Rep. Jared Polis Talks His First 100 Days And Winning Over Conservative Voters

June 27, 2018
Photo: Polis Primary Election Night
Longtime Rep. Jared Polis supporter Tom Parsons hugs the Democratic nominee for governor after Polis' victory speech.

If Democrat Jared Polis wins in November, the Boulder congressman would become the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the U.S. But there are nearly five months between now and election day, and the race for Colorado governor began Tuesday night as soon as Polis and Republican Walker Stapleton took the stages for their victory speeches.

Polis spoke to Colorado Matters by phone Tuesday night.

Highlights

On his first 100 days in office:

"We want to move forward with making sure preschool and kindergarten are available for every child. Of course, whether you're a Republican, or Independent, or a Democrat, when you're stuck in traffic you want a governor that's going to do something about it. I'm excited to have a very specific transportation plan, including our plan for Front Range Rail."

On whether or not he plans to raise taxes:

"We don't have any specific plans to. I think part of what is important for Colorado is keeping it affordable, and that mean more money in your pocket, right, so if we can help people who've had appreciation in their homes with their residential assessments going up, to have some relief on their taxes, that's a good thing. If we can provide relief to the middle class, and help people keep more of their paycheck, that's also a good thing because right now people are spending too much on healthcare, whether it's for prescription drugs, or for insurance."

On any policy similarities between Stapleton and President Trump:

"Well, if you look at Walker Stapleton's ads all he does is talk about how he completely agrees with Trump. I think what Colorado wants is a governor that will agree with Trump if he's doing something good for Colorado, and will take a stand against President Trump if he's coming after something we cherish, like our public lands, which are an important part of our identity as Coloradans, and also an important economic driver of all the jobs in the outdoor tourism and recreation industry."

Full Transcript

Ryan Warner: This is CPR News. I'm Ryan Warner. It wasn't even close. The Republican and Democratic nominees for governor won resoundingly in Tuesday's primaries. We are scheduled to sit down with the Republican Walker Stapleton tomorrow. He's currently state treasurer. This morning Democrat Jared Polis. If he wins in November, the Boulder Congressman will become the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the US. We spoke by phone just after his primary victory. Jared, thank you for being with us. 

Jared Polis: Thank you, Ryan. It's great to be on. I'm honored to be the Democratic nominee for governor. 

RW: What accomplishment would you hope to achieve say in your first 100 days as governor?

JP: Governor Hickenlooper leaves a strong legacy with a good economy. I think the next step is really to make it work for everybody, and make sure that we stand up and protect everything that makes Colorado special, our public lands, our parks, our open space. We want to move forward with making sure preschool and kindergarten are available for every child. Of course, whether you're a Republican, or Independent, or a Democrat, when you're stuck in traffic you want a governor that's going to do something about it. I'm excited to have a very specific transportation plan, including our plan for Front Range Rail. 

RW: In your first 100 days you would hope to achieve all those?

JP: Well, we'd have to start the groundwork of getting it done, Ryan, right? It doesn't get down by itself. The first 100 days will include the legislative session. Of course, we plan to make some progress on all of those issues during that first legislative session. 

RW: A victory in November may very well depend on convincing unaffiliateds, and maybe some Republicans to vote for you. Briefly, how do you sway them?

JP: First of all, I'm very excited that we've been talking to unaffiliated voters since day one of this campaign because thankfully the voters of this state now allow Independent voters to participate in these primary elections. We've had hundreds of events, hearing from thousands of voters, including Independent voters across the state. Now we're also taking the case to moderate Republicans, or to Republicans that may approve of some of the things that President Trump is doing, but don't want a governor that's beholden to him. I can certainly work with anybody, including President Trump, to move Colorado forward, but I'm in no way beholden to Trump, and when I disagree I'm not afraid to say it. 

RW: Is your implication there that Walker Stapleton is beholden to Trump?

JP: Well, if you look at Walker Stapleton's ads all he does is talk about how he completely agrees with Trump. I think what Colorado wants is a governor that will agree with Trump if he's doing something good for Colorado, and will take a stand against President Trump if he's coming after something we cherish, like our public lands, which are an important part of our identity as Coloradans, and also an important economic driver of all the jobs in the outdoor tourism and recreation industry. 

RW: So Walker Stapleton the Republican nominee for governor, in his victory speech made it pretty clear what his line of attack is going to be against you. He said, "Jared Polis will raise your taxes and fees at every opportunity." That's a rough paraphrasing, but the idea is fundamentally that taxpayers are going to be paying more under a Jared Polis administration. Will they?

