Gov. Polis Unfazed By Online Campaigns For His Recall
Gov. Jared Polis told Colorado Matters on Monday that the recall efforts in progress don't give him pause.
Several groups have recently filed paperwork with the state to become issue committees. Their focus is on launching a recall of the Democratic governor who won in November with 53 percent of the vote. The groups point to the National Popular Vote law, the Red Flag gun control bill and oil and gas legislation as examples of his overreach.
But Polis said that these things shouldn’t be a surprise to the 42 percent who didn’t vote for him.
“Literally, it was in my commercials ... How many times did I say of course I would sign an extreme risk protection order?” Polis said. “This is exactly what I said I would do during the campaign.”
Still, Polis tries to highlight the work he’s done that will benefit the entire state.
“Of course, I’m not going to win over everyone. But by focusing on free full-day kindergarten, saving people money on health care, lowering the income tax rate and making good on our renewable energy goals, we hope to win many of them over,” he said.
Secretary of State records show that “Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis” registered as an issue committee earlier in March. The “Resist Polis PAC” is an independent expenditure committee that has been active since last July.
The Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis Facebook page has more than 28,000 members.
The Greeley Tribune reported that some organizers of the recall effort have posted anti-Semitic views online. Polis is Colorado's first Jewish governor.
To get a recall on the ballot, the groups will need to collect more than 631,000 signatures — and they’ll have 60 days to do that. Also, a petition can’t be circulated until the governor has been in office for at least six months.
“This number of signatures is a lot of signatures to collect in a short amount of time, so it certainly is a big hill to climb,” said Colorado Secretary of State office spokeswoman Serena Woods. “But we have this provision in Colorado law and the way that Coloradans participate in democracy, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”
While Polis understands that a large swath of the state didn’t support him in the election, he still plans to forge ahead.
“I totally get that 42 percent of the state didn’t vote for me, and I’m doing my best to convince them that I’m going to do a good job for them too,” he said. “But I’m going to do what I said I would do.”
In the wide-ranging Colorado Matters interview, Polis also said he’s “skeptical’’ of a new bill that would make it more difficult for parents to exempt their children from vaccination and he wants the legislature to fix the state’s death penalty or repeal it. Lawmakers are considering repeal, but that likelihood is fading fast as some Democrats waver.
Polis also took on critics of the so-called "red flag" gun bill, which would let courts temporarily take guns from people who are a danger to themselves or others. The bill is near final approval with strong support from the Democratic majority. It’s opposed by Republicans and by several county sheriffs who’s said they’re not sure how strongly they will enforce it if it becomes law.
“Each sheriff has their own opinions but they didn’t run to be sheriffs for their opinions,” Polis said. “They ran to be sheriff to enforce the law and to keep the peace.”
Finally, Polis addressed the turmoil that has enveloped the legislature in recent weeks. Republican senators, angered by what they said was the Democrats’ rush to push major legislation through, went to court to challenge the way bills are read to the chamber. Republicans won that battle but when a GOP senator tried to sign on as a primary sponsor of the governor’s marquee bill to provide free, full-time kindergarten, Democrats refused.
The governor said many of the bills he’s championed have bipartisan support. Some of the Republicans actions have been “obstructionist” but that won’t change the outcome in a Democratic-majority legislature.
“Obstruction tactics kind of annoy folks, I get that, they don’t actually stop bills. They just make everybody work longer … to get what’s necessary done, for or against.”
Interview Highlights With Gov. Polis
On the current economics of green energy goals:
“As long as there’s a market for it we’ll produce oil and gas. I certainly see that continuing for the foreseeable future. I think we can achieve, and we will achieve, 100 percent renewable energy for the grid by 2040, but many cars will still use oil and gas. People will have generators that use oil and gas. And, of course, I don’t know what other states and countries will be doing.”
