Sen. Rankin pushes for improved health care, education in reelection bid

Sawyer D'Argonne
Summit Daily News
Sen. Bob Rankin

FRISCO — State Sen. Bob Rankin hopes to provide a strong voice to protect the interests of residents on the Western Slope in his bid for reelection, prioritizing issues surrounding education, health care and COVID-19 relief.

Rankin, a Republican, will square off against challenger Karl Hanlon this November as he seeks reelection for Colorado’s Senate District 8, which includes Routt, Summit, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties. He said he’s ready to continue his efforts supporting solutions to the issues most important to rural Coloradans, and helping to bring some much needed balance to the state Legislature.

“My priority is to be there to take care of the unique issues facing Western Colorado, and that’s public lands, education, health care, and 100 other things that come up on a daily basis,” Rankin said. “I’ve proven I can do that, and I have unfinished business that I want to get back to working on.”

Rankin grew up in Mississippi, and earned his degree in electrical engineering from Mississippi State University. He joined the U.S. Army after graduating, where he worked on advanced research for surveillance projects and eventually gained the rank of captain. He would later use those expertise in a career with Ford Aerospace, where he worked on programs supporting the military, and later with the Computer Sciences Corporation in Washington, D.C.

Rankin and his wife Joyce — who serves on the Colorado State Board of Education — moved to the Aspen area, where they started a pair of startup technology companies, Aspen Cybercare and Interactive Outdoors. In 2000, Rankin founded and served as the chairman of the board for Computers for Kids Foundation, now Youthentity, a nonprofit that recycles electronics and helps high school students build skills for a career in technology.

His interest in politics first piqued in 2010, when he made his first bid for elected office in a failed campaign for Colorado State Senate District 5.

“It was just a sense of public service,” Rankin said. “(Joyce) and I just felt like we were at that stage in our lives that it was time to try and help our fellow citizens. Government is complicated, and people tend to stay away from it. But it is an avenue in which you can contribute selflessly. We could be happily retired — I tried to play golf, but my handicap never got better — but I got tired of yelling at the television because of what other people were doing. I decided I wanted to do something myself.”

Rankin was elected to the Colorado State House of Representatives in 2012, and served for six years until he was appointed to the State Senate by a vacancy committee in January 2019, after the resignation of former Sen. Randy Baumgardner. Rankin currently serves on the state’s Joint Budget Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee. He has also served as a board member for the Colorado Tourism Office and the State Internet Portal Authority, and currently sits as the co-chair for the Education Leadership Council.

Rankin said his legislative record over the past two years speaks to the work he’s been doing to support his Western Slope constituents.

He pointed to the passage of the reinsurance program he sponsored in 2019, which is expected to save the average Western Slope resident 38% on individual health insurance in 2021, according to the Colorado Division of Insurance. Rankin also sponsored the READ act, a bipartisan bill that passed both the Senate and House unanimously, and is meant to help improve literacy among the state’s young students.

If reelected, Rankin said that improving health care and education would remain an emphasis. He noted a desire to increase transparency of health care pricing — in lieu of any price caps, which he called “economic socialism” — so that community members would be better equipped to shop around for the quality and cost of care they desire, and working with hospitals, insurance companies and other entities to set goals to control the growth of costs.

Rankin is also advocating for better remote learning opportunities for students in rural areas, which would provide students with access to courses they otherwise would not be able to take.

Rankin also said that despite some chatter to the contrary, he’s passionate about protecting Colorado’s public lands and outdoor recreation industry, and would like to see local individuals get more involved in decisions about how to use public land. He also said he supported the state’s broad conversion to renewable energy, but was passionate about helping individuals in the fossil fuel industries through the transition with new opportunities.

National issues

Rankin also provided some insight into how he sees the impacts of national issues locally in Colorado’s Senate District 8.

With regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rankin said that legislators would have to strike a careful balance between economic recovery and the safety of community members, and that reopening in a responsible fashion would be an “industry by industry, and region by region build back plan.” He also called for greater involvement in the allocation of federal relief funds through the state Legislature, as opposed to executive orders from the governor’s office.

“The next three or four years, and maybe longer, are going to be about how we recover, how we rebuild our school budgets, our transportation budgets and the hundreds of other programs that matter to a lot of people,” Rankin said. “… Every bit of the COVID relief money went through executive orders. I want the Legislature, the representatives of the people, to be more involved. And I hope we will be. Assuming I’m reelected, the first week in November we’re going to start working on this recovery plan. The first step is to see how the governor spent all that money. It runs out at the end of the year, and then the Legislature and executive branches have to take over. We have to plan for the future together.”

Rankin also voiced a desire to find out more about the Black Lives Matter movement and their specific objectives. He noted that he was a strong supporter of law enforcement, and that while he does support police reform — he voted in favor of the Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity bill that was signed into law earlier this year — he’d like to see first responders have more say in how changes are made.

“I want them to be the authors of any reform that comes out,” Rankin said. “And they were not, so we’ve got work to do on the reform bill. But I think all lives matter. I think Black kids in Chicago, their lives matter. I’d like to see them address some of these racial problems and the safety of people anytime we talk about reforming our police.”

A fit for Senate District 8

Rankin said that he has a great respect for his opponent in the race, Karl Hanlon, and that the two have actually known each other as Carbondale neighbors for years. But he said that while he himself is willing to work across the aisle, another Democratic voice in the general assembly isn’t what the area needs right now.

“I have some unique capabilities from my experiences, and eight years in the Legislature that I want to use to discriminate between my opponent and I,” Rankin said. “If what Western Colorado wants is to contribute one more vote to the Boulder Democrat agenda, then Karl is great. But I don’t think that’s what Western Colorado wants. We need someone who knows how to defend our interests … I’ve worked in the minority for eight years, and I know how to get it done.”

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