Jared Polis earns Sierra Club endorsement in governor’s race | SummitDaily.com

Jared Polis earns Sierra Club endorsement in governor’s race

U.S. Rep. and gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis speaks during a public lands forum Wednesday, March 28, in Frisco. On Thursday, Polis won the endorsement of the Sierra Club, the nation's largest environmental advocacy group.

The Sierra Club threw its support behind U.S. Rep. Jared Polis in Colorado's Democratic gubernatorial primary on Thursday, citing his efforts in Congress to expand wilderness areas and his 100 percent renewable energy campaign pledge.

The endorsement from the nation's largest grassroots environmental organization could give Polis a boost in a tight primary race that has seen his main rival, former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, mount a strong challenge against the five-term congressman, whose district includes Summit County. The primary election is June 26.

"It really is one of the most personally meaningful of my endorsements so far," Polis said, reached by phone Thursday. "I've always loved enjoying and exploring our planet and a big part of that has always been with the Sierra Club … I'm looking forward to working with them on renewable energy policy at the state government level."

Polis' campaign announced the endorsement in a Thursday afternoon news release, touting his efforts to cut fossil fuel subsidies, defend Obama-era methane regulations and protect sage grouse habitat.

"Jared Polis has proven that he will reject the ploys of big polluters and fight to protect our environment and the health of American families," Sierra Club president Loren Blackford said in a statement. "The Sierra Club will proudly mobilize our members to elect Jared as Colorado's next governor."

Summit's all-Democrat Board of County Commissioners has enthusiastically supported Polis from the start, pointing to his efforts to expand wilderness areas in Summit and Eagle counties and plan to get Colorado running on 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. In February, Summit became the first county in the state to commit to 100 percent renewables.

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"Jared and his staff have taken a leadership role on protecting our natural resources and our wildlands for the future in Summit County," County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said. "I think most people here would agree that outdoor recreation is our lifestyle and is the lifeblood of our economy."

Polis introduced the latest iteration of his bill — the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act — along with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in January. The bill would protect nearly 100,000 acres of public lands and create three new wilderness areas totaling more than 21,000 acres.

The bill enjoys broad backing from more than 130 organizations and local governments but has yet to pass out of committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Polis has also found common cause with the county government on renewable energy. In February, the commissioners voted unanimously to commit Summit to 100 percent renewables by 2035, joining other Colorado mountain towns like Aspen and Avon.

"This (endorsement) is building off the amazing grassroots energy within Summit County and its bold vision of becoming the first county to commit to 100 percent renewables by 2035," Polis said.

Polis' campaign claims that transitioning to renewables would create tens of thousands of jobs while reducing energy and health care costs, although the plan has been criticized from the right as costly and unrealistic. His renewables pledge has drawn praise from all three county commissioners.

"Jared has a long history of supporting policies that help to preserve and protect our environment in Colorado," Commissioner Dan Gibbs said in a text message. "He supports policies that support the USFS, EPA and multimodal transportation enhancements. He supports adding additional wilderness designations … and opposes selling off our public lands."

The endorsement comes on the heels of the Democratic State Assembly last weekend, where Kennedy took the top line spot of the primary ballot with nearly 62 percent of the preference vote. Polis drew 32.85 percent.

Kennedy handily won the Democratic precinct caucuses in early March with 50 percent of the vote, although a poll two weeks later still showed Polis in the lead, 27 percent to 23.

Former state Senator Mike Johnston of Vail will also be on the primary ballot, and the ticket will likely be rounded out by Lt. Gov. Donna, who is still waiting to have her nomination petitions approved.