Some personal news - I'm running for Congress!

Statement on suspending my campaign

Today I am making the difficult decision to end my campaign to be the U.S. Representative from the Third Congressional District in Colorado.

Yesterday I received word that the number of signatures I turned in was short by 123 out of the 1,500 needed. I spent some time looking at the history of court challenges when this has happened to others in Colorado, and I think that if I fought this decision, I would almost certainly win.

But getting that notice forced me to step back and look at a couple of key facts:

The first fact is that when I got into this race there were five or six serious candidates on the Democratic side. Two more joined after I got in. If all of them had gotten on the ballot, I think my — admittedly unconventional — campaign would have a chance at winning. 

Then two things happened that I didn’t see coming:

  1. Five candidates tried, but failed, to even get enough signatures to turn in.
  2. Only one candidate emerged from the assembly.

There’s a lot to say about what happened there, but the bottom line is that now if I did get on the ballot given the choices now available, my chances of winning with an unconventional campaign go way down. It’s possible in the sense that anything is possible, but it doesn’t seem likely.

The second key fact I had to face head-on is the reality of challenging the ruling on the signatures from the Secretary of State’s office.

While I do think I would win, the winning would come at a price. That price would not only be the money that I would spend on legal fees and court costs (which would be substantial), but it would also come at a price in time. There are now just nine weeks left before voting starts in the primary, and the challenge would essentially eat up at least two of them. 

And in the game of perceptions, it wouldn’t look great. Somehow I wouldn’t look better than the the five campaigns that tried and failed to get enough petitions to turn in. Instead, I would just be the one guy who had to go to court to get on the ballot.

Perhaps that’s a big part of why the people in recent Colorado history who have successfully challenged the Secretary of State’s office on their petitions went on to lose in their primaries.

(On another day maybe I’ll write a post about changes that are needed to the system of getting on the ballot in Colorado. Chief among them is the fact that they changed the law so that voters can now declare themselves unaffiliated and still vote in either primary, but they did not change the law to make it so that those same unaffiliated voters can sign petitions for a candidate for either party. This dramatically reduced the number of possible signers of my petitions.)

When I started writing this post at 4:30 a.m., I was feeling pretty low. The sun’s still not up, but I’m now starting to feel a wave of gratitude.

My wife, Kathy, has been beyond patient and loving. She told me that when she married me she knew things would be interesting, and here we are 20 years later and they are getting more interesting than ever. One small silver lining of getting out of this race is that now instead of spending our 20th anniversary volunteering at the Bingo hall in Pueblo (that’s where I was when I got the email from the Secretary of State) we can actually be together at a nice place to eat… a place with tablecloths, maybe with palm trees nearby.

All of my family was fantastic in ways large and small, and they all meant a great deal. My son came home from college for a weekend and got signatures. My sister took time away from family and was a dynamo in Grand Junction. My nephew took a week out from his life and did an amazing job in Durango. 

And some very dear friends grabbed a clipboard and worked so very hard for me. It was awe-inspiring.

I also had the good luck to hire the best campaign staffer ever, a guy who wasn’t political at all before this, and probably won’t be after. That’s too bad because Chris Garcia really should be the mayor of Pueblo. There’s nobody who is a harder or more loyal worker than Chris.

And to all those who donated advice, time, money, encouragement and love, well, I can’t say thank you enough.

Two other notes of thanks:

To the people of Pueblo: Thanks. I wasn’t sure how you would feel about someone moving in. To a person, everyone was great and welcoming. There’s so much that’s great about Pueblo and it’s a fantastic place to live.

And second is to all those who took time to talk to me either at events, or when I was gathering signatures. I ended up getting more than 500 signatures myself in 15 different counties. People were so gracious and encouraging and grateful to me for getting into this race in the first place. It gave me hope in democracy.

The thing that got the most attention in my campaign was my signature issue of fixing Daylight Saving Time. That was the hook.

When I told the Wall St. Journal that I get high-fives when tell people my signature issue, the reporter laughed and then published that fact. I’m sure I’m the only candidate in the country that gets a reaction like that.

Very quickly people realized that the overall theme of the campaign was that our politics is broken, and we need to focus on what we can do together as a way of getting things fixed.

In forums and in the press I pointed out very clearly that the strategy of just attacking the other side is a losing strategy, and I hope that message has made a bit of difference. I think maybe it has, just a bit. I noticed, for instance, in this collection of answers compiled by the Durango Herald, that the remaining Democratic candidates seemed perhaps just a bit more focussed on answers and less on attacking the incumbent. Maybe I helped nudge them a bit in that direction? Hard to say, but I hope so, and I hope that trend continues.

One of the other things I learned talking to all of those people while gathering signatures is that the feelings about the incumbent are completely baked in. There is nothing that anyone can say that will make any difference to any voter about her. Her actions and her words have cemented a crystal clear picture of who she is, so highlighting them only serves to further coarsen the conversation.

I will remember so many people after all this, and so many of the gatherings. For some reason this morning the one that is jumping to mind was the regular meeting of the Pueblo Chile Growers Association that I got to attend in March. Sitting around the picnic table inside the farm store with these men and women — some of whom were coming to the meeting straight from working their land — was nothing short of exhilarating for me. There were no topics discussed that would make it on to a cable news show, just genuine stuff that goes into their daily lives.

And if you are a person who eats food, you’ll be glad to know that there are people who care about that food, the land, and about all of the pieces of the puzzle that make all that possible.

Coming up short on the number of the petition requirements sucks for me, personally, but the larger goal remains. Our politics has never been idyllic; I have read some history books, and I do get that. But politics as a whole is broken so dramatically right now, somehow I feel like the solution lies hidden in groups like Pueblo Chile Growers, and so many other of the individuals, families, and small organizations doing what they are doing and succeeding.

Politics as an industry relies on outrage, and works hard to keep anyone out who is not fueled by anger, resentment and fear. I ran into that buzzsaw and got shredded in the process.

But the thing that got me into politics — the underlying belief that politics could actually be a force for good — was strengthened. Exactly what form that will take is not clear to me. I know that it’s not going to happen without a lot of hard work and creative thinking, but I do think that it’s possible.

Maybe I’ll be able to figure out some way to help see that happen, but first I need a nap.