Last month, I interviewed Peggy Lamm for 5280. Over mineral water and coffee at the Avenue Grill, we spent two hours discussing everything from her early childhood to her passionate campaign for the 7th District Congressional seat being vacated by Bob Beauprez. Later, we followed up with a phone call. I came away very impressed with Peggy and in writing up a very short version of our discussion, I offered to interview her primary opponents.

Sure enough, I got an e-mail from Danielle at the Ed Perlmutter campaign . She said Ed would like to meet with me. This Tuesday, I interviewed Ed for two hours at the Starbucks at Republic Plaza. Once again, color me impressed. I’m glad I don’t live in the district and have to make a decision between them.

I’m also learning something about interviewing politicians. They tend to answer questions with a story and a history. I ended up with pages and pages of notes, and now face the task of distilling them into a short blogpost. In the interest of equal time, I’ll be following up soon with more of my conversation with Peggy Lamm.

I asked Ed, as I asked Peggy, how would he would describe the differences between them? His first response, without missing a beat, was he’d rather talk about the differences between him and Rick O’Donnell, the Republican candidate. But later on, he gave these distinctions:

  • His lifelong roots in the community
  • His more extensive experience as a legislator, including being Senator Pro Tem of the Senate
  • His proven leadership skills, including as co-chair of Colorado’s John Kerry campaign
  • He’s a proven winner with broad support across the political spectrum.

He detailed his record of support for the environment, gay and lesbian rights, public education, health care and workers’ rights, and provided me with news articles backing up his record. And he proudly recounted his support by local labor unions and his high ratings during his Senate tenure from the Colorado Conservation Voters.

I asked him about Peggy’s assertion that she’s more of a fighter who will stand up to Republicans while he’s more of a “go-along” kind of guy. That got his fighting spirit up. He said he gets along with people, he’s able to explain complicated issues and most importantly, he’s willing to listen to them. He said, with passion:

I’m a centrist, an independent thinker. I have no agenda. I like people. I want to make their lives better. But when there needs to be a fight, I’m a fighter. I’m a litigator. Fighting is about power, about having the majority to put values, philosophies and policies into place.

As an example, he talked about the time he ran down the Senate clock on House Bill 1262 that was hostile to workers’ rights by insisting the bill be read in its entirety. On gay and lesbian rights, he pointed out his support for hate crimes legislation and bills to extend domestic partnership rights.

There is not a bigoted bone in my body.

Ed was riled by what he said are attempts by others to label him as some kind of fundamentalist. He is half-Jewish and half-Christian, but considers himself a Christian, although not the born-again kind.

My faith is personal, it is not political. No one believes more strongly in the separation of church and state than I do.

If he’s elected, what will his his top priorities be?

  • To elect a Democratic speaker of the House
  • To have a responsive office for all constituents
  • To cut red tape

What issues are most important to him?

  • Renewable energy: For national security, we must be energy independent. For the environment, we must reduce carbon emissions. We need to create jobs, locally and nationally.
  • Balance the Budget: There must be no permanent tax cuts. We have to prioritize and focus on the issues that are most important. Stem cell research is one.
  • Health care: He supports the McCain/Salazar bill. He wants to be part of a commission to study the whole health care system. We need to keep pharmaceutical costs down by using our federal buying power. We need more accountability in billing.

Where is he on immigration reform? He supports the McCain/Kennedy proposal:

  • We need added border security
  • We need to enforce the laws we have and stiffen penalties against employers
  • For the undocumented workers who are here, they should be able to earn citizenship by paying taxes, learning English, and remaining law-abiding.

On crime: He supports the death penalty but opposes limits on death row inmates’ ability to challenge their convictions and sentences. On sentencing, the decision must be up to the judges and we shouldn’t “pigeonhole their discretion.” He fought against private prisons.

His bottom line:

At the end of the day, the guiding light on anything a legislator does is the Constitution.