Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper has named President Joe Garcia of Colorado State University-Pueblo as his candidate for lieutenant governor.

Hickenlooper made the announcement at a Thursday morning news conference.

Joe Blake, Joe Garcia and Tony Frank of CSU
CSU-Pueblo President Joe Garcia (center) chatted with Chancellor Joe Blake (left) and Fort Collins President Tony Frank (right) at a university event in 2009. (CSU photo)

It’s the second time in four years that the Democratic candidate has found a running mate in the world of education. Gov. Bill Ritter surprised many in 2006 when he chose Barbara O’Brien of the Colorado Children’s Campaign as his candidate for lieutenant governor. In the last four years, she has become a major administration voice on education issues, including the state’s Race to the Top application.

Garcia has been president of CSU-Pueblo since 2006, following five years as president of Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs. He also was co-chair of Ritter’s P-20 Education Coordinating Council in 2007-08 and serves on the pipeline subcommittee of the current higher education strategic planning effort.

“Joe has a track record of the kind of non-partisan, collaborative leadership Colorado needs to come together and solve our major challenges,” Hickenlooper said. “Joe has had success solving problems by bringing the public and private sectors together in a meaningful way and by his tireless work ethic.”

The choice brings an Hispanic to the Democratic ticket and a person with southern Colorado ties.

“I am honored to accept John’s invitation to be the next Lieutenant Governor of Colorado,” Garcia said. “Colorado needs leadership with experience creating jobs, managing difficult budgets and bringing people together, and that’s exactly what John represents.”

Since Garcia became president, CSU-Pueblo has grown its enrollment from about 4,100 students to nearly 5,100, increased the number of students living on campus and added a football team. Last week, the university announced a course-transfer agreement with 15 community colleges.

Minority enrollment is about 37 percent, slightly higher than the 35 percent statewide.

For the class that entered in 2002, the university had a six-year graduation rate of 39.3 percent, compared to 57.7 percent statewide.

Garcia previously worked as mountain states representative for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration, was director of the state Department of Regulatory Agencies under Gov. Roy Romer and was a partner in the Colorado Springs office of the Holme Roberts & Owen law firm. He has a law degree from Harvard and a bachelor’s in business from the University of Colorado-Boulder.

His wife, Claire, is an English professor at Colorado College.