DENVER (AP) — Colorado took a formal step to the left Tuesday with the inauguration of Democrat Jared Polis, the nation’s first openly gay governor whose overwhelming election victory and party’s consolidation of legislative control promise ambitious changes for energy and environmental regulation, health care and state-funded early childhood education.
Several thousand people gathered on the state Capitol’s west slope on a crisp morning to watch the ceremony under sunny skies.READ MORE: Dick Lamm, Who Served Three Terms As Governor In Colorado, Dies At Age 85
Current lawmakers and former governors attended the inauguration under tight security that included closed streets.
PHOTO GALLERY: Gov. Jared Polis Inauguration
Polis is a wealthy tech and education entrepreneur and former five-term congressman from Boulder. He succeeds Gov. John Hickenlooper, a centrist Democrat, former Denver mayor, petroleum geologist and beer pub entrepreneur who served the maximum two terms. Hickenlooper is considering a 2020 presidential run.
Polis trounced then-state treasurer Walker Stapleton in November. Health care and Donald Trump’s presidency were the top issues in the campaign.
Polis’ inauguration marked a special day for LGBTQ advocates nationwide.
The planned festivities include an evening “Blue Sneaker Ball,” named after the footwear Polis sported during his campaign. Pop singer and LGBTQ activist Cyndi Lauper and the R&B combo Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats were scheduled to perform.
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Former state Rep. Diane Primavera, a health care advocate, was being sworn in as lieutenant governor. Primavera is a cancer survivor and most recently led Colorado’s Susan G. Komen Foundation chapter in its battle against breast cancer.READ MORE: Colorado Drought Situation Improves For The First Time In Months
Polis has promised action on oil and gas drilling and on marijuana policy.
Hickenlooper brokered a tentative compromise on fracking between Colorado’s expanding $32 billion oil and gas industry and environmentalists opposed to drilling.
He also oversaw the creation of Colorado’s first-in-the-nation recreational marijuana market, which opened in 2014.
Polis once supported fracking limits but has abandoned the stance, saying there’s a place for Colorado oil and gas exports even as he pursues a 100 percent renewable energy goal by 2040. Democratic lawmakers are working this session to strengthen air and water quality rules for the fossil fuels industry.
Polis, who was a member of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, says he’d pursue more industry financing opportunities and add autism to the qualifying conditions for medical marijuana.
Polis has called for universal health care, suggesting Colorado could partner with neighboring states to create a regional market. Lawmakers are studying a state-run insurance market for Colorado.
Polis and Democrats also will pursue funding for full-day kindergarten — and, if Polis gets his way, universal preschool, modeled after an Oklahoma program.
Polis earned his wealth by starting an internet company in college and revolutionizing the online greeting cards and floral retail industries. He served on the state board of education before going to Congress.
By JAMES ANDERSON, Associated PressMORE NEWS: 'I Don't Feel Safe': Aurora Family Fears Hate Crime, Moves Out After Bullets Strike Home
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