Resume: Media tech business owner; former staffer for Ohio Sen. George Voinovich; former candidate for governor in 2018
Give me your 30-second elevator pitch: Why are you running?
Erik Underwood: I’m running for U.S. Senate because I’m tired of sending recycled voices to Washington. And the definition of insanity is repeating something and expecting a different result, and I’m the only one in this race that worked in the United State Senate—years ago—and I understand the process. And I really do have a way to fund a public option for healthcare and a plan to fund free college education and training. And I’m the only one in the field who’s able to navigate the process to submit those bills to the floor, so we can stop talking about these things and get it done.
What sets you apart from the other Democratic Party candidates?
What sets me apart from the other candidates is my drive and experience, and my energy, and also my vision for what can be done.
What is your top policy priority?
My top priority is DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals]. I’m tired of kicking that can down the road. It’s very important that we make these Dreamers United States citizens, and also to, at the same time, finally get immigration reform done. We have over 11 million people here in this country who are undocumented, and this is the country that they feel [is] where they belong. And we should welcome them with open arms and we should get it done. That’s what I want to do.
How would you ensure Colorado’s interests are met in Washington, D.C.?
Well, I fell in love with this state many years ago…and I’m going to take the values that I’ve learned, and the reasons why I fell in love with this state to Washington.
How would you work with an increasingly divided Senate?
Well, when I worked in the United States Senate, the Senator I worked for was George Voinovich, and he was a very moderate Republican who believes in working across the aisle. He was something of a mentor to me, and he told me many years ago…“Erik, the only way you’re going to be able to get something done is to know that we all live in this country together.” He used to work alongside Hillary Clinton when she was in the Senate, used to work alongside Joe Biden and Joe Lieberman, and others who were in the Senate at that time. They used to have dinner and go out for coffee together. That’s missing in the United States Senate. You can work across the aisle without sacrificing your morals and your values. And you can be resolute in an issue, but also know how to compromise.
What is something voters might not know about you?
I come from a single parent household. I lived in three housing projects and my mom had six children (two sets of twins, and I’m a twin myself). I’m the oldest, and leadership started for me at a very young age when I had to be a surrogate father to my siblings. When I got shot at when I was living in this housing project in Atlanta when I was a teenager, I went off to live with a white family in Pennsylvania for a while, the Clark family, who I met years earlier in a Big Brothers Big Sisters program. The Clark family were a multi-million dollar family. They owned a company called SMP in Pennsylvania and they produced titanium. They taught me a lot about business. They taught me a lot about family. And they gave me a new dynamic on what’s possible here in this country. And I got to live in two different worlds.
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?
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Coors Banquet Beer or a Colorado craft brew?
Colorado craft brew
Hike a fourteener or raft the Arkansas River?
Raft the Arkansas River
Fall foliage or wildflower season?
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve or Rocky Mountain National Park?
Rocky Mountain National Park
Wyoming or Utah?
Editor’s note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity. This interview was conducted in January, after the initial publication of this package.