This morning, Colorado Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald spoke with the morning talk-show host for the Denver/Boulder area, Jay Marvin on AM760. Joan is running to represent Colorado’s 2nd congressional district (CO-02). Her Democratic opponents include Jared Polis and Will Shafroth. There is an Aug. 12th primary election that will decide who the Democratic nominee for the seat will be. Then in November, the winner will face off against other party opponents. As CO-02 is solidly Democratic, the primary really constitutes the only meaningful race. The current CO-02 representative, Mark Udall, is running for the open U.S. Senate seat. Thus, there is no incumbent.
Joan started the conversation by telling Jay she has a sense of urgency about the state of the country that she doesn’t see in other members of Congress. She spoke about inertia in our political system. I think this was likely in reference to introducing “new” concepts/policies and getting them implemented. My opinion? Democrats have had a harder time than Republicans. Look at what Republicans passed in the six years from 2001 to 2006. Will Joan lead the charge to introduce progressive policies if elected?
She was asked to list her top three issues. She named the war, the economy, and health care as top concerns CO-02 residents identify. Then she went into some detail about each.
She said she was the only candidate who supported immediate withdrawal. I don’t consider this to be true. Jared Polis helped craft something called “The Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq“. Currently, 54 Democratic House candidates have endorsed it. Joan Fitz-Gerald is not one of them. She has said it is a bad plan, that it won’t accomplish what it says it will. I’m not aware of any specific points she disagrees with. And I definitely haven’t heard any specifics on how she would propose we immediately withdraw from Iraq. Unfortunately, this sounds just like climate change delayers: criticize everybody else’s plans, but don’t come up with your own. I don’t consider that to be leadership.
She did say there were ways to be careful yet immediate about moving forces. But again, no specifics nor any reference to where she has laid out the specifics. Then she said she wanted to make sure there was no occupation of Iraq. While I agree with the sentiment, I’m frustrated that she didn’t mention it in top three when given the chance. Most likely, and other candidates have done the same thing, it’s easier to say “war” than “occupation”. But “war” is not reflective of the reality. Congress never officially declared war. It’s not just a matter of semantics either. We invaded a country, defeated their military forces and replaced their government. At this point in time, our military is occupying the country. Our mercenary forces are occupying the country (Joan didn’t even bring this up, another huge disappointment). We are not warring with the Iraqis. We’re building American military bases and arranging ways to arrest Iraqi civilians with no accountability.
Joan’s next topic was health care: she’s for a universal single-payer system, which is great news. The Colorado legislature this year decided not to offer any ground-breaking (read: against inertia, see above) health care proposals for the state, despite overwhelming support as measured by town-hall meetings, formal comments, etc. delivered to the 208 Commission, which was charged with providing the State with a health care proposal. While in a position of leadership, Joan and others made the decision to do nothing, preferring to wait until the federal government does something about it instead. The uninsured and underinsured get to wait until the feds do something. Um, a question: what happens when Republicans scream about socialism and a universal single-payer plan doesn’t get introduced at the federal level? Those folks will still be left without a plan that they need and deserve. On the other hand, if Joan is elected, she will have access to an awesome health care plan, as will every other member of Congress. How do they afford that plan? They don’t: taxpayers pay for it. Will Joan be a strong leader on this issue? Her record at the state level doesn’t impress me.
During this topic discussion, Jay said that there shouldn’t be health care for profit; it’s a right. Joan agreed, but didn’t bring it up, which is interesting. I believe it’s a right also – but I don’t wait for others to speak of it as such. I say it quite forcefully to friends, family and strangers of all political stripes. It’s called being passionate about it. I didn’t sense similar passion from Joan.
Joan talked about the economy, including gas prices (good for her) and the fact that she drives a Civic hybrid, which is also impressive. She said we should put more money into energy research, which I actually don’t fully buy into anymore. Research isn’t the problem. Driving technologies to the market is a larger problem. I’ve said for some time now that we have the technologies to solve our energy and climate crises. What we’ve lacked is the political will to do something about them. Technologies typically take about 10 years to move from a mature research phase to a decent level of market penetration. We don’t have 10 years to wait for the solutions that are available today. That’s where government can help: they can lower the threshold for technology deployment through a variety of mechanisms. I’m not advocating for no research investment. What I am arguing for is an increased commitment to introducing technologies to consumers. Open up the spigot on choices and let consumers decide which ones work the best. There are technologies that need just a little boost to bring them into the spotlight.
One of Jay’s topics was higher education. He pointed out that student loans are too large and their repayment schedules are accelerating. Jay said that higher education should also be a right. Again, Joan agreed but failed to bring it up.
They also brought up Jared Polis’ donations to his own campaign, which they felt was a negative. Here is a point I really break with both of them: I don’t remember hearing Jay take Hillary Clinton to task for donating tens of millions of dollars to her campaign. In some cases, I might agree with them, but this isn’t one of them. Joan has good name recognition in the 2nd district. Jared, at the beginning of this race, did not. What has he done with the money he’s donated? Mailings and T.V. spots introducing himself. It costs a lot of money to air commercials, especially during prime time and on cable. Joan has years’ worth of connections to the Democratic establishment and PACs to lean on. Jared isn’t accepting money from PACs (thus he won’t be beholden to special interests if elected). They’ve both raised similar dollar amounts from small donors. Thus, I don’t have a problem with Jared donating his money. The main point: it’s not a salient issue. Everything else they talked about is.
Another reason I don’t support Joan’s candidacy: she has a total lack of web savviness. When asked, she gave phone numbers and addresses to her campaign office. No website was mentioned until Jay brought it up. In today’s political world, I believe successful Democrats have to understand the benefits of the web. Jared does – he has an extensive history on numerous sites and with all the social networking tools. Those interactions demonstrate to me that he understands the critical importance of new technologies and that he possesses an adaptive mentality. Those are things I just don’t think Joan has and I don’t want a Representative like that.
Something that was not brought up, and is my top concern, was climate change. Absolutely no mention of it at all. It may not be a bread and butter issue today, but I think in the very near future, it will become much more of a front and center issue. I really wish someone who is going to represent the 2nd district, with NCAR and NOAA, dozens of private labs and companies, and a major research university would seriously consider this issue and push it during an election campaign. She has stated that she wants to cut emission to 80% below 2000 levels by 2050, in line with IPCC recommendations. I would absolutely prefer 1995 or even 1990 levels.
Lastly, Joan has one serious mark against her: the 2006 Special Session that then Gov. Owens called to deal with the “immigration problem”. The legislature’s solutions were poorly thought out and have been damaging to us after the fact. Despite demonstrable problems with their “solutions”, Joan said that she would rather have Gov. Ritter deal with the enforcement issues that have arisen than the legislature correct its previous mistakes. It’s this kind of political maneuvering that grates on me: don’t pass problems off to someone else. With a Democrat as Governor and solid Democratic majorities in both houses, solutions should have been hammered out and implemented, not passed off while families and agriculture (among others) suffer. Joan and her colleagues actually think the work they did was a good thing, which isn’t the same sentiment that undocumented workers, their families or their communities share. Joan’s treatment of these people does not demonstrate Democratic values, in my mind. Instead of doing the morally correct thing, Joan went along with the political winds of the time and tried to make as few waves as possible. That’s not leadership and it’s not a quality I want my representative to take with them to Congress.
[update 6/10/08: minor grammatical changes made]