Editor’s Note: Dan Baer suspended his Senate campaign on September 12, 2019, and endorsed John Hickenlooper.
Resume: Former executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education; served as a U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) and as the deputy assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration
Give me your 30-second elevator pitch: Why are you running?
Dan Baer: I’m running because I think the most existential threat in our political system right now is the cynicism that Mitch McConnell, Cory Gardner, and Donald Trump have engineered, and the idea that we might be inclined or tempted to give up on the possibility of making progress in politics. I’m running because people like me, who have a record of public service but are not career politicians and haven’t held elected office, are winning across the country. I think that’s because people are yearning for fresh voices, because it’s those people who are in it to make politics deliver for people rather than to advance a personal career.
What sets you apart from the other Democratic Party candidates?
When you’ve represented our country overseas, you have a sense we’re all in this together. We need candidates who are committed to the idea that you represent everybody in the state of Colorado, not just the people who voted for you. That’s why I started my campaign by visiting Yuma and spending the day on a farm and understanding the challenges that they face. They’re mostly Republican, and I don’t know if they’re up for grabs in the election, but if I get elected to the Senate, I sure as hell want to represent the farmers of Yuma, as well as the teacher in Denver, as well as the small manufacturer in Grand Junction, and the outdoor industry worker in Durango.
What is your top policy priority?
One is getting money out of politics and tackling the role of corporate money in politics. If we don’t tackle the corrupting effects of corporate money in our politics, it makes getting anything else done harder and, possibly, impossible. The second is tackling climate change, because if we don’t tackle the existential challenge of climate change, nothing else matters. And that’s not to say that other policy issues aren’t important, but those two—one is about getting everything else done and the other is about solving the one thing that could make nothing else matter.
How would you ensure Colorado’s interests are met in Washington, D.C.?
I think it’s important that Coloradans have a representative in Washington who will be looking out for their interests and who knows how to do that effectively from the U.S. Senate. I’ve been held accountable by U.S. senators; I’ve traveled with U.S. senators; I’ve watched them do their job. I believe I am better positioned to serve Colorado on day one, to hold the Executive Branch accountable, and to negotiate and advance legislation that will deliver for Coloradans everyday.
How would you work with an increasingly divided Senate?
In my last job in the Obama administration, I was the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) in Europe, where there are 56 other member states that, depending on the issue, are difficult to get on board, and we decided everything by consensus. This was at a time when Russia was invading Ukraine; human rights violations in Russia were on the rise; there were political killings. Every Thursday, I spoke in no uncertain terms about Russia’s violations of international law and their attacks on human rights. And yet, in order to get anything through the OSCE, I spent four years negotiating with the Russians. I’m confident that I can negotiate with Republicans in Washington to get things done on behalf of Coloradans without sacrificing the need to stand up for the fundamental values the Republican Party, unfortunately, has so blatantly betrayed in the last few years.
What is something voters might not know about you?
Voters might not know that I am the son of a former school teacher who grew up in Littleton. I was 15 when Amendment 2 passed (Ed note: The amendment prohibited state and local governments from giving protected status based on sexual orientation) and that was a seismic event in my life. They might not know that the first degree or certificate that I earned after high school was a degree in ranching skills, because I went to a technical college to learn how to be a cowboy. They might not know that I was my college mascot [at Harvard]. I’m the oldest of four. My youngest brother, Lyle, was a foster child, and that has shaped my view of the role of government in making sure we create an education system and a social system that gives everybody the chance to pursue their happiness.
Now for the lightning round….Pick one:
Broncos or Rockies?
I-25 or I-70?
National Western Stock Show or a show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre?
Coors Banquet beer or a Colorado craft brew?
Hike a fourteener or raft the Arkansas River?
Fall foliage or wildflower season?
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve or Rocky Mountain National Park?
Wyoming or Utah?
Editor’s note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.