, the same poll also showed Ritter trailing his most likely 2010 opponent, former Rep. Scott McInnis, by 7 points.[6] Though Ritter cited family reasons in his January 2010 announcement not to run for re-election, he was dogged by rumors that his poor polling numbers led Democratic power brokers to force him out of the race.[7]

Political positions[edit]

As a member of the Democratic Party, Ritter supports a "semi-progressive" agenda, emphasizing universal health care, environmental protection, housing subsidy and welfare increases and other stances aligned with the left wing of the Democratic Party. During the first campaign, more progressive, state Democratic leaders encouraged other candidates, including Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, to pursue the Governorship, because of concerns over Ritter's pro-life stance. Others believed that Ritter would win more votes in the "purple state", as opposed to Republican opponents. Hickenlooper did not pursue the office in 2006 and he eventually supported Ritter.

As Governor, Ritter pledged that overturning abortion laws would not be part of his agenda, and stated that he would veto any bill prohibiting abortion that did not provide for an exception for rape, incest, or fetal anomalies.[8] Ritter further stated that he would restore state funding to Planned Parenthood for family planning and would reverse the veto of a bill that would have allowed pharmacists to dispense the emergency contraception known as the morning-after pill. Ritter also staked out moderate positions on business and labor issues, vetoing legislation in 2007 that would have made it easier for workers to form unions,[9] and, mid-term, naming moderate Republican Don Marostica his director of economic development.[10]

In September 2010, Ritter was one of seven governors to receive a grade of F in the Cato Institute's fiscal-policy report card.[11]

Plea bargains[edit]

Controversy arose during the campaign over Ritter's use of plea bargains while in office. As DA, Ritter plea bargained 97% of cases which were brought to his office (near the national average).[12] However, controversy surfaced regarding plea bargains that prevented the deportation of both legal and illegal immigrants charged with drug, assault, and other crimes.[13] Both illegal immigration and drug use were hot topics in the race for governor, raising further controversy. Ritter has defended the plea bargains, stating that "Our priority was to try the most serious cases."[13]

Post-gubernatorial career[edit]

Ritter currently works as the director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University.[14]

Family[edit]

Bill and Jeannie Ritter married in 1983. They have four children: August, Abe, Sam, and Tally. Jeannie is a substitute teacher in the Denver Public Schools District. The majority of Ritter's extended family lives in Colorado. His mother Ethel (born 1925) is a resident of Strasburg, Colorado.

Electoral history[edit]

Colorado Gubernatorial Election 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Bill Ritter 778,510 56
Republican Bob Beauprez 565,871 41
Libertarian Dawn Winkler 20,494 1

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bartels, Lynn (January 5, 2010). "Sources: Ritter expected to withdraw from governor's race". The Denver Post. Archived from the original on 9 January 2010. Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  2. ^ "Bill Ritter in Africa: 1987 - 1990". Bill Ritter for Governor. Archived from the original on 2007-06-26. 
  3. ^ "Man shot and killed in Colo. governor’s office". CNN. Retrieved 2007-07-16. [dead link]
  4. ^ "Colorado - Survey of 500 Likely Voters". Rasmussen Reports. August 8, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-11-30. 
  5. ^ Ciruli, Floyd (July 23, 2008). "Midway in first term, Ritter struggles". Rocky Mountain News. Archived from the original on 2008-07-24. 
  6. ^ Jensen, Tom (April 23, 2009). "Ritter in Trouble". Public Policy Polling. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  7. ^ Axelrod, Ethan (January 6, 2010). "Bill Ritter Retirement Announcement: 'Intensely Personal' Decision Will Free Him To Make 'Tough Decisions'". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  8. ^ Gathright, Alan (August 12, 2006). "Beauprez, Ritter draw lines in sand - Immigration takes spotlight in debut governor's debate". Rocky Mountain News. p. 4A. Archived from the original on August 12, 2006. 
  9. ^ Isenstadt, Alex (September 28, 2009). "Gov. Bill Ritter's rocky road with labor". Politico. Retrieved 2010-07-12. 
  10. ^ Bartels, Lynn (July 23, 2009). "Ritter taps GOP lawmaker for economic post". The Denver Post. Retrieved 2010-07-12. 
  11. ^ de Rugy, Veronique (September 30, 2010). "How’s Your Governor Doing on Taxes and Spending?". National Review Online. Archived from the original on 2012-10-19. 
  12. ^ Couch, Mark P. (August 11, 2006). "Beauprez, Ritter square off in first debate". The Denver Post. 
  13. ^ a b Crummy, Karen E. (September 30, 2006). "Deportations avoided via DA's plea deals". The Denver Post. 
  14. ^ Colorado State University (2011). Gov. Bill Ritter to Head New Colorado State University Policy Center for New Energy Economy. Retrieved October 3, 2011.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Bill Owens
Governor of Colorado
2007–2011
Succeeded by
John Hickenlooper