Kimmi Lewis stands with her daughter Kristine. Lewis was nominated from the Floor of the Republican State Assembly, receiving enough votes to be placed on the line on the ballot. Courtesy photo
When Kimmi Lewis left her home on April 8, bound for the Republican State Convention in Colorado Springs, she had no intention of running for office. But by the end of the day, she found herself accepting a nomination from the assembly floor to challenge fellow Republican Tim Dore — the incumbent who is seeking re-election to the District 64 state House seat — in the June 28 Republican primary.
“We are truly freedom fighters. That's what we've had to be down here,” Lewis said. “I just felt like it was time that somebody stepped up and challenged Rep. Dore. I made a split-second decision. I had thought about it. I wasn't the only one. There were several of us who were thinking about running, but no one put their name in.”
Lewis, from the area around the tiny town of Kim in southeastern Colorado, lives on the ranch where she grew up, which she and her late husband bought from her father in 1992.
“I'm still a rancher, a cow-calf producer. We raised our six children here,” Lewis said.
A graduate of Trinidad State Junior College, Lewis describes herself as a lifelong Republican who began volunteering with the party at the age of 18. Though she has not previously run for a public office, she served the Las Animas Republican Party as secretary, vice chair, and chair from 1994 through 2012. She also served as the chair of the Las Animas Republican Women.
Involvement for Lewis does not stop at the party line. She is a founder and past president of the Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association and a past president of the Arkansas Valley Cattlewomen, and she served as the National Private Property Rights Chair for R-CALF USA for three years.
Though a strong supporter of the military, she was instrumental in achieving a funding ban that stopped the Department of Defense's eminent domain expansion of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site into local ranch land. Without money appropriated, the Army was not able to buy the land.
“They finally backed off, and we always worry that the threat is still there,” she said.
When the National Park Service attempted to create one of the country's largest National Heritage Areas, encompassing seven southeastern Colorado counties, Lewis and her fellow ranchers fought again and stopped the NHA.
“We just don't like the federal government over the top of us,” she said. “I believe the heritage area was a form of takings. I believe that eminent domain was another form of takings, and we constantly are threatened by nongovernmental organizations and groups that have a way of some type of takings. You have to be very vigilant, and that's what we've done.”
In 2009, Lewis completed the Leadership Program of the Rockies, an institute that develops and trains leaders in public policy and the political process, but she did not stand for election.
At the beginning of 2016, Lewis found herself at a crossroads when she was asked to once again fill the role of secretary of the Las Animas Republican Party. Though she agreed to fill the position, she viewed the job as an essential learning opportunity for future party leaders.
“There's a lot of people that need to be doing those jobs, and I felt like I needed to step forward, because of the leadership that I have shown,” she said. “I needed to be stepping on up the ladder rather than backing on down.”
Lewis sees a lack of leadership as one of the primary reasons for her challenge to Dore, who lives in northwestern Elbert County, and she and her supporters are excited by the challenge. Though she has not created a first-year wish list her concerns center on water and expanded broadband internet for the southeastern counties.
“I think that water is the most important thing we can talk about,” she said. “We have to find a way to preserve it.”
Lewis says that even if she loses the primary in June, she will lose with her “head up high,” because she thinks her challenge to Dore will encourage him to spend more time in the southeastern part of the state.
“I feel like regardless of whether I win or not, it will be better for all of us in eastern Colorado.”