BY PETER JONES
Healthcare executive Toren Mushovic says his recently announced run for statehouse was in part prompted by a wave of departing employees from his company.
“It scared me as an individual who runs a business,” the Greenwood Village Republican said. “It showed me that we’re not going to be able to recruit the best and the brightest if the cost of living keeps getting out of control.”
An imbalance between prices and wages, he says, coupled with the headaches of traffic, have hastened the loss of quality workers from Immunoe Health Centers, a family of clinics for which 40-year-old Mushovic serves as chief operating officer.
Describing himself as a moderate focused on the economy, the attorney and Navy veteran says his views are in line with House District 3, a diverse and politically “purple” constituency that stretches from the mansions of Cherry Hills Village to the working-class neighborhoods of Sheridan.
“My priorities as a legislator would be the cost of living and how can we make things easier,” the first-time candidate said.
Mushovic is challenging one-term Democrat Jeff Bridges, whose father Rutt—along with gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis—is among four millionaires who have in recent years significantly bankrolled Democratic-connected organizations and campaigns.
In 2016, Rep. Bridges succeeded now-state Sen. Daniel Kagan, a Democrat who was narrowly re-elected to his final House term in the highly competitive District 3.
Although midterm elections—even at the state level—are often difficult for the political party sitting in the White House, Mushovic says he is not particularly concerned as he makes his case to Trump-era voters in the politically split district.
“In Colorado, or at least in House District 3, I think we focus on the candidate, not the party,” he said. “I’m getting out, knocking on doors and getting to know people. I’m confident people will like my experience and vision.”
Mushovic says he has been unimpressed with Bridges, tying the Democrat to gubernatorial candidate Polis’s controversial energy policies and dismissing Bridges’ legislation to jumpstart the driverless-car industry—one of seven bills sponsored by the Democrat that were signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper during Bridges’ first term.
“None of them particularly resolve the issues in House District 3,” Mushovic said.
While the subjects of Bridges’ bills have ranged from background checks for childcare workers to free speech on college campuses, Mushovic says his own work would be more focused on kitchen-table issues, such as affordable housing.
“That tort reform that was passed this last session was watered down. I would favor more aggressive proposals,” the Republican said. “… I support legislation that would capitalize on Colorado’s authority and resources to assist communities develop long-range housing plans that incorporate better land use and zoning policies.
Mushovic already has ties to municipal government, having served on the Greenwood Village Board of Assessment and Appeals. He is also president of his homeowners’ association and has been volunteer legal counsel for Arapahoe County Republicans.
Originally from San Diego, Mushovic joined the Navy at 18 before attending law school, where he met his wife, who grew up in Greenwood Village.
“My entire professional career has been about building bridges and working with others, whether I’m working with Iraqi judges or in the private sector working with opposing counsel to resolve a case or getting 150 employees all running in the same direction,” he said.
Mushovic still serves as a JAG in the Navy Reserve.
After settling his family in Colorado, Mushovic worked for several law firms before accepting the COO position with Immunoe, operating seven clinics in metro Denver, including Centennial.
“We treat several specialties. Each is affected by the immune system. We want to cure the individual symptoms by curing the underlying problem,” he said.
Mushovic says his experience in healthcare caused him to rethink his positions on reform, particularly in areas of government waste. He says he would work to streamline the manner in which healthcare providers bill insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid and patients.
The candidate is uncertain about the future of Connect for Health Colorado, the health-insurance exchange, which some Republicans, including gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton, have proposed dismantling.
“What’s going to go in its place?” Mushovic said. “You need to be very, very careful within the healthcare space.”
As for the state’s battles over education funding, the candidate is not interested in cuts or increases in the $30 billion state budget’s priorities in that area.
“If anything, I think that we are over-budgeted for the state of Colorado. My worry is the budget has grown so much,” he said, noting transportation infrastructure is an area that would require more funding.
“The state budget has neglected highways, roads and bridges for several decades, which negatively impacts economy growth and our quality of life,” the candidate added.
Unlike some in his party, Mushovic would not oppose asking voters for tax increases, per the Taxpayers Bill of Rights in the state Constitution.
“I’m pragmatic and not an ideological person,” he said. “I wouldn’t have a problem going to the voters, even if I disagreed with the tax increases.”
As a first-time candidate, Mushovic knows he has his work cut out for him as he makes his pitch in a district where unaffiliated voters are in the majority.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” he said. “I have a full-time job. I have two beautiful sons and a wife. My focus right now is on meeting as many folks as possible.”
Mushovic is the only announced candidate in the Republican primary.
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