HD37: Sullivan vs. Cornell for state House District 37

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Former labor union representative and postal worker Tom Sullivan is locking horns with business consultant Caroline Cornell in the race for House District 37 this November. 

Sullivan, the Democratic incumbent, surprised moderate Republican Cole Wist to win the post in his second bid for a seat in the state legislature in 2018. Sullivan lost his first race for public office when he was bested in a state senate race in 2016.

Cornell, a Republican, is a political newcomer with a background in business consultation and career coaching, according to her campaign website. A native of Florida, she’s lived in the southern portion of the metro area for more than 20 years.

The 81,000-person district the two are vying to represent sits in the southern belt of Arapahoe County and covers pockets of Aurora, Centennial and Foxfield. 

In his pair of sessions as a legislator, Sullivan has largely promoted bills to protect the rights of workers and victims of crime, and curb gun violence. 

A longtime postal worker and executive councilor with the local branch of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, or AFL-CIO, Sullivan has been a pervasive face in Colorado politics for the past eight years. His son, Alex, was one of a dozen people killed in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting massacre. 

He made national hea dlines last year when he successfully shepherded a law establishing the use of extreme risk protection orders in the state to passage. The measure allows judges to restrict people’s access to personal firearms if they are deemed to pose a risk to themselves and others. 

This year, he was assigned to the house’s business affairs and labor and finance committees. Four of the six bills he served as the primary sponsor for were signed into law this summer. 

Cornell is a political tenderfoot who for years has been heavily involved in the Cherry Creek School District, where her two children were students. She served in multiple roles with parent teacher groups. For the past several years, she’s worked as a consultant specializing in hiring and job searching. 

On her website, Cornell says she will prioritize health care, education, funding for roads and curbing taxes if elected. 

On bedrock policy issues, the two candidates’ philosophies largely fall along party lines. 

While Sullivan said he supports the creation of a public health care option, Cornell generally rejected the idea. 

“Coloradans should have access to affordable, high quality healthcare that works for their needs, rather than introduces another layer of government in an already complex environment,” Cornell wrote in a questionnaire issued by The Sentinel.

For his part, Sullivan tempered expectations that any legislation crafting such a mechanism in the state may be coming next year. 

“I think the budgetary constraints are going to be all-consuming this next session and we’re going to have to see how the ballot measures go before we know what legislation we can introduce,” he wrote. 

Sullivan added that he would support a ballot question that would eliminate or amend the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR. Cornell underscored her desire to keep state taxes at a minimum. 

“This check ensures Colorado’s government remains small and responsive to the priorities taxpayers have established,” she wrote.

Sullivan has netted north of $110,000 for his campaign, though he had only spent about $26,000 as of last month, according to campaign finance filings. He has more than $91,000 on hand. 

Cornell has brought in about $28,000 in campaign funds, but has only spent about $4,000 of that total. 

Meet Tom Sullivan

Tom Sullivan

Democrat Tom Sullivan was first elected to represent House District 27 in 2018. He was a longtime employee of the U.S. Postal Service and was an active member of multiple prominent labor unions. He has been a vocal proponent of gun control measures for nearly the past decade. His son, Alex, was killed in the Aurora theater shooting in July 2012, prompting his interest in government as he became increasingly involved in gun control legislation.

Tom Sullivan policy questions

PUBLIC HEALTH INSURANCE OPTION 

Yes I support a public option for healthcare, but I do not believe it should be mandatory for everyone. A public option should be available for those who cannot afford private insurance or have health insurance through their employer but can’t qualify for Medicaid. I think the budgetary constraints are going to be all-consuming this next session and we’re going to have to see how the ballot measures go before we know what legislation we can introduce. 

HOME SCHOOL STIPENDS? 

Something like that would have to be looked at on a case-by-case basis. There are legitimate reasons why some people are keeping their children out of schools due to the pandemic, but a blanket policy like that has the potential to be abused. 

LET VOTERS DECIDE TABOR? 

Yes I support repealing or seriously amending TABOR. 

MANDATORY INDEPENDENT OVERSIGHT FOR POLICE? 

