(Co-authored by El Presidente and Ben DeGrow)
We were privileged with the opportunity last Saturday to sit down and conduct an exclusive half-hour two-on-one interview with Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ryan Frazier (Frazier's two GOP primary contenders are Weld County district attorney Ken Buck and businessman Cleve Tidwell). The conversation was wide-ranging and informative. We left with a clearer picture of the candidate's vision and the campaign's direction.
We began by bringing up a recent article in The Hill that portrayed Frazier as part of a "band of centrists", and asked him what he thought of the characterization. He responded: "I'm Ryan Frazier, and I do what I believe to be right. I've never been much for labels.... I'll leave the labeling to the press." Though he did choose the word "principled" to describe his philosophy, he was fairly adamant about not being categorized into a box.
Nor did Frazier express any dismay that Beltway Republican Party bigwigs have taken a wait-and-see approach to his candidacy (all the better in light of NRSC's recent Florida endorsement): "I'm not really concerned about folks in Washington DC. I never expected to be their number one choice. As a matter of fact, I think that's why our candidacy can be so significant. Because we're not the establishment. We are a grassroots campaign.... I'm not as concerned about whether they think I'm a top choice."
Frazier added that his coalition building is anything but traditional for a Republican candidate in Colorado, as he stressed the bottom-line focus of his early campaign strategy: "It's building the base, period. That's my goal. And I'm not talking about just purely a Republican base. I have to build a Colorado base of support that spans Republicans, unaffiliateds, and Democrats....I'm going to take a very non-traditional route toward building the base." That route will be premised on “ideas and specific solutions” that rise above party affiliation.
Frazier also elaborated on the nature true grassroots movements in leading the resurgence of fiscally responsible, limited government, and individual freedom-inspired candidates nationwide. “What they represent is a movement, something that the center-right has not seen in some time,” Frazier explained. He continued, “This movement is critical to my campaign . . . but also critical to restoring Republican fiscal responsibility, and move this country in a better direction.”
Now, certainly, Frazier would prefer to be the candidate representing the Republican Party in challenging Michael Bennet in 2010. But in any case, he laid out a pretty clear, 3-point roadmap of the incumbent appointee's clearest weaknesses:
- Education: In particular, Michael Bennet's abandonment of disadvantaged kids by throwing the D.C. voucher program under the bus (more recently, Bennet told Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll that the program is a "here today, gone tomorrow" argument).
- EFCA, also known as the union card-check bill. Of course, Bennet's indecisiveness on this issue has approached legendary status. Frazier noted that no matter what happens going forward, Bennet has already identified himself by his long delay in making a decision on this "extremely poor policy".
- "He's been going around the state touting Obama's budget as if somehow it's the best thing since peanut butter & jelly sandwiches." Frazier added that this clearly aligns the Democrat incumbent with "fiscal irresponsibility" and mounting deficits and debt.
Frazier touched on other specific issues: "I believe that in a Republican primary the issue of immigration will play a role.... That said, ultimately only practical solutions to the issue of immigration I think will win the day." Among the ideas he touted were scrapping the 3-year and 10-year rules for re-entry to create an incentive for voluntary self-deportation, and establishing a non-immigrant visa for service workers. He recognized that the issue is a strong suit for primary opponent Ken Buck, but is counting on a move toward smart solutions over heated rhetoric to hold his own.
As to the big deal that has been made out of his apparently unorthodox views on social issues, Frazier had a couple important things to say. First, he denied rumors that his views were anything but "pro-life". While we didn't have time to dig deeper into more specific issues in the abortion debate, he did state: "When it comes to the issue of life, I'm very supportive of strict constructionist judges....You can argue about Roe v Wade and the outcome. But if you look at it just on the basis of the law, the fact is the Constitution is silent on the matter, and as such the Tenth Amendment should apply."
Second, he stood firm on his position in defense of granting employee benefits to same-sex couples. "It doesn't mean I'm abandoning my principles." As he also stands against the idea of gay marriage, we don't see this position as being any sort of deal-breaker with the vast majority of conservatives in Colorado.
When asked about the importance of getting his early strong endorsement from the Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Colorado -- very early, and the first for anyone in the race -- Frazier said: "Their support early on is instrumental to 1) continue to build support and 2) to raise the money it's going to take to be competitive to win." Frazier earned the endorsement not just for the contested Republican primary, but for US Senate, period. The association of businessmen and women on the western side of Colorado believe Frazier is a pro-business, free market candidate that will "aid in returning our economy to an emergent, healthy and vibrant environment," and will not simply be "a no vote."
Frazier did observe from his early fundraising calls, however, that the state of the economy has affected the amounts certain donors traditionally have been able to give. The race may require 20 million dollars to win, but a less than optimal fiscal climate might skew those numbers. On the other hand, Frazier noted, the numbers could rise if the race is perceived as strongly competitive (a necessary retention for Democrats, a viable pickup for Republicans) and is pushed into the top 2 or 3 Senate races nationwide in terms of visibility and swing potential as the “eyes of the nation are focused on Colorado.”
As far as the economy's possible effect on the broader success of his campaign themes and electoral chances, Frazier adroitly noted: "Certainly there are going to be those if the economy gets better they're going to say the Democrats are in charge when it got better. But I would always remind people that when the Democrats were in control it got worse, as well. It's not a matter of the Democrats, it's a matter of confidence by the American people that the economy can and will get better tomorrow than it is today."
“I believe it will come down to this in 2010—who has the best ideas and who can connect with the people—these will ultimately be the deciding factors,” concluded Frazier.
Frazier closed out our talk with an emphasis on the fact that he is "solutions-driven", clearly a theme that appeared throughout his answers. To address what keeps him going on the rigorous campaign schedule that hampers his business and family commitments, he eloquently summed up the case for his candidacy: "I do want to see a better Colorado and a better America where our taxes are low, where our rights are protected, our Constitution is upheld, and our country is defended. Those are the things that motivate me."
Undoubtedly, the young Aurora city councilman, entrepreneur, and father of three has a lot of work cut out for him, but as he begins to make a national impression, Ryan Frazier is on track to make a strong showing.
Thanks to Ryan for making time, and thanks to those who helped set up the meeting.