Democrat Isaac ‘Ike’ McCorkle Hopes To Unseat Republican Incumbent Ken Buck In Colorado’s 4th Congressional District

September 2, 2020
IKE MCCORKLEIKE MCCORKLEHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Ike McCorkle at CPR News on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020.

For Isaac “Ike” McCorkle, running for Colorado’s 4th Congressional seat is about ensuring a better future for his children.

“A better tomorrow with a clean environment, invested in educational institutions, invested in infrastructure, roads and bridges, renewable energy systems, the things that we need to put in place to build a better tomorrow and to live up to our values as Americans,” McCorkle said.

The Democrat and single father from Parker, Colorado, is running against Republican incumbent Ken Buck in a district that includes eastern Colorado, including communities reliant on oil and gas and farming. It has also been safely red.

“My path to victory is getting out into the district, having the hard conversations, and we’ve just done it this past week out in Lamar and La Junta and Trinidad. And we’ve talked to wheat farmers and corn farmers and hemp farmers and ranchers that have been experiencing really what has been the systemic abandonment of rural America for decades,” McCorkle said. “Farmers and ranchers, due to the tariffs and trade wars, have really been economically disenfranchised.”

McCorkle is an 18-year Marine veteran and a Purple Heart recipient.

Interview Highlights

On what he sees as an erosion of institutions he swore to protect:

“That’s just a fundamental concept of truth-telling and the foundation of a representative government is truth. And the truth is what makes us free, President Kennedy said. And it’s only what will keep us free and it’s only what will keep us united. ... There's a drifting from the truth in the lack of acknowledgement of the extent of the environmental crisis, a compromise of the truth in the assessment of the true national security threats that face our nation and whether or not,  these continuous military foreign escapades are in fact, spreading democracy, equity, and Liberty and economic prosperity around the globe.”

On climate change as an ‘environmental catastrophe’:

“Farmers and ranchers know and energy industry workers know that fundamentally what comes out of our tailpipes is poison for our atmosphere, for our air, our land and our water. It's acidifying our oceans and it's poisoning our air quality. Weld County specifically had more than 162 days this past year of substandard air quality. That's what we need to address. People's quality of life and what stands the biggest potential to employ people in that industry, protect wages, protect people's peace of mind that they can put food on their table is in fact, a rapid transition and an expansion of jobs in the energy industry to renewable methods.”

On using the term ‘Green New Deal’ when speaking to farmers:

“I do (use it) and I also use the term large federal works projects and energy infrastructure, investment, and job creation because essentially that's what the new deal is. It's just large federal administrative projects, just like the ones we instituted throughout the new deal that stand the greatest potential to improve people's quality of life in CD4 and address the national security threats that really face us today.”


Full Transcript

Ryan Warner: Ken Buck, the head of the State Republican Party joined us last week, that's as the GOPs National Convention was taking place in North Carolina. Buck's role as party chair was the reason we brought him on, but he's also a sitting member of Congress up for re-election, and so we wanted to give his democratic challenger some airtime as well. Isaac Ike McCorkle of Parker is here. Ike, welcome to the program.

Isaac "Ike" McCorkle: Hi Ryan, thank you so much, good morning. I can't tell you how much I appreciate you guys having me on this morning.

RW: You enlisted in the Marines I think at age 17, got out of the military, then rejoined after 911. You are a Purple Heart recipient, a single father, when did the thought of holding political office enter your mind?

IM: Well I have to be honest, serving in the Marines is a tough job and so you stay very focused on it while you're on active duty and serving and taking care of your Marines. And that's what I was doing in the Corps. And when I retired my plan was to relax for a little while, get over the 18 years of tough service and combat deployments and be with my kids, garden, and frankly be a little bit of a ski bum and enjoy my life.

But like I tell a lot of folks I recognized the integrity of the institutions of state that I swore to support and defend, and that fundamentally support my kid's future, and all of our citizens’ future, and our environment. And I saw those things being compromised and I felt like I had to do something, and running for office to me is a means to an end in setting my kids up for a better future, a better tomorrow, with a clean environment, invested in educational institutions, invested in infrastructure, roads and bridges, renewable energy systems, the things that we need to put in place to build a better tomorrow, and to live up to our values as Americans.

RW: I'd like to have you just say a few more words about what you see, if I can sort of paraphrase, as an erosion of institutions that you felt you protected. Will you tell me a little bit more about that?