On how he wants lawmakers to deal with the death penalty:
“I think some standards around when and when not it’s applicable, and prosecutors are able to use it would be good. It’s used disproportionately. I mean, the Aurora theater killer who killed a dozen people who didn’t get it, and somebody else who killed two people got it. If they’re going to fix it, they need some more standards. The way it’s been applied in the past is why, of course, I would be happy to sign a bill that would abolish it too. So either way, I would love to see action either this session or next session.”
On how soon Coloradans will see free full-day kindergarten:
“This fall, and I’m very optimistic, actually. It was included in the Joint Budget Committee’s budget request. That literally means this August, when kids go back to school, parents who might have had to worry about paying $300 or $400 a month for kindergarten, knock on wood, when this passes the legislature, which with the Long bill we hope in the next few weeks that will be free. And that means a lot for families who are struggling with those high costs.”
Read The Interview Transcript
Ryan Warner: This is Colorado Matters from CPR News, I’m Ryan Warner.
Colorado is poised to pass a red-flag gun law, that’s with Democrats in control of the state legislature. And with our guest, Democrat Jared Polis, in the Governor’s office. This bill lets courts temporarily take guns from people who are a danger to themselves or others. Republicans oppose the measure. Governor, thank you for being with us again.
Gov. Jared Polis: It’s a pleasure to be here.
RW: What’s interesting is that it also has split law enforcement. Some prominent sheriffs support it. Others say they may refuse to enforce it, and some counties have created what they call Second Amendment sanctuaries, saying they don’t want the law to be enforced either. You support this measure, Governor. What do you think of these sheriffs and in some cases their county commissioners saying they won’t enforce the law?
JP: So what this bill is about is, you have a parent of a 19-year-old kid who is having a mental health crisis. What can you do, right? There’s a very high threshold for involuntary commitment. They have to be in immediate danger of themselves or others. It’s very hard. So what is the process where if you think “Oh my gosh, they’re high risk of suicide, they might kill themselves or they might act out. How can we temporarily have a court order to remove access to their guns for a period of time until they recover their mental health?” And so there’s a lot of discussions about what should that process look like, right? We care deeply about people’s Second Amendment rights. Obviously who doesn’t sympathize with a parent in that situation or a spouse in that situation where they see somebody having a mental health crisis unfold. That’s what this is about and it’s obviously a discussion where I encourage my colleagues and my lawmakers to listen to the voices of sheriffs and police chiefs and many others in this, as well as victim advocates and parents who have gone through this themselves.
RW: Attorney General Phil Weiser, a Democrat, told a State Senate Committee that if the red-flag bill passes, sheriffs who fail to enforce it should resign. Do you agree?
JP: Well I’m not asking any sheriff to resign. We have a lot of terrific sheriffs on both sides of the aisle. If they want to be lawmakers, then you know sheriffs should run for state legislature as some do, but your job as a sheriff is to enforce the law.
RW: And if they don’t, what should the consequences be?
JP: I think the voters in their counties certainly take that into account, and you know there’s many laws that I personally or others may disagree with sheriffs on. I mean, each sheriff has their own opinions, but they didn’t run to be sheriff for their opinions. They ran to be sheriff to enforce the law fairly and to keep the peace.
RW: Here’s a key argument that’s made against the red-flag bill. It would require the person whose gun was seized to prove they’re no longer a risk in order to get a firearm back. Republicans have repeatedly sought to shift that burden of proof to those who sought the protection order. Otherwise, they say gun owners are deprived of their due process rights, and that’s unconstitutional. Do you have any concern that this measure violates the Constitution?
JP: Well I’ve encouraged the authors to work with folks who have due process concerns to address those. You know, many states have a process around this, and yeah due process is the key. You want to make sure that you don’t unjustly deprive anybody of any right. If you’re depriving somebody of their rights or of their liberty in involuntary commitment, the bar should be very high. I think it’s been estimated that if we have this kind of extreme-risk protection law, it might be used 50 times a year in our state. It would be a great concern if this was used more broadly. This is a very narrowly-crafted tool where we know that somebody is an enormous danger to themself or even potentially others, and what legal recourse do we have while that person is having a mental health crisis? So it’s intended to be very rarely used and of course I support guard rails to ensure that.
