Election

Election 2012 Senate District 28

Todd in the race to win, but making the commitment didn’t come easily

Top Democrats statewide never doubted that term-limited state Rep. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, would run for state Senate, but earlier this year, Todd herself wasn’t so sure she’d jump in the race.

She was undecided until midway through this year’s Legislative session.

“I did some very serious soul searching about it because there’s a price to pay,” she said. “It wasn’t the slam-dunk everyone just assumed it would be.”

Lots of time and devotion goes into running a campaign, especially for state Senate since the districts are much larger than House districts, Todd said.

That fact, compounded with her husband’s recent prostate cancer diagnosis made it tough for her to decide whether to run.

Ultimately, she said she decided to announce her candidacy earlier this year for Senate District 28 because she’s committed to her community.

Elected in 2004, Todd has served eight years in the state House and is now term-limited there. She’s now running for the Senate seat against Republican John Lyons, a newcomer candidate who spent almost three decades working as a diesel mechanic and is currently studying to be a high school history teacher.

The population of the district, which is currently represented by term-limited state Sen. Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora, is about 140,600 people, according to state documents. About 31 percent of the 64,719 registered voters are Republican and about 37 percent are Democratic. The rest are mostly unaffiliated.

People in the district will be attracted to her proven leadership and experience, said John Buckley, chairman of the Arapahoe County Democratic Party.

“I think she’s been a strong leader for Aurora and certainly has a great deal of experience in the state House, and I think that’s going to be key because so many senators are term-limited,” he said.

Todd is also confident that she’ll be able to use her experience at the Colorado Legislature as leverage in her campaign.

“I think I can bring maturity, stability and wisdom from my experience,” she said. “I also think I can bring an ability to work across the aisle, which right now I think we have to do more than ever before. We’re so stymied by partisan politics and that really bothers me a great deal.”

Todd, a retired elementary and middle school teacher, grew up in Lawrence, Kan., in a family of educators. Her mother was a schoolteacher and her father was the longest-serving superintendent of schools in Lawrence, a city with more than 88,000 people.

“Most kids sat around the dinner table and talked about weather, sports and music, but we talked about bond issues and mill levies,” she said.

She graduated from the University of Kansas in 1970 with an elementary education degree and moved to Colorado to work for the Cherry Creek School District that same year.

She taught at Eastridge Elementary in Aurora, and Belleview Elementary and West Middle School in Greenwood Village.

She’s sponsored and helped carry several education bills through the lawmaking process over her eight years as state Representative. Those include the Concurrent Enrollment Programs Act that broadens access and improves the quality of concurrent enrollment programs, where a high school student can be also enrolled in a college or university class, and the Teacher Identifier System Act, which improves teaching and student learning and rewards and develops the careers of teachers.

Todd is a self-proclaimed big picture-thinker, and has overarching goals for her job as a state Senator if she’s elected in November.

She says it’s crucial for state lawmakers to do anything they can to get the FasTracks light-rail project in Aurora complete so that people from cities in the Denver metro area can get to work at the Anschutz Medical Campus more efficiently. She also wants to make it a priority to foster an educational environment that will promote small class sizes and quality teachers, and she also wants to tackle the issue of affordable health care.

“When I go door to door, almost invariably health-care costs are the No. 1 concern,” she said.

She said the costs of health-care insurance should come down, as well as the costs of health-care services, and everyone should be entitled to a good-paying job with quality health-care benefits.

She’s knocked on hundreds of doors so far in her campaign, but the Senate district is much larger than House District 41, which she currently represents. The difference is about 70,000 people, so the challenge for Todd is getting to know most of them and understanding their concerns.

“I have to do much more outreach for people to know who I am, what I’ve done and what I stand for,” she said.

Reach reporter Sara Castellanos at 720-449-9036 or sara@aurorasentinel.com.

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