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As the Democratic Party’s fate grows increasingly uncertain this midterm election season, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) says he remains resilient in a notoriously “purplish” state by focusing on the empowerment of individual voters.
“Colorado is a very independently minded, freedom-oriented state, and they don’t want Republicans or Democrats telling them what to do,” Polis told The Hill.
“They value accurate information, they value facts, and people should be empowered to make their own decisions, whether that’s marijuana, whether it’s wearing a mask — we’re a state that values freedom.”
While Polis was quick to affirm that he has no magic recipe for races in other purplish or red states, he pointed to a national imperative to save Americans money amid rising costs, and to ensure that they feel free to act on their own volition.
During his three years as governor, Polis has gained popularity not only in Colorado but also on a national scale — particularly for his pandemic-era policies that have favored voluntary incentives rather than government-issued mandates.
Prior to taking office in January 2019 — becoming both the first openly gay man and first Jewish person to lead the Centennial State — the former tech entrepreneur served five terms in Congress, where he was among the top three richest members.
This November, 36 governorships, including Polis’s, are up for grabs, alongside all 435 House seats and 35 Senate seats. Colorado’s Republican primary takes place on June 28, with several candidates vying to take on the Democratic incumbent.
Thus far, however, most projections forecast Polis’s reelection. A February Denver Post story described the governor as “more popular in Colorado than his State Capitol colleagues and President Joe Biden,” citing data from the Republican State Leadership Commission.
That data, release by the polling firm Cygnal, showed negative net favorability ratings for Democratic Coloradan state legislators, at a net negative 13.1 percent, for Biden, at negative 14.5 percent, and for elected Democrats in Washington, at negative 19 percent, according to the Post. But Polis landed a net favorability of 6.6 percent.
Asked about the country’s political divisions, Polis said that he still believes that “both parties are broad tents,” although he described “an ascendancy in the Republican Party” of efforts to “manage everybody’s lives.”
“I don’t think it plays well with voters,” he said.
Although Democrats are also facing internal divisions, Polis, who married last year, said he feels the party still supports “personal freedom, whether it’s choice for a woman, whether it’s ability to live your life as you want, as who you are, as who you love.”
“And that’s a core American value,” he added.
Polis expressed confidence in his Democratic colleagues in the midterms, saying there are “terrific candidates across the country working hard,” trying to help people hold onto their income and improve their quality of life.
To ensure that this strategy remains “a winning message,” he suggested that candidates continue to speak on local issues of importance. In Colorado, for example, that could mean prioritizing wildfire preparedness, he added.
“That might not be the same in Maryland or in other states,” Polis said.
“There’s going to be a national backdrop of saving people money and costs, but that by no means diminishes from local issues — where you stand on a particular road project and what you’re going to get done for your community,” the governor continued.
Democrats who “espouse responsibility and empowerment,” could see voters “flocking from the Republican Party,” if the GOP continues “telling them how to live their lives and when and if they can have children,” according to Polis.
Asked his views on the potential repeal of one Trump-era dictate, the Title 42 border management policy, Polis first emphasized that Colorado is “not a border state.”
Title 42, which enables officials to expel foreign nationals quickly under pandemic rules, was supposed to end last week, but a federal judge appointed by former President Trump temporarily halted the rollback.
While Polis did not comment further on that specific policy, he said that officials in Colorado have been careful “to end any emergency actions related to the pandemic as quickly as possible.”
“We ended the state of emergency quite a while ago,” he said, acknowledging that some non-emergency health care measures are still in place.
“Voters in general and the people of the country don’t want the pandemic used as an excuse for overreaching government control in other areas,” he said.
Nationwide, Polis maintained that “the biggest challenge people face right now is rising costs.” Among the solutions he offered were a gas-tax suspension, a reduction of tariffs and fiscal responsibility.
Looking ahead at Biden’s prospects, Polis said that the current environment includes “a lot of strong economic indicators, economic growth, low unemployment.”
“Sometimes that takes a while to kind of catch up with people’s lives, and hopefully that’s occurring sooner rather than later,” he said.
One Biden administration triumph was November’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, which Polis said could address “a real need in a very forward-looking way.”
“It’s something that’s eluded the last three congresses and presidents, and finally, this Congress and President Biden got it done,” he said.
The governor said he believes that roads and bridges are something people do care about — particularly during an era in which reducing costs has become so important.
“It’s a strong thing to run on, for Democrats and for Republicans who supported it, wherever they are,” Polis said.
While the infrastructure bill was able to pass, Biden’s additional reconciliation package stalled out in the Senate following Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) opposition.
While the governor said he cares strongly about parts of the package, including funding for preschool, he has embraced the approach of “get done what you can get done.”
On the state level, Polis said some things he’s gotten done have included implementing the “biggest property tax cut in over 40 years” and distributing $500 refund checks to every Coloradan.
He also cited efforts to reduce costs in the ObamaCare-related health insurance exchange by more than 20 percent, as well as decrease costs for state park passes from $84 to $29.
“Colorado is a great place to live. People love the quality of life. There’s near full employment, people have jobs, but money doesn’t go as far as it used to,” he said.
“We want to help people hold on to more of their hard-earned money,” the governor added.
Countering media speculation about his political future, Polis said he has no intentions of running for president and doubts that he would “ever think about” doing so.
“I love Colorado, and frankly, being governor of Colorado, I feel, is the best job in the world,” Polis said. “I’d be deeply honored to do it for another four years.”