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Bill Ritter

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Lieutenant  Barbara O’Brien
Spouse(s)  Jeannie Ritter
Preceded by  Bill Owens
Children  August Abe Sam Tally
Succeeded by  John Hickenlooper
Name  Bill Ritter
Political party  Democratic

Bill Ritter
Born  September 6, 1956 (age 59) Denver, Colorado, U.S. (1956-09-06)

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August William "Bill" Ritter (born September 6, 1956) is an American politician and lawyer who served as the 41st Governor of Colorado, from 2007 to 2011. He is a member of the Democratic Party. Before his election in 2006, he served as the district attorney for Denver. He was the first native-born governor of Colorado since 1975, as well as being the first Democratic governor to serve with a Democratic majority in the Colorado General Assembly in 50 years. Ritter did not run for a second term as Governor in 2010. He was replaced by fellow Democrat John Hickenlooper.


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Early life and childhood

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Ritter was raised on a farm in Aurora, Colorado with 11 brothers and sisters (he was born sixth). He attended Gateway High School while he lived in Aurora. He also attended St. Anthony Catholic High School in San Antonio, Texas from 1970-72.

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His father, Bill, was a heavy equipment operator in the construction industry. His mother, Ethel, was a homemaker until the family began to struggle economically and she found work as a bookkeeper when Ritter was a young teenager. At 14 years old, he went to work full-time in the construction industry, and joined a local labor union. He continued to work in the construction field, which ended up financing his college education (along with student loans).

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He enrolled in Colorado State University and completed a bachelor's degree, and then pursued a degree at the University of Colorado School of Law in Boulder. By 1981, he had earned a Juris Doctor (J.D.) and was hired as a Deputy District Attorney in the Denver District Attorney's Office.

Career in law

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In 1990, Ritter took on a position in the United States Attorney's office, and returned to the Deputy District Attorney's office two years later. In 1993, Ritter was appointed as Denver's District Attorney. As DA, he created one of the nation's first drug courts, as well as taking on white collar crime in metropolitan Denver. He worked extensively on the prosecution of sexual abuse and domestic violence, as well as criminals offending senior citizens.

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Ritter advised United States Attorney General John Ashcroft on affairs after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Charity work

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Ritter served on the Denver Foundation's Human Services Committee, the Mile High United Way Board, and the Denver Public Schools' Commission on Secondary School Reform.

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In 1987, Ritter and his wife Jeannie moved to Zambia as missionaries for the Catholic Church, where they would open a food distribution and education center. Upon their return to the Denver area in 1989, Governor Roy Romer appointed Ritter to the DA's office, citing his missionary work as an "important factor" in the decision. During the 2006 campaign, Ritter's work in Zambia was often emphasized by his campaign and the press.

Violent incident

On July 16, 2007, 33 year old Aaron Snyder stormed the Capitol holding a pistol and threatening to kill Governor Ritter. He was shot and killed outside Ritter's offices by State Trooper Jay Hemphill.


At the start of his term, Ritter was relatively popular with rural Coloradans, who in the past have tended to vote for Republican candidates (particularly Front Range voters). This may have stemmed from Ritter's rural roots. His popularity also extended to the Democratic strongholds in Colorado: the continental divide ski resorts such as Aspen and Vail, as well as the Denver-Aurora metropolitan area. An August 2007 poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports showed Ritter's approval rating at 60%, while 36% were disapproving and 4% remained undecided.

By July 2008, however, Ritter's approvals had begun a sharp decline, with a Rasmussen poll showing his approvals at 45%. His numbers failed to improve—an April 2009 poll by Public Policy Polling showed the governor's approvals had further slid to 41%, with 49% disapproving of his performance. Perhaps more significantly, the same poll also showed Ritter trailing his most likely 2010 opponent, former Rep. Scott McInnis, by 7 points. Though Ritter cited family reasons in his January 2010 announcement not to run for re-election, he was dogged by rumors that his poor polling numbers led Democratic power brokers to force him out of the race.

Political positions

As a member of the Democratic Party, Ritter supports a "semi-progressive" agenda, emphasizing universal health care, environmental protection, housing subsidy and welfare increases and other stances aligned with the left wing of the Democratic Party. During the first campaign, more progressive, state Democratic leaders encouraged other candidates, including Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, to pursue the Governorship, because of concerns over Ritter's pro-life stance. Others believed that Ritter would win more votes in the "purple state", as opposed to Republican opponents. Hickenlooper did not pursue the office in 2006 and he eventually supported Ritter. Ritter opposes same-sex marriage.

As Governor, Ritter pledged that overturning abortion laws would not be part of his agenda, and stated that he would veto any bill prohibiting abortion that did not provide for an exception for rape, incest, or fetal anomalies. Ritter further stated that he would restore state funding to Planned Parenthood for family planning and would reverse the veto of a bill that would have allowed pharmacists to dispense the emergency contraception known as the morning-after pill. Ritter also staked out moderate positions on business and labor issues, vetoing legislation in 2007 that would have made it easier for workers to form unions, and, mid-term, naming moderate Republican Don Marostica his director of economic development.

In September 2010, Ritter was one of seven governors to receive a grade of F in the Cato Institute's fiscal-policy report card.

Plea bargains

Controversy arose during the campaign over Ritter's use of plea bargains while in office. As DA, Ritter plea bargained 97% of cases which were brought to his office (near the national average). However, controversy surfaced regarding plea bargains that prevented the deportation of both legal and illegal immigrants charged with drug, assault, and other crimes. Both illegal immigration and drug use were hot topics in the race for governor, raising further controversy. Ritter has defended the plea bargains, stating that "Our priority was to try the most serious cases."

Post-gubernatorial career

Ritter has served as the director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University since February, 2011.


Bill and Jeannie Ritter married in 1983. They have four children: August, Abe, Sam, and Tally. Jeannie is a substitute teacher in the Denver Public Schools District. The majority of Ritter's extended family lives in Colorado. His mother Ethel (born 1925) is a resident of Strasburg, Colorado.


Bill Ritter Wikipedia