State Senate District 27: An appointee and an advocate line up to battle for Senate District 27 seat

The margin in the Colorado State Senate is as close as it can be. State Senate District 27 has been a safe one for Republicans in recent years, but this election is a bit different.

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Jack Tate vs Tom Sullivan

The margin in the Colorado State Senate is as close as it can be. Of the 35 seats, Republicans hold 18 and Democrats 17. That means the Republican’s majority in the Senate — the lone branch state government they control — is a precarious one. State Senate District 27 has been a safe one for Republicans in recent years, but this election is a bit different. Last time around, David Balmer won the seat comfortably, but he left office abruptly last fall. His replacement, former state Rep. Jack Tate, is running for another term in the seat Balmer vacated. His opponent, Tom Sullivan, is making his first run at elected office after jumping into state politics a few years ago following the slaying of his son in the Aurora theater shooting. The district is Centennial-centric and stretches from Broadway east to about the E-470 toll road and from County Line Road north roughly to Orchard Road. In addition to Centennial, the district includes parts of Aurora.

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By BRANDON JOHANSSON, Staff writer

An appointee and an advocate line up to battle for Senate District 27 seat

Four years ago, David Balmer won his state Senate seat in District 27 by a fairly comfortable margin.

Once all the votes were tallied, the Republican had about 54 percent compared to 45 percent for his Democratic challenger.

Jack Tate
Jack Tate

That’s a 9-point win, and not a huge surprise in a district that cuts along Arapahoe County’s southern edge and includes fairly conservative locales like Centennial, Foxfield and chunks of unincorporated Arapahoe south of Aurora.

But Balmer isn’t appearing on this fall’s ballot after he left his seat last year.

Instead, the race is a battle between Balmer’s replacement, former state Rep. Jack Tate, a Republican, and first-time candidate Democrat Tom Sullivan. Both are from Centennial.

While Sullivan is taking his first run at elected office, he is hardly a stranger to local politics. Since his son, Alex, was one of 12 people gunned down inside an Aurora theater in 2012, Sullivan has been a staunch advocate for gun safety measures.

Tom Sullivan
Tom Sullivan

Sullivan made his first foray into politics backing those gun-control measures and said he still supports them.

But, Sullivan said, while he knows he will likely be seen as a “gun control” candidate because of those efforts and the tragedy that struck his family, he hopes to be more than that.

An Air Force veteran, retired postal worker, union man and husband, Sullivan said he understands the day-to-day issues working families deal with better than most.

“That’s what we strive for, that middle-class life,” he said.

Tate, who represented a chunk of Centennial and unincorporated Arapahoe County in the state House before being tabbed to fill Balmer’s seat, said he opposes the 2013 gun control measures. The magazine ban in particular is “unenforceable and arbitrary,” he said.

On the death penalty, the pair find themselves on opposite ends of an issue, but also opposite sides of their party.

Sullivan is a staunch death penalty supporter and backed Arapahoe County prosecutors when they sought a death sentence for his son’s killer.

Tate is more leery of capital punishment in Colorado.

“We are already basically a de facto non-capital punishment state. Current policy neither provides deterrence nor a sense of justice to victims. It is also a huge financial drain and won’t improve,” Tate said.

Both men say they would vote to ban local governments like Aurora from using photo red-light cameras. The systems have long been a target for some lawmakers, and Tate last year voted for a ban that the governor later vetoed.

The question is likely to pop up again next session, and whoever is representing Senate District 27 will likely line up behind it.

Jack Tate hails form Nashville, Tenn. but has called Colorado home for 18 years. For the past 12, he has lived in Centennial. He has worked as a project manager and engineer. He has been married for 23 years and has three children.

A native of western New York, Tom Sullivan has lived in Colorado since 1980. A retired United States Postal Worker, he lives in Centennial with his wife. His son, Alex, was slain in the July 2012 Aurora theater shooting.

Would you vote to end capital punishment in Colorado? We are already basically a de facto non-capital punishment state.  Current policy neither provides deterrence nor a sense of justice to victims.  It is also a huge financial drain and won’t improve. Criminal justice reform energies should be spent looking at the mass incarceration of non-violent offenders.  Precious financial resources should be spent on maintaining safe communities.

How should the state pay for substantial expansion of state roads? I would support legislation next session akin to the proposals of the last two years that sought to authorize the State to bond $3.5 billion in revenue for transportation projects throughout Colorado.  I also support making infrastructure a priority so that it receives investment from the general fund.  Infrastructure is an important and core function of State government.

Should the state cede some local control of fracking to counties and municipalities? How much? I support continued regulation of the oil and gas industry at the state level and MOU processes at the local level, just like the approach taken by Arapahoe County a couple of years ago.  After almost 2 years of stakeholder meetings in which our elected officials listened to community concerns, the County arrived at a bipartisan consensus.   The industry is very important to my District.  Working together, we can make sure that our industries are regulated properly that that we have good paying jobs with which we can support our families.

