Over the past couple of years, Republican state Senate candidate John Lyons has had a few epiphanies.
The Aurora resident decided he wanted to ditch his career as a diesel mechanic, which he had been working at for nearly three decades, and give back to his community in some way.
First, he enrolled at the Community College of Aurora in a step toward fulfilling his newfound dream of becoming a high school history teacher.
Then, in January of this year, his aspirations broadened.
A longtime Republican, Lyons decided he didn’t like the political trajectory of the state.
“I asked myself whether my kids were going to have the same liberties and freedoms that I had growing up, and the answer I kept coming up with is no,” Lyons said. “This opportunity presented itself to where I wanted to do something about it, instead of sitting there screaming at my TV. I wanted to make a difference.”
Lyons entered the race for Senate District 28 in January.
On June 26, he won the Republican primary against Aurora resident Arthur Carlson by a margin of more than 1,300 votes.
“I was quite honored,” he said of his win. “It’s quite a humbling experience when someone entrusts their vote to you.”
What he wants most for his two children, ages 8 and 10, mirrors his hopes for Senate District 28.
“I want everybody to have good, high-paying jobs, and quite frankly they’re not out there right now,” he said.
If elected, his focus would be mainly on job growth and fiscal accountability.
He wants to eliminate a few taxes on businesses to make the state more attractive for companies looking to relocate, and eliminate waste in the state budget.
He said state-funded departments and organizations should be required to show evidence that they are doing high-quality work, or funding should be suspended.
“If it works, you pay for it, if it doesn’t work, you don’t pay for it,” he said.
He doesn’t know what state departments should be cut yet, but he said the state should aim to be more financially accountable to its people.
His favorite part of his first bid for political office so far is learning what Aurora residents in Senate District 28 are most concerned about.
“For a brief instant, you get to peek into their lives for a bit and you get to understand their fears and concerns,” he said.
The population of the district, which is currently represented by term-limited state Sen. Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora, is about 140,629 people, according to state documents.
About 31 percent of the 64,719 registered voters are Republican and about 37 percent are Democratic. The rest are mostly unaffiliated.
Since Lyons was campaigning to win the Republican primary, he has been mostly in tune with Republican voters’ concerns.
Some people are worried about the state becoming a safe haven for illegal immigrants, others are concerned about government intrusion and President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, but most people are just worried about making ends meet, Lyons said.
Now, he’s focused on meeting people of all political affiliations in hopes of beating Aurora resident and Democratic opponent Nancy Todd in the November election.
Since Todd is currently a state Representative for House District 41, she has a competitive edge over Lyons simply because of her name recognition. But Lyons is confident that his life experiences and hopes for the district will make him attractive to voters.
Joy Hoffman, chairwoman of the Arapahoe County Republicans, said Lyons has a good shot at winning the November election, even though this is his first bid for political office.
“I don’t think John being a newcomer is disadvantageous,” she said. “This year is a whole new ball game. I think the race will be closer and I think John has a very good chance of taking that seat.”
Lyons, 44, grew up in a small town called Westbrookville in southern New York. It didn’t have a single stop light.
“My wife and I always joke about who came from the smaller town,” said Lyons, whose wife grew up in Dove Creek, Colorado.
When he was 18 he enlisted in the U.S. Army and spent four years in Fort Ord, Calif., working as a truck mechanic. Then, in 1989, he moved to Denver to attend the master technician program at the Automotive and Diesel College.
Building engines for diesel trucks had always been a passion of his.
“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle,” he said.
Over the years, he has worked for Miller Brothers Trucking, UPS freight, and Altec Industries.
He ran a youth bowling league from 1993 to 2000 and discovered a profound enthusiasm for helping kids learn the game. He decided to parlay his interest in teaching kids about bowling to a new career that would allow him to teach high school classes full-time.
He’s now getting his teaching certificate at the Community College of Aurora and hopes to eventually teach high school history classes at Cherry Creek Schools District.
“It’s hard to explain, but when you teach a child a skill, they have that certain glow about them when they get it,” he said. “That is such a rewarding experience.”
Reach reporter Sara Castellanos at 720-449-9036 or [email protected]