Continuing our coverage of elections that are relevant to the men and women in law enforcement, we take a look at two Colorado state elections featuring candidates with law enforcement backgrounds who are committed to improving the lives and security of the residents of their districts. In the 13th district John Cooke who is running for reelection as State Senator, and in the 33rd district Eric Rutherford is running to for the office of State Representative. While Federal elections receive more attention, residents feel the impact of the state legislature in every day life, particularly as the current federal administration works to reduce the size of government.
As a member of the State Senate, John Cooke, 61, is vice chairman of the Transportation and Judiciary committees, and is also serving on the committee for Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy. Before taking office as State Senator, Cooke was in law enforcement for 25 years, his last 12 as Weld Country Sheriff. Cooke was the leader of the Colorado Sheriff’s Association when they sued the state to overturn gun control laws that the association believed to be too restrictive. Cooke also spoke at a rally held by gun owners who worked on a petition to recall the current state Senate President. The recall was successful.
Despite this aggressive approach and the preconceptions that State Senators likely had, Cooke was able to build productive relationships with his colleagues.
This can be seen in Cooke’s ability to successfully sponsor and pass nearly a dozen laws related to law enforcement and security including legislation that improves training for law enforcement, provides grants for use of body cameras, and three laws that increase the penalty for sexual exploitation of children, domestic violence, and on intentional false reporting that require an emergency response.
In addition to issues directly affecting law enforcement, Cooke is working on issues important to Coloradans like infrastructure and energy. Cooke is running against Phil Kelley, a Viet Nam veteran who is currently retired and describes himself as a progressive Democrat who was inspired to run as a response to the election of President Trump.
Over in the 33rd district, Eric Rutherford, a former Drug Enforcement Agency officer is trying to unseat incumbent Matt Gray. Rutherford is a United States Marine Corps veteran who attended the FBI Academy, serving as class President. After graduating, Rutherford and joined the DEA and was located in El Paso Texas where according to his website he battled “international drug cartels and violent criminals.” After several years there Rutherford moved back to Colorado, got his MBA and became a Real Estate Broker and investor.
Looking to return to public service Rutherford has prioritized issues that are important to 33rd district constituents including infrastructure, healthcare, education, and energy.
However as a former law enforcement official Rutherford has also emphasized safety and security in an issue that especially relevant to Coloradans who’ve lived through multiple mass shootings, guns. Rutherford supported a “Red Flag” bill that would have allowed law enforcement officials, family, or household members to petition a judge to remove guns from individuals who presented an “extreme risk” to others. In May of 2018 the bill failed on a 3-2 vote in the State Senate after passing in the State House. Rutherford would have voted for it had he been a Representative.
According to his website Rutherford’s time in the DEA shaped his position on guns as well, as he has stated that working to remove the leadership of a gang that operated on the borders of the United States and Mexico led him to believe that “I do not want those kinds of people to have access to any type of firearm. Period.”
Rutherford ran unopposed in his primary. Gray, his opponent in the state election, is a former deputy district attorney who has focused on public finance and government efficiency.
We will continue to profile other candidates who are of interest to law enforcement officers and those who support them. In the meantime, if you or people you know are a resident of Colorado’s 13th or 33rd districts and care about the issues these candidates have made their priority, American Police Officers Association urges you to get involved and help contribute to the improvement of the lives of Colorado residents. It’s also important to remember even if you don’t live in Colorado, today’s state Senators and House Representatives are tomorrow’s federal Senators and House Representatives and can have an impact on your community as well.