Lamm began his elected office career when he won a race for the State House in 1964, where he proposed the nation’s first law to promote reproductive rights. In 1972, Lamm also led the movement to reject the 1976 Winter Olympics, which Denver had been awarded; While admitting that he originally supported hosting the Games, he argued that they would be an environmental and financial mess that the state could not afford. Voters overwhelmingly opposed a referendum that year that would have allocated more state funding to the event, which resulted in Denver becoming the first city to effectively refuse to host the Olympics after having already won the Games had.
Lamm was aiming for a promotion in 1974 when he decided to take over Republican governor John Vanderhoof, who had risen from lieutenant governor to governor the previous year. Lamm, who had drawn attention to himself through a walk through the state, won the nomination decisively and soon dismissed Vanderhoof 53-46 in this democratic wave year. Lamm’s party lost its control of the legislature in 1976 and Lamm would spend the remainder of his term fighting the GOP majority, but he never had problems getting re-elected himself.
However, Lamm’s career fared badly after he left the governorship. After turning down the Democrats’ requests to run for the Senate in 1990, Lamm decided to enter the 1992 open-seat race. However, the former governor lost the primary to Conservative MP Ben Nighthorse Campbell 45-36 in what turned out to be Lamm’s last nationwide race.
Campbell defected to the GOP in 1995 and Lamm switched to his own party the next year. Lamm said: “The Democrats are too close to the trial lawyers and the National Education Association. The Republicans are too close to the radical right,” and soon announced that it would seek to nominate the Reform Party for president. But it was quickly overshadowed by the candidacy of Ross Perot, who won almost 20% of the vote as an independent in 1992. Perot decisively won the party’s votes, and Lamm never looked for an office again. However, the former governor’s wife, Dottie Lamm, was on the 1998 ballot as the unsuccessful Democratic candidate against Campbell.