Should Colorado repeal gun-control laws from 2013? On the Senate floor last session, I voted with a bipartisan majority to repeal the ban from 2013 on certain hardware that law enforcement has stated is unenforceable and experts have called arbitrary. I will work hard in continuing to make safe communities a priority at the State Capitol. I will ensure that our first responders, prosecutors, and mental health professionals are equipped to keep our neighborhoods and communities safe.

Would you support a bill to ban red-light traffic cameras? On the Senate floor last session, I voted with a bipartisan consensus to ban red-light traffic cameras.  The Governor vetoed the Bill.  My concerns are about safety, civil liberties, and due process.

Would you support a measure to ask voters to re-write the Taxpayer Bill of Rights to require a vote on tax increases, but to remove all other state budget restrictions? I support TABOR. It recognizes that, from an institutional behavior perspective, government will grow and crowd out the private sector. Thus, TABOR protects small businesses, entrepreneurs, and jobs.  The reform conversation I would support would be about the ratchet effect and a lack of a rainy day mechanism.

Should a revised presidential primary system allow for non-affiliated voters to vote for party candidates? With the relative ease of affiliating today, I am concerned that this approach will add a level of complexity and millions of dollars of additional costs with no real effect on participation rates.  We should evaluate merely extending our current primary system to the Presidential election, with little additional costs involved, as a first step.  This way we can better understand the participation issue.

Will you vote for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or someone else? I will be voting for my party’s nominee.

Should the state prevent counties, schools and municipalities from barring transgender people from using restrooms and locker rooms for sexes other than what appears on their birth certificates? I trust our locally elected policy makers and local managers to decide what makes sense for their community and the needs of actual patrons.  The controversial state law in North Carolina ran against this sentiment, for example.

What one thing, above all, would you ask fellow lawmakers to do or change to increase student performance on standardized tests? The goal should be to improve education in general, student achievement, and readiness for career opportunities.  Putting kids first, not test scores.  I support removing national and unfunded mandates and returning local governance to our school districts.  I want to empower families to meet the needs of their children.  I understand that when it comes to academics, no two children learn the same way. Parents know what is best when it comes to choosing the school that meets their child’s needs.

Would you vote to end capital punishment in Colorado? No.

How should the state pay for substantial expansion of state roads? Moving (the Hospital Provider Fee) to an enterprise would be the first step.

Should the state cede some local control of fracking to counties and municipalities? How much? Yes, 50-50. The state should be able to offer some input.

Should Colorado repeal gun-control laws from 2013? No.

Would you support a bill to ban red-light traffic cameras? Yes.

Would you support a measure to ask voters to re-write the Taxpayer Bill of Rights to require a vote on tax increases, but to remove all other state budget restrictions? Yes.

Should a revised presidential primary system allow for non-affiliated voters to vote for party candidates? No.

Will you vote for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or someone else? Clinton.

Should the state prevent counties, schools and municipalities from barring transgender people from using restrooms and locker rooms for sexes other than what appears on their birth certificates? No.

What one thing, above all, would you ask fellow lawmakers to do or change to increase student performance on standardized tests? Make sure everyone had recess every day and a good lunch. I know I do better after a workout and a good meal.

What food do you hate most? 

Celery

Do you indulge in recreational marijuana? 

No.

Who would play you in a movie about your life? 

Hugh Grant

What Olympic Sport so you wish you could win gold at? 

Summer: Decathlon; Winter: Curling

What was your favorite childhood candy? 

Bottle Caps

If you could be an eyewitness to one event in history, what would it be?

Being in Mission Control when we first landed on the moon.

If the Secret Service gave you a code name, what would it be? 

Architect

If you had to sing karaoke, what song would you sing? Car karaoke counts.

“Wicked Game”

What epitaph would you like written on your tombstone? 

From Davy Crockett: “Be always sure you’re right — then go ahead”!

Is a hot dog a sandwich?

Sure.

What is the last concert you attended?

Kenny Chesney

What movie do you never tire of watching?

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Dogs or cats?

Dogs

What’s the most overrated thing about living in Colorado?

“It’s a dry heat.”

What food do you hate most? Fried eggplant.

Do you indulge in recreational marijuana? No.

Who would play you in a movie about your life? Steve McQueen.

What Olympic sport do you wish you could win gold at? Bobsled.

What was your favorite childhood candy? M&Ms.

If you could be an eyewitness to one event in history, what would it be? I First moon landing. It was on my mom’s birthday and I could have waved to her from the moon. It was also my son’s birthday, so I would never have grown tired of telling him about the day.

If the Secret Service gave you a code name, what would it be? War Eagle.

If you had to sing karaoke, what song would you sing? Car karaoke counts. “Rocket Man”

What epitaph would you like written on your tombstone? He always made me laugh.

Is a hot dog a sandwich? No.

What is the last concert you attended? Tears for Fears

What movie do you never tire of watching? “Oceans 11”

Dogs or cats? Dogs.

What’s the most overrated thing about living in Colorado? Legal pot.

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