Yes, there should be independent oversight of police departments, either on a department-by-department basis or at a statewide level.

MANDATORY CHILDHOOD VACCINES? 

Yes. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how essential herd immunity is. We should do everything we can to continue to improve our vaccination rates. 

NO JAIL TIME FOR DRUG CHARGES? 

Yes, addiction should be treated as a mental health issue. There should be treatment programs available to those charged with possession of drugs, not jail and prison sentences. 

END PARTISAN STATE

OFFICES? 

No. The voters should get to elect those positions, they should not be partisan appointments. 

FEES FOR BIKES TO USE ROADS AND TRAILS?

Everyone should pay their fair share for the use of our roads. As we continue to build bike lanes there should be some way for cyclists to chip in. 

 24/7 LIQUOR AT BARS?

No, we should continue to support small businesses like independent liquor stores. 

No, that should not be allowed everywhere. Bars at casinos are currently allowed to operate 24/7 and that should be continued to be permitted, but it should not be allowed for every bar in the state.

The lighter side of Tom Sullivan

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? 

Flying 

What movie will you watch again no matter how many times you’ve seen it? 

Any of the “Oceans” movie (Oceans 11, 12, 13, 8) 

What did you want to be when you grew up? 

I wanted to be like my dad. 

What talent do you have that most people don’t know about? 

I make a great breakfast 

If you wrote a memoir, what would you call it? 

“Why me?” 

What’s your favorite curbside guilty pleasure? 

Cigars 

What was the last book you read? 

Words of Radiance in The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson 

Have you found any unexpected upsides to wearing a face mask during the pandemic? 

Not particularly but I like showing off my comic masks 

 What’s your favorite family tradition?

 Going to movies on birthdays 

If you had a boat, what would you name it? 

Spidey’s Web 

If you could only listen to one song forever, what would it be? 

“Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison. 

Which reality television show do you think you’d be best at? I

I  don’t really watch reality TV 

What do you think needs to be invented more than anything? 

Flying cars

Meet Republican Caroline Cornell

Republican Caroline Cornell is a first-time candidate for public office. She currently works as a business consultant specializing in hiring and recruitment. For years, she was heavily involved with parent groups in the Cherry Creek School District. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Girls Scouts of Colorado.

Caroline Cornell policy quetions

PUBLIC HEALT CARE OPTION?

A public option would benefit only a small percentage of Coloradans and would shift $1.5 billion in additional costs to people with insurance through their employer.  That doesn’t seem like a fair way to help more people gain affordable healthcare coverage.  Coloradans should have access to affordable, high quality healthcare that works for their needs, rather than introduces another layer of government in an already complex environment.  

 

HOME SCHOOL STIPENDS?

Across the board education has been substantially impacted by the pandemic.  Parents are seeking alternatives that work for their child.  Teachers are working double time trying to educate kids across multiple platforms – both in person and remote – with many expressing concerns that they aren’t as successful as they’d like for either method.  And students are struggling to learn in ways that aren’t optimal for them – or worse yet inaccessible to them.  January 2021 when the legislature is back in session will be too late to provide meaningful assistance for families to prevent kids losing a year of learning. 

 

Has the state legislature done enough to combat sexual harassment in the Capitol? 

As a first- time candidate, I don’t have the personal knowledge to fully address this question.  It does appear that a number of steps have already been taken to address this issue through the work of the 2018 Legislative Workplace Interim Study Committee.  I find it encouraging that I am unable to find headlines from the 2019 or 2020 legislative sessions about this topic.  What I will say is sexual harassment shouldn’t be tolerated in the workplace – period.  

 

LET VOTERS DECIDE TABOR?

This is the ultimate form of taxation with representation.  Coloradans have said government spending has to stay within its means.  It’s the equivalent to balancing your household budget. Legislators can’t increase taxes without approval from the taxpayer.  This check ensures Colorado’s government remains small and responsive to the priorities taxpayers have established.  If we prioritize spending based on these directives and had honest conversations with voters when revenue streams change over time, we wouldn’t have roadblocks, we’d have spending aligned to what’s important to Coloradans.

