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Voter Guide 2018: Meet Democratic candidate for governor Jared Polis

Jared Polis is a Democrat running for governor of Colorado. The 43-year-old entrepreneur from Boulder has often focused on education policy and universal health care.
Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 12: Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) joins veterans, servicemembers and aspiring recruits to call on Congress and President Barack Obama to move forward with immigration reform at the U.S. Capitol November 12, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Jared Polis is a Democrat running for governor of Colorado. He has served as U.S. Representative for Colorado’s 2nd congressional district since 2009. He has chosen Dianne Primavera, a former state representative, as his running mate for lieutenant governor.

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Polis, 43, is a multi-millionaire entrepreneur from Boulder who started several successful technology companies, some while attending Princeton, where he earned a B.A. in politics. The sales of those companies made Polis wealthy. His net worth was estimated at almost $400 million in 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

WATCH | After months of campaigning, Jared Polis' closing arguments to voters

Philanthropist and education policy work

Polis has used this wealth to focus on education philanthropy and education policy. He served on the Colorado State Board of Education from 2001 to 2007. In 2000, he founded the Jared Polis Foundation to “support educators, increase access to technology and strengthening our community” throughout Colorado, according to the organization’s mission statement.

Polis has founded three charter schools and a post-secondary education school that serve low-income and immigrant students in Colorado.

Campaign war chest

Polis has also used his own wealth to fund his various election campaigns. He spent $1,000,000 to win his race for the State Board of Education. When he first ran for Congress in 2008, he spent $6,000,000

He has contributed almost $20,000,000 of his own money to his campaign for governor, according to the most recent Secretary of State data.

While he has bankrolled the lion’s share of his campaign war chest, Polis is limiting individual campaign contributions to $100, and he is refusing money from political action committees.

Polis has been a dedicated supporter of Democratic candidates and local Democratic Party committees throughout Colorado. Colorado Secretary of State records show Polis has donated about $1,000,000 to those candidates and groups since 2010.

Oil & Gas Development: From opponent to reluctant supporter

Polis was once a regular critic of oil and gas development in Colorado, in the period when hydraulic fracturing was gaining momentum in Colorado. He lobbied for increased regulation of fracking on environmental and health grounds, and supported local control of oil and gas development.

In 2014 Polis bankrolled two anti-fracking ballot initiatives. One measure would have increased the distance that oil and gas infrastructure can be from home and schools. The other would have allowed communities increased local control.

Then, in a dramatic reversal, just hours before a deadline to turn in petition signatures to the Secretary of State for review, Polis withdrew support for the measures.

As a candidate for governor, he has expressed support for measured oil and gas development, and stated his opposition to Amendment 112, which would create setbacks of 2,500 feet for most new oil and gas development in Colorado. Polis opposes 112 because the measure does not include surface use agreements.

His shifting positions on oil and gas development have both environmentalists and the energy industry eyeing him with suspicion.

Universal Health Care

Polis is a passionate supporter of universal health care, calling access to health care a human right. He said states must be leaders in finding ways to improve access to care and lower costs. He has toured Colorado to discuss health care with citizens.

He has advocated for “Medicare for All,” saying it would reduce costs and expand health coverage to more people.

“The route to saving money is expanding coverage, and the path to expanding coverage is reducing costs,” Polis told Westword in August. “The two go hand in hand.”

Primavera, his running mate for lieutenant governor, is a long-time health care advocate and executive. She served on the public health care, human services and health insurance committees in the state legislature. She is a breast cancer survivor who was CEO of the Susan G. Komen Colorado foundation until July, when she resigned to campaign with Polis.

The ‘Marriage-juana Platform’

Polis coined the term “marriage-juana platform,” in a 2015 op-ed article he penned in the Advocate, to describe his positions on marijuana and same-sex marriage.

Polis supports states’ rights to legalize and regulate marijuana. He is leader of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, which wants to establish a “more rational approach to federal cannabis policy.” He introduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which would drop cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug.

Polis is gay and has been a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights. He supported same-sex marriage long before the issue was popular, much less a legal possibility. If elected, he would become the country’s first openly gay governor. Polis and his longtime partner Marlon Reis have a young son and daughter.

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