Evergreen businessman Tim Leonard is fed up with government spending and has announced a bid for elected office, jumping into the void created when Democrat Dan Gibbs decided not to run again for the state Senate.
“I’m not a politician. I’m a businessman. I have a family (his wife, Monica, and six kids). The last thing I want to do is leave my (home base) and go around the state and talk to people about where I stand,” said Leonard, who is running as a Republican. The family has lived in the same stone-and-timber home in Kittredge for 15 years.
Leonard is president of his own real estate development company, Deepwater Point Co., and has an office in the Show Barn Plaza Building, above the Rib Crib on Meadow Drive.
Leonard is taking the plunge in the wake of Gibbs’ decision to step down in Senate District 16, instead of seeking re-election in 2010. Gibbs plans to run for county commissioner in Summit County.
“Those are big shoes to fill,” Leonard said, acknowledging Gibbs’ leadership role in carrying and passing the FASTER transportation bill, one of the governor’s top agenda items.
FASTER, which hikes annual registration fees an average of $41 per passenger vehicle, is an example of the type of spending bill that Leonard would like to see undone.
On the other hand, he would like to continue Gibbs’ legacy as a defender of the forest and enemy of the pine beetle.
Leonard, 48, ran for governor in 1998 and for state senate in 2006, both times as an independent, so he is not a political neophyte.
He supported Don Ytterberg in the 2008 race against Gibbs. Ytterberg lost with 13,753 votes against Gibbs’ 14,958 in Jefferson County and by 30,743 vs. 44,194 votes district-wide.
Ytterberg was elected chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party in February. He told the Courier the new position precluded another run but he was “very pleased” that Leonard was in the race. “He is no stranger to politics and will be a strong candidate,” Ytterberg said.
“Don did everything I would do,” Leonard said. “He represents all my views, and it’s the same with (HD 25 state Rep.) Cheri Gerou and (former HD 25 state representative) Rob Witwer. But there’s a pretty good vacuum right now.”
Witwer said he didn’t know Leonard well enough to comment on his abilities, but he thinks the climate is conducive to Republican aspirations. “A lot of the people I talk to who voted for Democrats said they thought they were getting one thing and they’ve gotten something else. There’s a sense that state government is growing too fast. There is a trend toward a lot more spending and bigger government. There is a groundswell of opposition to that,” Witwer said. “If you look at the polls, you see the unaffiliated voters have swung against the party in power.”
Senate District 16 consists of northwest Jefferson County and all of Grand, Boulder, Gilpin and Summit counties. In recent years it has been Democratic territory. Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Coal Creek Canyon, held the post before Gibbs. However, no Democratic candidate had, as of press time, announced a bid.
The district’s active registered voters are about one-third each Republican, Democrat and unaffiliated.
A graduate of the University of Denver’s real estate finance MBA program, Leonard specializes in retail shopping centers and mixed-use projects, such as Crown Point in Parker at E-470 and Colorado 83.
Separately, Leonard is a development manager for various cities on real estate projects, including the Cabela’s sporting goods store in Wheat Ridge.
He is driven by a belief that there are times when the comfortable citizen has to get out there and try to turn things around. Being a legislator is something you do in addition to your job, not a lifelong career, he said.
“It’s about sacrificing my personal family life and the business to serve people. You can see the writing on the wall. People are tired of government taking away their money,” Leonard said.
Leonard goes back to the traditional American values of free markets, self-reliance and frugality, as opposed to depending on the government to solve everybody’s problems.
“When people swing toward socialism, they end up losing. At first they get a handout. At first they are happy to get something for nothing. Then they see the taxes and the loss of services. They will say they were better off when they did it themselves,” Leonard said.
Leonard grew up in Southfield, Mich., a suburb of Detroit. His father was a package engineer for General Motors and his grandfather was in real estate in Detroit.
Leonard came to Denver in 1983 for the MBA program after attending Hillsdale College on a scholarship grant. Hillsdale is known for its conservative orientation and for not taking government money.
Leonard met his wife, Monica, who is from South Dakota, in Denver through mutual friends. He remembers spending a lot of time walking around Washington Park together before they got married and moved to the mountains. They have three girls and three boys, ages 15, 13, 10, 8, 6 and 2.
Monica home-schools all the kids. There is no cable TV in the house, which means no TV reception. “We play a lot of checkers, Parcheesi and Monopoly,” Leonard said. They have a little tree farm where the kids raise Colorado blue spruce, pinon and ponderosas.
Leonard’s favorites books are ones on American history, such as “1776” and the “Summer of 1787,” about the Founding Fathers. His favorite political figure is George Washington. “All he ever wanted to do was be on his farm. And he gave it up over and over. He took none of the privileges that he earned. He fought Congress tooth and nail to be able to get funds. He was yelled at the whole time, and he stuck to what was right. It doesn’t get any better than that.”