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Jared Polis weighs in on the death penalty, Prop 112, and being America's first openly gay governor

Colorado Governor-Elect Jared Polis discussed being Colorado's first openly-gay governor, the death penalty and oil and gas setbacks during a sit-down interview with 9NEWS.

KUSA — Governor-Elect Jared Polis sat down with Kyle Clark Wednesday to discuss his historic victory in Tuesday night’s election.

Polis will be the nation’s first openly gay governor.

During a 10-minute conversation with 9NEWS, he weighed in on the death penalty, whether he would accept a request from President Donald Trump to send Colorado National Guard troops overseas, and an election where Democrats had an overwhelming victory in Colorado.


The success of Democrats but the failure of Prop 112, tax increases

Colorado voters chose Democrats to fill the state’s major offices while at the same time saying no to tax increases or restrictions on the oil and gas industry.

Polis said he did not see a disconnect between these two outcomes.

“Those are not things that I was running on or supported either,” he said. “I think there are Democrats and Republicans who fall on both sides of those.”

Among the most notable results was the failure of Proposition 112, which would have mandated a 2,500 buffer zone between oil and gas development and “occupied structures” or “vulnerable areas.” The oil and gas industry spent $40 million campaigning against the proposition.

RELATED | Democrat Jared Polis defeats Republican Walker Stapleton to become Colorado's next governor

Polis has advocated for a 2,000-foot setback in the past, but during his interview with 9NEWS, said he also believes there should be more “stability” for the oil and gas industry in Colorado.

“It’s not just the environmental community and neighbors that are effected, I think the oil and gas industry should be there to solve it too,” Polis said.

The death penalty

The same day Polis was elected, Chris Watts – who was accused of killing his pregnant wife and two young daughters – accepted a plea deal to avoid the possibility of the death penalty.

In a news conference, Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke argued that it wasn’t worth it to pursue the death penalty in Colorado given that no one has been executed since 1997.

Polis has said that he would sign a repeal of the death penalty, and in his interview with 9NEWS, argued that he would sign a bill to abolish the death penalty should the legislature present it to him.

“I feel it’s not cost effective, it’s not an effective deterrent, and you know I do have a problem with some of the ways it’s been implemented from a racial bias perspective as well,” Polis said.

The governor-elect pointed to the fact that the three people currently on death row in Colorado are African-American as proof of this racial discrepancy – especially since the white Aurora theater shooter received life in prison.

On being America’s first gay governor

The fact that Polis is openly gay was not a point of discussion during the campaign but was something numerous national media outlets highlighted during his victory.

“When it comes to fixing our traffic and our roads, it doesn’t really matter if you’re gay or straight,” Polis said.

He said he thinks it’s a “point of pride for Colorado” that it is an inclusive state, and pointed to the fact it also elected the nation’s first Native American senator.


Polis said he was “absolutely” willing to keep the provision in what’s known as the Taxpayers Bill of Rights to allow Coloradans to vote on tax increases.

Trump and the National Guard

In the past, Polis said he would refuse to allow President Donald Trump to send the Colorado National Guard to the Mexico border – prompting a hypothetical question about whether he would deny a request to send those same troops overseas.

“I didn’t personally support the Iraq War, but I still would have responded to the Commander in Chief’s call for Colorado National Guard units to play the role that they did,” Polis said.

RELATED | Jared Polis: His closing arguments to undecided voters

On what he’s least prepared for

While Gov. John Hickenlooper has said learning about cybersecurity was the hardest part of the job for him, Polis said that’s his background.

For him, he said the hardest part will be translating his vision for Colorado into reality.

“We know that that’s a challenge and we’re going to have to learn a lot about working effectively with both sides to make sure we get stuff done,” Polis said.

RELATED | The one thing that surprised Hickenlooper the most while in office

On moving into the governor’s mansion

Polis said he doesn’t know whether his family will move into the governor’s mansion, and that plans currently aren’t in place.

He did say he would likely spend some nights there during the legislative session.

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