JP: Well first of all, it shows his naivete in the fact that the only people who can even raise taxes in Colorado are the voters of the state. It's not part of the job description of governor, so he might not fully understand what a governor does. Second of all, we don't have any specific tax increases in our plans. In fact, we would love a way to help provide relief for instance, to homeowners and seniors that had appreciation in their homes, and have seen their appraised values go up, and their taxes have gone up. We think we can do more to actually address that, so people can stay in their homes with the rising costs of real estate. 

RW: Of course, a governor can raise fees. There are fees that have gone forward without the popular vote. Will those increase under a Jared Polis administration?

JP: We don't have any specific plans to. I think part of what is important for Colorado is keeping it affordable, and that mean more money in your pocket, right, so if we can help people who've had appreciation in their homes with their residential assessments going up, to have some relief on their taxes, that's a good thing. If we can provide relief to the middle class, and help people keep more of their paycheck, that's also a good thing because right now people are spending too much on healthcare, whether it's for prescription drugs, or for insurance. Our goal is for families to have more disposable money to spend on the things that they enjoy, raising their families, higher education, and having fun in beautiful Colorado. 

RW: If you want families to have more money, and you also want to reverse the Trump tax cuts, how do you square those two? This is something that Walker Stapleton has hit you on, you introduced a bill, in fact, in Congress to reverse the tax cuts. 

JP: This is the absurd thing with the Trump corporate tax giveaway, is Republicans talk all the time about cutting taxes, they don't even know how to do it. You'd think they'd at least be good at it. They did it in such a convoluted way that it actually raises taxes for many middle class Coloradan families because of the elimination of itemized deductions. Yes, some families pay a little less under the Trump plan, and some families pay a little bit more, but it is in no way, shape, or form a tax cut for the middle class. What our proposal was, is instead to provide relief for student loan debt. In fact, for the cost of the Republican corporate tax giveaway, we could wipe out all of the student debt in the country, and make college more affordable, and reduce our deficit or even cut taxes for the middle class. 

RW: Candidates do a lot of talking on the campaign trail, Jared Polis, I'd like you to tell me about a moment on this campaign in which you listened to a voter and perhaps changed your mind on an issue. 

JP: This has been, and as well the campaign going forward, a campaign of listening. I've heard from tens of thousands of voters first hand. What I learned about, frankly, are a lot of the local issues in each community, where is the traffic, what's the issue with the schools? It'll make me a better governor, and it's also made me a better person to hear about the pain and the loss that many Colorado families have gone through, including families who've lost loved ones to the opioid crisis. 

RW: You have largely self-funded your campaign to the tunes of millions of dollars, have you arrived at a figure that you're willing to spend into the general, and would you share it with us? 

JP: I'm excited that we have over 4,000 donors to this campaign, and what we've done, we're not taking any donations from individuals above $100, no corporate money, no PAC money, and what that means is, I won't be beholden to anybody but the people of this state. Standing up to the pharmaceutical industry to save money on prescription drugs, making sure that we get the best deal when we build infrastructure, because I'm not beholden to contractors. I think that's an important contrast in this election, and we certainly plan on continuing to have as many small donors as we can. 

RW: How much are you willing to spend of your own money on the race? 

JP: Again, I think that what voters want to see is a candidate and a governor that can be independent from the special interest. When I'm making decisions about roads and infrastructure, they'll know that I won't have to go with buddies who paved the way for my campaign. I'm able to have over 250 free grassroots events across the country, hearing from real people, rather than having dinner at a Denver steakhouse with ten millionaires every night. 

RW: You won't answer the question of how much you're willing to spend?

JP: Again, we have a people powered campaign with over 4,000 individual contributors. Frankly, my goal would be to double that. 

RW: What is one attribute of Walker Stapleton?

JP: One attribute? I don't know him well enough to know much about his attributes. I certainly know his policies are the wrong way for Colorado. He doesn't have any plans to make healthcare more affordable, he doesn't have any plans to help families stay in their homes with the rising cost of housing. He doesn't have any plans that I've seen to improve our schools, so we plan on running on a bold, optimistic vision of how we can make Colorado work even better for those of us who live here. 

RW: Jared Polis, thank you for being with us. 

JP: Thank you, Ryan. 

RW: Democrat Jared Polis won his party's nomination for governor. We're scheduled to sit down with the  Republican nominee, Walker Stapleton, tomorrow. I'm Ryan Warner, CPR News.