RW: Why not let counties and law enforcement decide how they would handle the gun issue where they live, if their county’s values are different from another county’s?
JP: Well this is about kind of what the state law is. I think there is broad discretion for counties and cities to have their own ordinances around gun safety. Many of them do, whether it’s their approach to concealed carry, ways that they can make sure that people are safe.
RW: When you and I last spoke in February, we talked about immigration, including some state-level proposals to reign in ICE and at the time you said this:
Plays recording of Jared Polis: “I’ve certainly said that I’m not in favor of any efforts that would make Colorado a sanctuary state. I support local control of law enforcement, and that hasn’t changed and I don’t expect it to change.”
RW: So can you reconcile what seems to be a contradiction there between the red-flag gun law and immigration laws? Because it seems in immigration, you say there should be local self-determination.
JP: Well immigration laws are fundamentally federal, so it’s very frustrating to many of us at the state. I would love to change them. I think most people in our legislature would love to change them, but the truth is there’s really nothing we can do under state law to fix our broken immigration system federally.
RW: But in terms of the coordination with ICE, for instance, you’ve said that there ought to be some local control over that kind of a decision.
JP: Yeah, that’s, the relationship between local law enforcement and federal law enforcement is an extremely important relationship and we’re not about to tell law enforcement what their relationship with other law enforcement agencies should be. No matter what we think of the laws federally, ICE is absolutely a legitimate law enforcement agency. There’s no question, I disagree with the way that, administratively, President Trump’s appointees are using ICE on their priorities, and I disagree with the federal immigration laws, but they are a law enforcement agency.
RW: In congress, you were known as a strong advocate for immigration. I think of several impassioned speeches you gave on the floor of the house on the topic. With this deference to local law enforcement some folks say they’re disappointed, that they think you’re less supportive of immigrants than you used to be.
JP: When I talk about our Colorado for All, I always make a point of saying this is a Colorado for people who are descendants of our Native American brothers and sisters, who’ve been here thousands of years, for descendants of the Spanish settlers, for first generation Coloradans, like me. My parents moved here in 1970 and I was born a few years later. And for the most recent arrivals. We’re proud that we appointed the very first DACA recipient to a board of a public university in Colorado, Metro. We recently joined with Attorney General Phil Weiser to file a lawsuit over funds that were being illegally withheld from the federal government due to immigration enforcement issues, so I certainly stand with our immigrant communities. We value everybody’s contribution to our state, and we want everybody to thrive.
RW: But you’re saying, in this case, you have to consider that what you’ve called important relationship between local law enforcement and federal law enforcement, and that in a way that trumps any desire from perhaps your constituents to say there ought to be no coordination on this issue.
JP: Well, again, law enforcement is fundamentally local, as we talked about with the extreme risk protection order. Sheriffs, they have the responsibility to enforce the law, and that includes the ability to form relationships with other law enforcement agencies. When you have the state trying to force a one-size-fits-all solution, it’s often a recipe for only further sowing the seeds of division and a counter-action which has adverse affects in the immigrant community and in our marginalized communities.
RW: One-size-fits-all. That’s an interesting phrase, because it occurs to me that there are so many other bills that could be described that way. Perhaps the Sex Education Bill, bills having to do with climate change and energy. I just wonder if one-size-fits-all works in some cases for you and not in others.
JP: Our general bias, and my philosophical direction is, I believe that the level of government closest to the people most effectively represents them. That’s why, with regards to oil and gas, we’re proposing it move to local control, for people in Weld County to make their own decisions, and Broomfield and Adams, rather than an elected board in Denver making decisions for them. Again, as a general concept, I think empowering local officials closest to the people, to have the ability to act in the interest of their community, is a good one.
