At a Glance
- Career History: Partner, Hogan & Hartson, Denver, (2005-2006); District Attorney, Denver (1993-2005); Chief Deputy District Attorney (1992-1993)
- Birthday: Sept. 6, 1956
- Hometown: Denver, Colo.
- Alma Mater: B.A.-Colorado State University (1978), J.D.-University of Colorado Law School (1981)
- Spouse: Jeannie
- Religion: Catholic
- State Office: Bill Ritter, Governor, 136 State CapitolDenver, CO 80203-1792Phone: 303-866-2471
- Web site
Path to Power
August William "Bill" Ritter, Jr., grew up on a five-acre wheat farm in Aurora, Colo., the sixth of 12 children to William Sr. and Ethel Ritter, where he came to view government as a partner for people in need after his alcoholic father abandoned the family when Bill Jr. was just 13 and Ritter's mom had to go on welfare.
Ethel Ritter took a job as a bookkeeper and sent her children to work, too, to support the family. Bill Jr. was just 14 when he joined a union and took his first job in construction, a job that would eventually help pay his way through college.
Ritter has a traditionally Democratic view of government as a key to improving education and health care and in invigorating the state and national economies. But he also is a staunch Catholic who opposes abortion rights that Democrats typically champion, a position that has put him at odds with the party's rank-and-file even though he's quick to note his support for other hot-button social issues like embryonic stem-cell research and gay rights.
Ritter's career as Denver's top prosecutor provides him with the kind of law-and-order credentials Democrats more commonly envy in their Republican opponents and make him a more difficult target for Republican challengers.
Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who is popular among rural voters who typically vote Republican, gave Ritter's 2006 campaign boost by stumping for him in Colorado. Ritter and Schweitzer are regarded by many national Democrats as role models for the party's national candidates who, some strategists believe, could make inroads with Western conservative, rural voters in numbers sufficient enough to reduce the Democratic Party's need to compete with Republicans in the South. Ritter and Schweitzer also work together on alternative- energy agendas they're pushing in their respective states.
In January 2009, Ritter appointed former Denver Schools Superintendent Michael Bennet (D) to the U.S. Senate to replace Sen. Ken Salazar (D), who took the job of Interior secretary in the Obama administration. The choice was a surprise to many. Democrats wondered how Bennett, who has little name recognition or political clout, will be able to defend the seat in a 2010 election. Republicans are already targeting the Colorado seat, hoping to loosen Democrats' hold on the Senate. Some viewed the Senate seat as a consolation prize for Bennet, who had been mentioned as a possible education secretary in the Obama administration but who was passed up for the job.