 

MANDATORY INDEPENDENT OVERSIGHT FOR POLICE?

Fairness is one of my guiding principles.  In general, I support increasing transparency so long as it’s done in a way that helps ensure the process remains balanced.  The public is very divided on this issue – any additional legislation needs to be about ensuring justice is served, not manipulated by politics.

 

MANDATORY CHILDHOOD VACCINES? 

While I personally chose to vaccinate my children as they grew, I support a parents’ right to make medical decisions for their child based on consultation with their chosen healthcare provider.  As with most things, I believe an education campaign about the merits of vaccination will help improve participation more effectively than additional regulation. SB20-163 addressed tightening the exemption process in a way that still allowed for parental decision making after substantial public testimony.

 

NO JAIL TIME FOR DRUG CHARGES?

With the passage of the bi-partisan HB19-1263 Colorado shifted possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors, meaning it eliminated prison sentencing in small amount possession drug cases.  This was implemented to keep people out of jail for nonviolent crimes and reduce law enforcement costs as well as encourage harm reduction practices intended to help reduce drug overdoses.  

 

END PARTISAN STATE

OFFICES?

By electing an independent state treasurer, secretary of state and attorney general, Coloradans are directly ensuring that checks and balances are maintained at the state government level.  Independence for each of these offices helps provide a measure of accountability to the people that far exceeds what would be available under a governor appointed model.  

 

FEES FOR BIKES TO USE ROADS AND TRAILS?

Coloradans will need to address this issue – our population is growing while the gas tax revenue stream designed to support road repair is no longer aligned with the vehicles on those roads.  For every year we delay addressing this issue, the cost increases - for every $1 in deferred maintenance, it takes $4-5 in future repairs.  The track we’re on is unsustainable.  Our taxpayers have indicated this needs to be addressed within the current state budget before they are willing to support additional revenue streams.  I’m not sure licensing bicycle riders is a fair way to solve this dilemma – nor do I support asking Janie to pay a fee to ride her bike to school.

 

 24/7 LIQUOR AT BARS?

As with so many things, I believe consumers are best positioned to make choices for themselves.  Government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers in any industry or restricting consumer choice without a clear public-safety case.  Perpetuating antiquated regulation just to prop up certain businesses is “nanny-statism” at its worst.  I say, let folks buy beer and wine where they choose to.

The lighter side of Caroline Cornell

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? 

Time travel into the past – being able to see moments from the past to learn what really happened so we can learn from the past.

What movie will you watch again no matter how many times you’ve seen it?  

Any movie from the Harry Potter series is a hands down winner at our house.  

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Growing up I lived 150 very flat miles away from Cape Canaveral and could see launches from home – that inspired me to want to be an astronaut.  

What talent do you have that most people don’t know about?  

I enjoy singing.

If you wrote a memoir, what would you call it?  

Tales of a Lifelong Traveler

What’s your favorite curbside guilty pleasure?  

I’m not much of a fast food aficionado, but I do enjoy happy hour drinks at the local Sonic.

What was the last book you read?

The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado (and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care) by Rob Witwer and Adam Schrager

Have you found any unexpected upsides to wearing a face mask during the pandemic?  

Masks make it easier to keep warm on unexpected snow days.

What’s your favorite family tradition?

We collect a Christmas tree ornament from our travels – everything from a weekend getaway to month long holiday.  Each year as we decorate our tree, we’re reminded of those memories as we unpack the ornaments.  They help us appreciate how lucky we are to call Colorado home.

If you had a boat, what would you name it?

It’s a sailboat - Wind Charmer.

If you could only listen to one song forever, what would it be? 

It’s a toss-up between Princess Pat – the campfire song and the chorus to Rocky Mountain High by John Denver.

Which reality television show do you think you’d be best at?

I’m not sure it exists, but if there was a show that combines the grit of Survivor with the knowledge base needed to be on Jeopardy, I’d be the winner.

What do you think needs to be invented more than anything?

Energy technologies that will help us bridge from traditional sources to renewable sources – innovation solves problems, not regulation that stifles creativity.