RW: The legislature is considering a major oil and gas bill, indeed. It would require state regulators to prioritize public health and safety and gives local governments more control over development. Last week, democrats introduced a bill that essentially puts Colorado on the same path as the Paris Climate Agreement for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and meanwhile, Governor, I hear you calling for conversion to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. How soon do you see a future in which there is effectively no oil and gas industry in Colorado? It strikes me that that is the elephant in the room.
JP: Well, I don’t know if it’s an elephant in the room, and I don’t think any of us know. I’m not a futurist. I’m just an elected official here. I mean-
RW: But you set goals.
JP: We produce Molybdenum. It comes and goes depending on the price of commodities. We produced gold and silver in the past. As long as there’s a market for it we’ll produce oil and gas. I certainly see that continuing for the foreseeable future. I think we can achieve, and we will achieve, 100 percent renewable energy for the grid by 2040, but many cars will still use oil and gas. People will have generators that use oil and gas. And, of course, I don’t know what other states and countries will be doing.
RW: In the face, though, of climate change, let me speak to your desires as opposed to your ability to see a crystal ball. Do you have a desire that some day there is an oil and gas free Colorado?
JP: Again, our goal with the grid, how we power our electricity, is to move as quick as we can from coal based power to less expensive solar and wind power. It’s really a question of how do we retire more costly coal assets and how we can make sure we provide opportunities for the men and women that work in those coal-fired plants, but we shouldn’t force rate payers to subsidize these legacy assets which only cost us more to have online and pollute our air.
RW: Of course, plants are converting to gas. And I think this is so interesting. Why not just say, “I’d love a day when there’s not fossil fuel development in this state.”
JP: Well, I mean, again, you won’t have a futurist on your show and talk about how the whole world is going. Let’s just talk about automobiles for a second, because we’ve talked about the grid. Colorado, yes, we want to be a leadership state in electric vehicles, in hybrids, in low emission vehicles, but Colorado alone doesn’t dictate the mix of vehicles that are manufactured. It’s a global market. Consumers will really adopt electric vehicles and low emission vehicles more when there are lower sticker prices, and of course lower operational prices, not having to buy gas. So that’s one of the reasons our very first executive order was to expand choice for zero emission vehicles, electric vehicles. About 21 models are available in our state today. We adopted standards, and states that have those standards have 41 models available.
RW: Okay. Another bill in the legislature would end the death penalty, and you’ve said you’d sign it if that passes. But that’s looking increasingly unlikely. Several Democrats are wavering. There are three men on death row in Colorado, Governor. If the bill doesn’t pass, would you commute their sentences to life in prison? That is, if you don’t get something from the legislature, would you act executively?
JP: Well, there’s a process in place where there would be consultation with the victims when each file comes to the governor. What I would like to see, again, the legislature should either abolish the death penalty or fix it in statute. It’s barely administrable as it currently is written. It has a requirement for a drug that we have no legal way of acquiring. It does provide for alternative methods, but those would be tied up in courts and very costly for many years. So either fix it or end it would be my message to the legislature.
RW: Do I hear you using the bully pulpit here? Is this something you want to see this session?
JP: Well, I mean, it could be next session. It could be a special session. I mean, I think it’s important to see certainty sooner rather than later. I do think it’s unfair to victims and others to kind of leave this out there as unfinished business with regard to the tragedy that they’ve suffered.
RW: This could be the subject of a special session.
JP: It could be next session. If we’re going to have a special session and there’s a consensus in the legislature about what to do, this could be part of it. Or they could certainly do it this session. There’s plenty of time. But I think fixing it, or one other issue on fixing it. I think some standards around when and when not it’s applicable, and prosecutors are able to use it would be good. It’s used disproportionately. I mean, the Aurora theater killer who killed a dozen people who didn’t get it, and somebody else who killed two people got it. If they’re going to fix it, they need some more standards. The way it’s been applied in the past is why, of course, I would be happy to sign a bill that would abolish it too. So either way, I would love to see action either this session or next session.
RW: It sounds like this is not an issue you want the executive branch to be leading on. You want the legislative input here.