IM: Yeah, that's just the fundamental concept of truth telling. And the foundation of a representative government is truth, the truth, and the truth is what makes us free, President Kennedy said. And it's only what will keep us free. And it's only what will keep us united.

RW: Where do you see a drifting from the truth?

IM: A drifting from the truth in the lack of acknowledgment of the extent of the environmental crisis, a compromise of the truth in the assessment of the true national security threats that face our nation, and whether or not these continuous military foreign escapades are in fact spreading democracy, equity, and liberty and economic prosperity around the globe.

RW: You want to represent, as I said, the Fourth Congressional District, which is vast, from Greeley in the north to La Junta in the south. It is generally considered a safely red district. Unaffiliateds and Republicans outnumber Democrats. What is your path to victory?

IM: Yeah, my path to victory is getting out into the district, having the hard conversations, and we've just done it this past week out in Lamar and La Junta and Trinidad. And we've talked to wheat farmers and corn farmers and hemp farmers and ranchers that have been experiencing really what has been the systemic abandonment of rural America for decades. Ever since the 2008 financial crisis, specifically in present history, farmers and ranchers, due to the tariffs and the trade wars, have really been economically disenfranchised.

RW: Now the current administration ran on catering to their desires, catering to their needs, and saying that for too long rural America had been left behind. What do you say to that?

IM: Well I was just out at one of Ken Buck's agricultural town halls and I got a lot of respect for him as a representative, and he did agree to partake in a debate. And so actually you would be a great moderator if you might consider doing that for us. But yeah, I showed up out at his town hall and I spoke to the County Commissioners, and the facts are that the County Commissioners and the farmers and ranchers in those districts are conveying the message that the tariffs and the trade wars have economically impacted to a vast degree farmers. At the highest rate of bankruptcy since 1983, highest rate of suicide since 1983 which was a great farming era of depression connected to the economic depression of that era.

RW: So you don't believe that the Republicans have delivered on this promise?

IM: Right. I think just like in the swamp, Ken Buck, my opponent who takes 73% of his money from corporate pacts talks a big game about anti-corruption, and then participates in the very system and takes the very funds that are the corruptive undue influence in our government.

RW: You call climate change an environmental catastrophe. How does that message resonate in a place like Weld County, which is oil and gas country?

IM: Right. It's oil and gas country, it's also farm country and farmers and ranchers know, and energy industry workers know, that fundamentally what comes out of our tailpipes is poison for our atmosphere, for our air, our land and our water. It's acidifying our oceans and it's poisoning our air quality. Weld County specifically had more than 162 days this past year of substandard air quality. That's what we need to address. People's quality of life. And what stands the biggest potential to employ people in that industry, protect wages, protect people's peace of mind that they can put food on their table is in fact a rapid transition, and an expansion of jobs in the energy industry to renewable methods.

RW: Do you use the term Green New Deal when you speak to farmers?

IM: I do. And I also use the term large federal works projects and energy infrastructure investment, and job creation. Because essentially that's what the new deal is. It's just large federal administrative projects, just like the ones we instituted throughout the new deal that stand the greatest potential to improve people's quality of life in CD4 and address the national security threats that really face us today.

RW: I'd like to ask you about a t-shirt that your Republican opponent wore to a campaign event recently. It bore the motto, "Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out." This phrase gained popularity during the Vietnam War, it actually dates back to the 13th Century, but given the strife the country is experiencing right now, “Kill ‘em all” may read very differently to some people. I wondered as a veteran, if that's a motto that you identify with in any way?

IM: That's not a motto that I identify with in any way at all, because fundamentally the use of military force should be an absolute last resort. And as leaders, especially as a representative in the United States House, we need to set the example with our actions. And wearing that t-shirt amounts to exacerbating and instigating what is already at a toxic level of interaction in our culture. And so the real thing that a leader should be doing is counseling calm and mitigating violence, and counseling proper storage and use of firearms and ammunition, not instigating or making worse what is already a toxic situation in our culture with respect to the proper use and appropriate use of firearms.

RW: I want to thank you for your time, nice to meet you.

IM: Thank you so much. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. Don't forget to go to www.ikeforco.com and check out our policies and platform, make a contribution if you agree.

RW: Okay, we'll not turn this into a fundraising session. Democrat Isaac Ike, McCorkle of Parker hopes to unseat Republican Ken Buck in Colorado's Fourth Congressional District. You can hear my conversation last week with Congressman Buck @cpr.org.