Avon’s Dylan Roberts announces run for Colorado Senate

Roberts enters race to fill seat that will be vacated by Kerry Donovan in 2022

State Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, speaks on the benefits of the Continue Alcohol Beverage Takeout And Delivery bill signed by Gov. Jared Polis on June 21 at Northside Kitchen in Avon. Roberts is running for the state Senate seat that Vail’s Kerry Donovan will vacate due to term limits in 2022.
Chris Dillmann/

In just under four years at the state Capitol in Denver, Dylan Roberts has gotten 70 bills passed. Roberts, a Democrat who lives in Avon, is nothing if not productive. But as he is fond of saying, there’s always more work to do.

On Tuesday, Roberts announced he hopes to continue that work in the Colorado Senate. He’s the first candidate in the mountain-area district to file to run for the seat currently held by Vail’s Kerry Donovan — but he certainly knows he won’t be the last.

“Julie McCluskie, the state representative from Summit County, is the only other legislator who lives in the district, and she has endorsed me,” Roberts said. “At this point, I’m not aware of anyone else. But it will be one of the most contested Senate races in the state next year. So I’m fully anticipating a pretty vigorous campaign.”

Donovan, who is term-limited, has already announced she’s running to unseat Lauren Boebert in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District.

Roberts is in his second term representing Eagle and Routt counties in the Colorado State House.

Support Local Journalism

As currently proposed under the state’s preliminary redistricting plan, the Senate district he’s running for would include the counties of Chaffee, Clear Creek, Eagle, Gilpin, Gunnison, Lake, Pitkin and Summit. One of the reasons Roberts said he entered the race so early is because he wants to get started on getting to know the district’s voters better.

“It’s a big district, and to be honest, it’s going to take a lot of time and miles in my car to get to know everybody and introduce myself to the rest of the district that I don’t know as well and learn the issues that are important,” he said. “So I figured the sooner the better on that.”

Health care, housing, climate change

In the 2021 session, Roberts sponsored the Colorado Health Insurance Option. More than two years in the making, the legislation creates a first-of-its-kind, state-regulated health insurance plan for every Coloradan on the individual and small group market that requires private insurance companies to reduce premiums by 15% by 2025.

Donovan was also a champion of the legislation, and both Eagle County lawmakers were on the Capitol steps when Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law.

Roberts has also sponsored legislation that protects water resources, promotes economic development in rural areas and lowers the cost of prescription drugs, including his first-in-the-nation laws reigning in the cost of life-sustaining insulin for people with diabetes.

He said he sees health care, affordable housing and the impacts of climate change as the most important issues facing constituents in the mountain region. He also said mountain residents need a voice at the Capitol when it comes to the Interstate 70 mountain corridor and transportation funding.

“I’m really happy with the progress that we’ve made in health insurance costs over the last few years, but that’s something we’ll have to continue to work on,” he said. “I think the issues that are really coming to the forefront of our mountain counties are affordable housing and climate change and the environment with wildfires and impacts on our snowfall and water in general. Those are the main things that I would like to continue working on if I get to return to the state legislature and serve in the Senate. Figuring out how to create more affordable housing and open up more opportunities for people to live and make a career in our communities.”

Flanked by Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera, Rep. Dylan Roberts, Sen. Kerry Donovan, Rep. Iman Jodeh, Speaker Alec Garnett, patients and advocates, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs two health care bills into law June 16 on the steps of the Capitol.
Ali Cox/Special to the Daily

As to what can be done at the state level to help counties and municipalities solve the housing crunch and a lack of available workers, Roberts said it’s the state’s role to be a partner on funding and allocating federal dollars.

“We were lucky that we received significant federal funds from the American Rescue Plan over the last year,” he said. “And we, as the legislature, decided to invest a large portion of that into housing. I’m actually on the housing task force that’s going to start to meet next month to determine how to allocate that funding across the state. And what hopefully that can be is matching funds or partners to already undergoing efforts or shovel-ready efforts in our communities to help them with the funding to get their projects off the ground.”

He also said state legislators play an important role in looking at the statutes and regulations that govern housing and building.

“We need to take a comprehensive look at what are the impediments to getting affordable housing off the ground or what are the impediments to moving some of our already existing infrastructure to rental stock or affordable housing stock,” he said. “And so that could be regarding short-term rentals or regarding building codes, regarding growth policy. We have a role to play in changing state law that I think sometimes gets in the way of more affordable housing in our communities.”

In another summer of record-breaking wildfires, temperatures and water shortages across the West, Roberts said he sees it as imperative to de-emphasize partisan politics when it comes to protecting the environment and the Western Slope’s most valuable commodity: water.

“Living through all of this is one of the ways that’s going to change the paradigm,” he said. “I think we all recognize, regardless of what our political party is, that we need to do more to protect the environment that we love and the ecosystem that we live in. And we can take common sense measures that are bipartisan or at least gain support from a variety of communities and entities across the state to combat climate change, but also do more specific things like mitigate wildfire risk to conserving our water resources, to promoting innovative agriculture or things like that.”

Working across the aisle

More than the 70 bills he has helped pass in four years, Roberts said he’s most proud of the fact that 97% of the legislation he’s worked on has had bipartisan support.

“First of all, this district is all entirely in mountainous, Western Colorado,” he said. “And the legislators who come from this part of the state are fewer than the metro legislators. And so regardless of party, we need a strong voice down at the Capitol standing up for our communities, or else it’s really easy for these communities to get left behind when funding is allocated or when water policy is made. You need somebody down there who has a track record of success and of standing up for our region. I am able to put party aside and focus on the needs of my district. And whether or not you agree with every vote that I’ve taken, I always try to do what is right for my district.”

Donovan was quick to offer her endorsement for Roberts to fill the seat she is leaving.

“It has been an honor to serve as this district’s state Senator over the past seven years, and I could not think of a better person to succeed me in this office than Dylan Roberts,” she said in a statement. “Together we have tackled the district’s important issues like health care costs, rural broadband, water and protecting our public lands. We have work still to do and I know Dylan will continue to fight for our communities. I am proud to endorse Dylan to be our next state senator.”

United States Congressman Joe Neguse also endorsed Roberts.

“I am proud to support my friend Dylan Roberts for the Colorado State Senate,” he said in a statement. “Dylan has been a tireless advocate for his constituents in the state House, passing legislation to make health care more affordable, protect water resources on the Western Slope, and much more. I know Dylan will continue to serve his community well, and I hope you will join me in supporting his campaign for state Senate.”

Support Local Journalism