Opinion | Susan Knopf: Erik Underwood Democratic candidate for Senate | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Susan Knopf: Erik Underwood Democratic candidate for Senate

Susan Knopf

Erik Underwood impressed me the first time I met him. He ran for governor in 2016 and stopped here on the campaign trail. He was back last week. He told Summit County Democrats he’s running for Senate. He has great ideas, worthy of your consideration.

“I’m the only candidate who has ever worked in the United States Senate,” Underwood said. “John Hickenlooper has never worked in the United States Senate. Andrew Romanoff has never worked in the United States Senate. I have.”

Underwood is running as a Democrat but worked in the Senate as a Republican. That fiscally conservative background now informs his liberal views. He supports the same agenda: voting rights, a woman’s right to choose, pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients. He also advocates making programs self-sustaining and not dumping the burden on the backs of taxpayers.

Underwood’s website says he has a plan for a health care public option. He proposes to pay for that program with a Wall Street pennies per trade tax. He is not the first candidate to propose this solution to this issue.

Like Senate candidate Romanoff, Underwood is very concerned about the environment. Instead of signing up for the Green New Deal, Underwood is selecting programs he thinks most benefit those who are left behind in the economy. He wants to “empower rural and urban people through renewable energy entrepreneurship.” He advocates creating a “$15 billon direct loan program to launch and foster people in rural and urban communities to create wind and solar panel companies.”

“Our infrastructure is falling apart,” Underwood said. “Bridges are deemed unsafe. There’s lead in our drinking water, not just in Flint, but in parts of Denver.” He says underserved communities are most likely to be at risk of drinking unsafe water. “We have to replace these lead pipes. … This is not good for our people,” he said.

Underwood’s journey is interesting. He says he was one of six children raised by a single mom. Jim Clark was his Big Brother mentor from the time Underwood was 8 years old. Through the years, he developed a relationship with the Clark family. He lived with them during his high school years, and they helped him secure a path to college. His collegiate honor status won him a job in the office of Republican Ohio Sen. George Voinovich.

Underwood is a tech entrepreneur. He says he came to Colorado working a joint venture with AT&T, which he says is now embroiled in a protracted legal battle over proprietary rights to technology. He says he’d like to lower the legal voting age to 16. He says, “It’s always been teenagers who advanced positive change.”

Another Senate candidate, also came to the Dem’s meeting last week, Christopher “Critter” Milton, of Alma. Public education is his No. 1 issue. He states on his website, “Our country was founded by individuals who held unique beliefs but worked together for the greater good.” Can’t argue with that. He is a Unity Party member, so he won’t be one of the candidates caucusing Saturday. 

Summit County registered Democrats will caucus promptly at 2 p.m. at Summit County Middle School. Party Chair Patti McLaughlin recommends Democrats check in at 1 p.m. It’ll be fun to schmooze with fellow Dems and discuss the candidates. Republicans meet at 10 a.m. at the Summit County Community and Senior Center.

According to the Colorado Democratic Party, Romanoff, Stephany Rose Spaulding and Trish Zornio are going though the caucus and assembly to make it onto the June 30 primary ballot. Hickenlooper and Underwood are going through the caucus and assembly as well as the signature-gathering petition process.

The exact formal nature of these processes is coming under intense scrutiny nationally, as it appears Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden are squaring off as front runners in the bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

For the record, Sanders is not a Democrat. He is a proudly self-proclaimed democratic socialist. He caucuses with the Democrats. At the same time, Joe Biden has not been putting on his best face on the campaign trail. He often appeared muddled. Let’s hope he can rise to the occasion as he did in his victory speeches in South Carolina on Feb. 29 and in California on Tuesday night.

Ironically, the South Carolina African-American community waited to support candidate Barack Obama until they saw Iowa whites would support him. This round, Democrats waited to see who South Carolina blacks would support to find their front runner.

Susan Knopf’s column “For the Record” publishes biweekly on Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf lives in Silverthorne. She is a certified ski instructor and an award-winning journalist. Contact her at sdnknopf@gmail.com.

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