Congressional candidate Polis makes his case |

Congressional candidate Polis makes his case

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Eric Drummond

FRISCO ” What America needs most is effective national leadership to meet urgent challenges such as global warming, the faltering economy, and the war in Iraq, Democratic congressional candidate Jared Polis said during a campaign swing through the High Country Thursday.

Polis, 32, a multi-millionaire Internet entrepreneur, philanthropist, and former Chairman of the Colorado State Board of Education, is running to replace Rep. Mark Udall in the U.S. House of Representatives. Udall has been Colorado’s 2nd District congressman since 1999, but is now seeking the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Republican Sen. Wayne Allard.

Democrats have represented the 2nd District, which includes Summit, Eagle, Grand and Clear Creak counties, along with the city of Boulder and parts of several other Front Range Counties, since 1975. Polis faces two other well-funded liberal Democrats ” former Colorado state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald and Boulder conservationist Will Shafroth ” for the party’s nomination.

The former education chairman stopped by for a brief interview in Frisco Thursday.

Q. What is it that motivated you to run for congress?

A. I’ve really enjoyed being active in the community through education, having served on the state board of education, and I’ve also really enjoyed working in the high tech sector ” creating jobs and creating new products and services on the Internet. But I really feel, at this point in time, the biggest challenges that we face are national in scope.

So, when we’re talking about an issue like ending the war in Iraq, which has been a centerpiece of my campaign, the only place where real action on that can occur is in Washington, D.C. and congress. When we talk about tackling the challenge of global warming, and reducing our carbon emissions, we need national leadership. While there have been great efforts at the community level, it really takes congressional action and national action to move the ball forward. And now that the economy is faltering, we need a national plan for recovery.

Even in the realm of education, which I’ve worked in over the last decade, a lot of the problems that I see are caused by some of the federal laws. Some of the problems with No Child Left Behind include the fact that it penalizes schools with the most “at risk” youth, which is the exact opposite of what good federal education policy should do.

So, those are some of the issues I care about and I feel I can have the most impact on those in Washington. I have an activist background, and I always feel it’s the responsibility of citizenship to give back and this is a great opportunity to go to work on behalf of the people of our district to move the ball forward and bring real progressive change to Washington.

Q. What does your candidacy particularly have to offer voters in the High Country?

A. I think people here in Summit County as well as in the rest of the country would like to see the war in Iraq end, and I’ve been very outspoken and have played a leadership role on that issue. I went to Iraq a few months ago and learned first-hand what was going on. I’ve worked with several other Democrats running in other parts of the country to create a responsible plan to end the war, that can be found on my website.

Certainly, there are also regional issues. We talk about the I-70 corridor, which is critical to the economic wellbeing of the area. It’s really the lifeline of the Western Slope. What I think we need to do there is find a constructive federal role in providing some matching resources for a high-speed rail solution. So hopefully this will involve the state and federal governments working together, and state voters ” in some capacity ” will have to step up. But the federal government has a role in helping to match what we can do here at the local level to be a constructive part of a real solution. It’s not something we should just talk about for years and years to come. We actually need action. There’s plenty of technology here today we can use. We don’t want this to be a high-priced experiment that may not work.

Pine beetles “and forestry management ” are another critical issue to Summit County and the High Country. The Bureau of Land Management is woefully understaffed. And with their mandate to take care of federal lands, we need to beef up our ability at the federal level to do that.

Q. Do you think the government should spend more on land management?

A. Absolutely. It’s almost a travesty how little we spend relative to the vast tracts of land that they’re responsible for. And it’s a drop in the bucket compared to other federal budget items, but it’s absolutely critical to maintain the lands we hold.

Q. Is there anything specific in your platform that sets you apart from your two major opponents?

A. I think I have a stronger stance on environmental issues, and particularly in taking on the oil and gas industry. And I don’t hear either of them talking about the real need to take on the special interests in Washington ” in this case the oil and gas industry. Also, when we’re talking about reforming health care, the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

I’m also the only candidate calling for major campaign finance reform ” overhauling our current system, which I truly believe benefits the special interests, and the wealthy and the powerful at the expense of the people. And I support public financing of campaigns. I’m the only candidate not accepting any money from political action committees.

And I also support stronger ethics laws in Washington, to prevent lobbyists from giving gifts or political donations to candidates.

Integrity in government is one of the most important aspects that the government needs to be able to solve our problems. If we can’t trust our government, we impede our ability to solve our problems. Decisions should be made based on their merits, not on which side hires more lobbyists and makes more campaign contributions. And unfortunately that’s too much of what happens now.

Q. There’s been speculation that one of the reasons this congressional race is so expensive is that you have so much money personally. Do you think that’s true? That you’ve upped the ante for everybody?

A. No, I don’t think so. I’ve raised more from individuals than either of the other two candidates. I’ve raised more than $1 million in small contributions from people in the district and across the country. That’s a similar amount to what the others have raised, but a considerable amount of Joan’s is from PACs, and I think will has raised mostly from individuals, and a little bit from PACs. I think all candidates in any race probably try to raise as much money as they can.

Q. How do you respond to people who say you’re just a rich person wanting to buy this election?

A. The level of the pettiness of that would be like me saying (to my opponents), “You’re just taking all this special interest money to try to buy the election.” We need to fix the campaign finance system, but I can’t imagine that anybody could argue for the moral superiority of taking special interest PAC money over using your own.

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