JP: Yeah, I mean, I have no strong feelings either way. I think I feel like most Coloradans. I mean, I’m fine with the death penalty. I also think it’s costly and inefficient, and it’s hard to justify the disparate reasons that some people get it and some don’t. I’m not a futurist, but I have more of a crystal ball on this than when the world will no longer rely on fossil fuels. That’s a tough one. I do think the death penalty will be a thing of the past in 20, 30 years in almost every state.
RW: You’ve been in office just under three months, and there are a couple of efforts underway to recall you. These are apparently not efforts sanctioned by the GOP establishment, and the Greeley Tribune reports that one organizer has praised Hitler in the past. These activists cite your positions on the gun bill, oil and gas, a law you signed to take Colorado out of the Electoral College. Getting the recall to the ballot would require more than a half million signatures. Does hearing the word recall so soon give you any pause, do you take any kind of message from it?
JP: Not really, Ryan. I mean, I’m focused on doing what I said I would do when I ran. And I got 53 percent, and my opponent got 42 percent. I totally get that 42 percent of the state didn’t vote for me, and I’m doing my best to convince them that I’m going to do a good job for them too. And when we’re talking about saving people money on health care, I know that some of that 42 percent will say, “Yeah. I may not like Polis on the other things, but my health care bill went down.” We talked about free full-day kindergarten, we made great progress. I know so many parents of preschoolers who, when that saves them $3 or $400 a month, they’ll be very grateful that we’re able to provide that opportunity for them. So of course I’m not going to win over every one of that 42 percent that didn’t vote for me, but by focusing on free full-day kindergarten, saving people money on health care, lowering the income tax rate and making good on our renewable energy goals, we hope to win many of them over.
RW: I hear you saying “There are no surprises here, folks. This is what I told you I would do.” Is that your message?
JP: Yeah. I think as long as we stick to what that mandate was. I mean, literally, it was in my commercials. Are you surprised that we’re doing free full-day kindergarten? Are you surprised that we’re, I mean, how many times did I come on the show and say, “Yes of course I would sign the extreme risk protection order.” So, I’m going to do what I said I would do. Our goals and mantra of my administration are be bold, be consistent, no unforced errors, and be joyous. And, of course, being consistent is part of that. There will be a great consistency with the trust that the voters have put in me to do what I said I would do when I was running.
RW: You mentioned full-day kindergarten. What’s the earliest that we’ll see kids offered that?
JP: This Fall, and I’m very optimistic, actually. It was included in the Joint Budget Committee’s budget request. That literally means this August, when kids go back to school, parents who might have had to worry about paying $300 or $400 a month for kindergarten, knock on wood, when this passes the legislature, which with the Long bill we hope in the next few weeks that will be free. And that means a lot for families who are struggling with those high costs. Many kids didn’t have full-day kindergarten because the parents couldn’t afford it. They only went half day. For other families, that’s the money that can go into summer camps, or summer enrichment, or save for college, or save for retirement.
RW: Let’s talk about a bill that would make it tougher for parents to exempt their kids from vaccinations laws. Where do you stand on that bill, and why?
JP: So, we’re really elevating this issue of the vaccination rate here in our state. It’s one of the top goals of our agency. I think it’s been ignored for too long, and Colorado has [unclear] it in terms of the vaccination rate, which is a real public health issue. We, of course, vaccinate our seven-year old and our four-year old, and I think it’s important for parents to look at the data before making that decision. But, yes-
RW: So, you vaccinated your own children? I just want to point out your-
JP: Well, I didn’t do it personally, Ryan. I’m not about to stick a needle in my own kid. But a qualified medical professional vaccinated my kid. But a qualified professional vaccinated my kids.
RW: Yes, thank you. But you live in an area, there are these pockets where the vaccination rate is especially low. And that’s Boulder. You have parents around you making very different decisions that contribute to that rate.
