Editorial: Remembering Richard Lamm and his fight for Coloradans

Richard D. Lamm was a kind, humble and generous man.

He was the kind of man who you could meet on the street in downtown Denver and walk away from the conversation never knowing he was the longest-serving governor in state history.

Colorado will be poorer without him here offering his unvarnished and genuine takes on the most important policies of our time.

Lamm served Colorado as governor for three terms, and he did it well. He also championed the University of Denver, supporting the campus as it became an internationally recognized center of political thought. He was the executive director of the Center for Public Policy.

Some might peg Lamm as a man of contradictions, but really he was simply a man of conviction — a man who championed women’s rights long before it was popular to do so. He chose a woman as his lieutenant governor, appointed a woman to the state Supreme Court, and helped loosen state restrictions on abortion before Roe vs. Wade codified access to abortion early in pregnancy as a right protected by the Constitution.

And yet Lamm’s personal policy on immigration was drastically different from that of the modern Democratic Party.

“Immigration, particularly large-scale illegal immigration, is one of those issues where the political establishment of both parties has consistently refused to take the public’s concerns seriously. The public, including many people who did not vote for Trump, are serious about wanting the unending flow of illegal immigration halted,” Lamm wrote for The Denver Post’s opinion pages shortly after President Donald Trump was elected in 2016 with an anti-immigration platform focused on building a wall on our southern border and reducing the numbers of legal immigrants.

Unlike Trump’s campaign, however, Lamm’s opposition to high immigration numbers in the U.S. was never tainted with racism, and he certainly never vilified those coming to the U.S. in search of better lives. Lamm served as an attorney for the state’s anti-discrimination office before he became governor.

Modern Democrats may disagree, as The Denver Post editorial board does, with Lamm’s assessment that the rate of legal immigration to the U.S. is unsustainable for America’s economy, but they cannot disagree with Lamm’s assessment that it is a major concern for blue-collar American workers and that it helped carry Trump into office in 2016.

And for the times Lamm found himself at odds with the body politic or the state’s chambers of commerce, he was rarely at odds with Colorado voters.

Voters backed Lamm’s decision to spurn the U.S. Olympic Committee and refuse to host the 1976 Winter Olympics in Colorado. Imagine a modern-day politician turning down a potential economic driver in favor of protecting Colorado’s environment. Lamm wasn’t so much an anti-growth Democrat so much as he opposed rapid growth that would deteriorate the quality of life in Colorado, and that included population growth and his infamous “duty to die” position that lamented the deleterious effects of longer life spans in America.

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