PEOPLE, Colo. – The governor. jared cops (D) is running for re-election on Tuesday.
But unless you’re reading the local news, you may not have heard about it. That is, at least in part, because the race is not very competitive. Polis projected to defeat Republican challenger Heidi Ganahl by a wide margin.
Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected governor of a state, has quietly become one of the most unique figures in Democratic politics.
Polis, a former member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus during his decade in the House of Representatives, has won praise from progressives for expanding kindergarten in Colorado and creating a universal preschool program. But he has also received credit from conservatives for opposing income taxes and avoiding the strict COVID-19 public health policies of some other Democratic-led states.
HuffPost briefly met with Polis before he spoke at a political rally at a historic Pueblo train station on October 30. We discuss his efforts to lower the cost of living in Colorado, his political response to the pandemic, and whether he supports a second term for president. Joe Biden.
Below is a transcript of that interview, condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Polls suggest she is on track to defeat Republican challenger Heidi Ganahl by double digits. Why does she have such broad appeal across the ideological spectrum?
I want to stay focused on results. For me State of the State Address About a year ago, I sang a variation of a famous song by paul simon, “50 ways to save money”. And we’ve done over 100 things to save people money.
Because whether people are Republicans or Democrats, they want the government to do everything it can to lower fees and costs, free preschool and kindergarten, limit the out-of-pocket cost of insulin, lower the tax on rent, downsize property, just practical things that people want to accomplish right now, which is, “Costs are going up. We want you to do something about it.” We did everything possible to get ahead.
Many conservatives have I praised you for differing from other Democrats in his approach to COVID-19 restrictions and mandates. That includes rejecting calls for a statewide vaccination mandate. Explain to me your opinion on that and if you think other Democrats might have made mistakes by going too far in the other direction.
We have leaned toward individual responsibility in Colorado, which is very consistent with our culture as a state. We are a fiercely independent state that values our freedom. And people make the right decisions when you do your best to give them good information. So we focused on getting good information about the benefits of the vaccine and the importance of wearing masks.
But we really trust people and communities because we’re also a very diverse state, and there are areas that experienced the pandemic that are as diverse as Boulder, Pueblo, and Sterling, and handled it in different ways. And we were really supportive in every way, because there were people on the ground with good will trying to do their best to balance the public support needed to take the necessary steps to protect people’s lives.
I ask this in part because in September, President Biden came out and said, “The pandemic is over.” And then the White House downplayed the comments.
We ended all sanitary measures a year before that announcement. Because we feel like people have the information they need to make their own smart decisions about whether to go out to concerts, whether to wear masks, whether to get vaccinated. We have one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, and as a direct result, we have the eighth lowest death rate in the country from COVID. [The state currently ranks a bit higher in COVID-19 deaths per capita.]
Yet have some Democrats made mistakes by keeping schools closed too long or firing city and state employees who refused to get vaccinated?
I would focus on how some Republicans leaned toward empowering those who had misinformation or misinformation about [vaccines.] So we always spoke directly to the people of Colorado every week with the best up-to-date science so people could protect themselves. And then we lean towards individual responsibility.
So we had a great tourism season in 2020. Our outdoor areas, our ski areas had a record year.
We were before with our children back to school. Many schools wore masks, not all. But a lot of them wanted to do that for the convenience of their teachers coming back, the big metropolitan districts did. But we were really focused on getting our kids back to school early.
Democrats face backlash for implementing some criminal justice reform policies, such as restricting cash bail and decriminalizing hard drugs, which people blame for fueling or worsening the current crime wave. Are the critics right?
Some of the highest crime states in the country happen to be Republican states. But it really is a national trend.
In Colorado, me and the Democrats and Republicans, in a bipartisan way, are figuring it out. In addition to 50 ways to save people money, we also have a plan to make Colorado one of the 10 safest states. And we’re doing it through record investment in policing and youth diversion programs, especially to help police departments and sheriff’s departments recruit and retain law enforcement, which is the biggest challenge in this moment. It is a challenge in many sectors, but especially in law enforcement.
Do you see addressing income inequality as part of your mission as Governor of Colorado?
We seek to save people money. They are things like free universal preschool, which starts this year, and universal kindergarten. When you look at preschool and kindergarten, if you’re very low income, in most cases you’ve already made it. Who didn’t get it? The middle class The rich could afford it.
So we wanted it to be universal to make sure that every child, no matter where they live in the state, no matter what their parents’ financial need, can get off to a good start.
Some people think that TABOR [a Colorado law requiring a referendum anytime the legislature wants to raise revenue above a preset level] wife to the state by limiting the ability to raise more progressive revenue. How do you feel about that?
That didn’t stop us from doing a full-day universal kindergarten. We went to the ballot when we did preschool. He obtained 67.8% of the votes.
As HuffPost asked Polis about TABOR, Colorado State Treasurer Dave Young criticized the law in his remarks to the assembled Democrats. “We need to replace TABOR with sound fiscal policy so everyone pays their fair share!” he declared himself to the applause of the crowd.
Polis responded to Young in real time.
He’s talking about it in the abstract, but what he means is he’s talking to the voters, and the voters have been very good at approving funding for things that are needed in our state, like universal preschool.
Do you still think there should be no income tax?
Yeah, I’m not a fan of income tax. We have the opportunity to cut income tax on the ballot this year. I support that. It’s hard to get tax cuts from the legislature for income taxes. So we’re heading straight to the people of Colorado and hopefully we’ll get it in November.
Do you support Biden’s re-election?
Well, you’re getting ahead of yourself there.
Well, would you support him if he announced that he was running for a second term?
I support whoever can stop Donald Trump, who I see as an existential threat to our democracy.
Has anything shifted to the center since your time at the House?
I am who I am. I enjoyed serving in the House for 10 years. I was in the Coalition of New Democrats, the Freedom Caucus, the Progressive Caucus. I worked in all the groups I could to get things done.