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Editor’s Note: Mike Johnston suspended his Senate campaign on September 3, 2019.
Resume: Former state senator; served as an education policy advisor for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign; former school principal; former teacher; and former gubernatorial candidate (2018)
Give me your 30-second elevator pitch: Why are you running?
Mike Johnston: I am running for the U.S. Senate because I think I’m the only candidate in this race with the record both inside and outside of government of actually running at the hardest problems and delivering big progressive results. And I’ve done that as a teacher, I’ve done that as a school principal, I’ve done that as a state senator, and I look forward to doing that as a U.S. senator.
What sets you apart from the other Democratic Party candidates?
I think I’m the only one who has a proven record, again, both inside and outside of government, of being able to run at hard problems and be able to deliver progressive results. That was when I was a school teacher and school principal [and] turned around low-performing schools, took a school with an almost 50 percent dropout rate [and turned it] into the first public high school in Colorado where 100 percent of our seniors graduated and got into four-year colleges. Or [getting big] results taking on the NRA twice and beating them. Or whether it was delivering big results on climate, or on immigration, or on health care.
What is your top policy priority?
For me, the single most important issue to work on is the existential crisis of our time, [the] climate crisis. So I think for me, it’s about how do we take aggressive action to move the country toward a 100 percent clean-energy economy by 2040? I’ve been calling for that for years, and I think that we can really deliver on a plan that will both create jobs and will protect the environment—and will make Colorado a beautiful place for people to enjoy for generations to come.
How would you ensure Colorado’s interests are met in Washington, D.C.?
I think that is what people are looking for, [a] senator who can actually deliver results for the state of Colorado. What people have right now in Cory Gardner is someone who has actually run away from the hardest problems….I think the key is you’ve just got to focus on the issues that matter most to Colorado and stand up to people who are serving other interests. That’s why I’m not taking any PAC money, not taking any special-interest money. It’s just people who are going to support our campaign and focus on the issues that Coloradans care most about.
How would you work with an increasingly divided Senate?
It is about being laser focused on the things that matter most to Coloradans, and for me that is the climate crisis, that is affordable health care, that is immigration reform, and that is common-sense gun policy, but then it’s also about being able to work with people on the other side of the aisle to deliver the progressive results we care about. We can’t compromise on values. If you look at what’s happening at the border or you look at what’s happening on a woman’s right to choose, you can’t compromise on those things, but we have to be able to find ways to build coalitions for those results.
What is something voters might not know about you?
They might not know that I was a schoolteacher and a school principal before I got into politics. They might not know that I grew up on the Western Slope of Colorado or that I’m a fluent Spanish speaker. All different parts of my background that have been helpful to me along the way, but are probably different from most other people in the field.
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?
Colorado craft brew
Hike a fourteener or raft the Arkansas River?
Raft the Arkansas
Fall foliage or wildflower season?
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve or Rocky Mountain National Park?
Great Sand Dunes
Wyoming or Utah?
Editor’s note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.