Does Polis care about his party?
I was surprised to learn this week that my friend Josh Penry, Time magazine and I agreed on something. First surprise – Time magazine’s still in business? I know, who knew? My impression was that they had declared the electric car the Person of the Century and joined Look magazine in publishing’s rear-view mirror. Next someone will tell me that Newsweek is still in business.
The online magazine had a surprisingly perceptive piece on Congressman Jared Polis’ (D-Neptune, I mean Boulder) push to place anti-fracking referendums on Colorado’s November ballot. The author, touching on some of the topics my compadre Josh mentioned here on Friday, went further to point out that state and national Democrat figures are very concerned that having these referendums on the ballot could cost the Democrats the U.S. Senate and possibly the Colorado governor’s mansion.
Steve McMahon, Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign manager, is quoted as saying, “The concern among many Democrats is that the ballot initiatives that we’re talking about are very very appealing the farther left you go; troubling at the center; and on the right, they are turnout machines.” The author of the piece, Jay Newton-Small, suggests national Democratic leaders have been privately urging the Boulder congressman to withdraw the referendums to help save increasingly embattled Colorado Sen. Mark Udall.
Polis, as you know, is an Internet multimillionaire who founded a number of web-based businesses, mainly bluemountainarts.com, a web-based greeting card company he founded with his parents and reportedly sold for $780 million. Sort of a mini-Michael Bloomberg.
Like Bloomberg, he doesn’t have to worry about fundraising, and, unless someone like Bill Gates runs against him, he’ll just outspend any opponents. Reportedly, Polis started getting interested in this fracking business when he tried to get Encana to move an operation in his district.
I’m not one of those people who thinks he’s hot on this topic partly because he wasn’t personally happy with a big oil company. Wait a minute — I may think that.
This is making Colorado Democrats nervous enough that they’ve tried to get Gov. John Hickenlooper to craft some sort of legislative compromise to keep Polis from pushing the initiatives onto the ballot. As usual, Hickenlooper’s relationship with the Legislature, albeit Democrat-controlled, has resulted in pretty much nothing, and odds are we’ll see some anti-fracking initiatives in the election.
The petroleum producers, whose efforts in Colorado have been reported to produce about $29 billion a year in economic activity, have predicted that the referendums, as they now appear, could cut fracking activity in the state anywhere from 50 to 100 percent.
This would mean that, outside of Weld County, most of the economic impact would be felt on the Western Slope, which most people in Boulder know only as somewhere behind the Flatirons.
As I’ve mentioned before, this November’s election is especially about turnout of conservative and libertarian voters. Ballot referendums easily seen to directly affect many of the higher-paying jobs in the area are clearly going to draw more voters to the polls.
When they get there it’s unlikely they’re going to vote for Polis’s congressional predecessor, Udall, or the increasingly blundering Hickenlooper. Even a very close election would probably hurt Hickenlooper’s chance to see himself as No. 2 on the 2016 Democratic presidential ticket, even though he seems well suited to fill Joe Biden’s loafers.
The situation underlines what has been a growing problem in the state — that a small geographic area of voters along the Boulder-to-Littleton corridor can have a dramatic influence on things that are important to half of the state they have little interaction with — over an industry they mostly don’t understand and with little visible impact to their eyes.
Jobs created in Denver, as part of the energy industry, don’t usually involve the visible signs of tired guys wearing insulated coveralls, driving company pickups home after seven days to 10 days in the field.
One small ray of light is that one of the most onerous proposed initiatives didn’t gather enough signatures this week, but there’s still a bunch to go.
It’ll take a solidified voting bloc in November to get some of these guys to look over the mountains — to what’s happening here.
Rick Wagner writes more about politics on his blog, The War on Wrong.