JP: That’s the way I frame it. Obviously, it’s a decision. I mean, the minute you try to have the government forcing anybody to do something with their kids, you’re going to create distrust of vaccinations, which is already a problem. We want to go the other way, to create, for people to see good science. So, I think there’s some counties in Western Colorado that have some of the lowest rates, but I think it’s an education issue. It’s an outreach issue.
RW: Where are you on this bill that would make it harder to opt out?
JP: Well, I’m not sure. I don’t know if we’ve seen the latest drafts of a particular bill. I mean, I’m skeptical, as I said, of any effort that inserts the government between the decision that parents make with regard to health decisions for their kids, like vaccinations. And I think that that could be counterproductive if it’s seen as forcing parents to do something they don’t want to do. We have to convince parents. Every parent cares about their kids, Ryan. I mean, so they’re trying to make the best decision for their kids, and I think when presented with the information, and the data, and the science, parents will make the right decision. The public health data...
RW: And yet the science and the data have been out there since polio. I mean, what more information do you think-
JP: And most parents vaccinate their kids in our state. I mean, it’s not enough. That’s why we’re elevating this as a focus. I think it’s been ignored too long. But yeah, the vast majority of parents make that decision to vaccinate their kids. Some choose different vaccinations, or a different schedule. Some have legitimate health reasons or moral objections to the process. So I mean, the way we get along is we empower people of different faiths and of no faiths to have their faiths inform their medical and healthcare decisions for themselves.
RW: When those decisions affect the broader community, though, the decision not to vaccinate can make kids who are vulnerable, and who can’t be vaccinated, more vulnerable.
JP: Yeah, and that’s one of the reasons that we’ve chosen to elevate this as a goal of our dministration, to increase the vaccination rate. And we really are looking at models that have worked in other states that we think could work here around public awareness, better notification. And I think we can do a better job having a rate that is sufficient to protect the public health. And, of course, allows parents of various faiths or various moral positions, to be free to make the best choices for their kids.
RW: There’s been a lot of conflict at the legislature this session. Senate Republicans sued Democrats over the way bills are read, not even over what they’re about. The Republicans won, by the way. And, according to the Denver Post, Senate Democrats rejected a key Republican’s request to sign on as a main sponsor of your marquis bill for full-day kindergarten. Are Democrats in the legislature managing their new power? They control both chambers. Are they managing it wisely?
JP: Well, I’m certainly, again, thrilled that free full-day kindergarten has strong bi-partisan support. In fact the lead sponsor in the state House is a Republican, Representative Jim Wilson of Salida is the lead on that. Almost all of our health care bills, reinsurance, the hospital transparency, public option or non-profit co-op option, all of those bills are bi-partisan, meaning Democrats and Republicans both co-sponsoring them. Not just voting for them but co-sponsoring them. So I’m excited to see in our big priorities a real bi-partisan alignment. And of course we’ve all watched what’s happened in the Senate here in the last week or two and I think you’ve seen kind of Republican obstruction. It’s their prerogative to have their word but I think they don’t help win over votes by doing that. I think they further alienate the majority and I think they will stay and do their work as long as they need to do their work so obstruction tactics kind of annoy folks, I get that. But they don’t actually stop bills. They just make everybody work longer and work as long as necessary to get what they need to done, whatever the votes are for or against.
RW: You call it obstruction, I suppose Republicans would say Democrats are run amok. They need to slow things down, they need to give amble notice for hearings. What do you say?
JP: Well of course people should have notice for hearings and have hearings, there’s been huge participation in some of these hearings. It’s been amazing to see people on all sides of issues come in and I mean there’s been hearings that have gone til midnight, one-two in the morning just because the legislators, again, both sides of the aisle, they’re committed to listening to the voice of Colorado residents and they’ve really maintained that tradition of doing that. So I mean they’ve had a process of, I don’t know if anybody keeps track of prior sessions but certainly in my memory, a huge number of people, maybe even a record of people have come down here and shared their opinion with legislators and committee.
RW: Governor, thanks for your time.
JP: Thank you.