I got the chance to interview Ryan Frazier yesterday. The gigantic impression I got of Ryan, both at first and throughout the conversation, is he is a really nice guy. That counts for a lot in running for office. (And for those that say nice guys lose – that was also my primary impression of Betsy Markey – and she's doing ok.)
Another key attribute of Ryan is he sees a role for government. This comes across not only in his discussion of what government should do, but also in the fact that he doesn't take cheap shots at government programs that are unpopular or who's impact is so far unclear. This approach to government would not only make him a Senator who crafts legislation that improves the country. More importantly, it means he would be a Senator who is looking for that middle ground which we so desperately need to improve the political conversation.
Is Ryan serious about this? He stated several times that Republicans don't have all the answers. That sometimes Democrats have better ideas. And that the best solutions come from taking the best from each groups proposals. He's serious.
Throughout Ryan's conversation, talking about his background, about what government should do, about the present economic mess, he would consistently return to what he sees as people's basics. They want to have a house and a job. They want to feed and clothe their kids. And they want a better life for their kids. Ryan sees government as a key player in enabling people to reach these goals.
I think a lot of this comes from his upbringing. He is incredibly proud of his mom (and with very good reason). He sees what she accomplished, how hard that is, and how well he and his siblings turned out. And he clearly wants to make that not only possible, but likely for others who grow up poor. Ryan sees that people can improve their lot in this country. He also appears to be very aware that it is a difficult path that all too many are not able to follow.
He then talked about the economy. He described this as primarily a lack of confidence and optimism throughout the country, not only among consumers but business owners too. I asked about the impact of credit disappearing and he sees that as primarily due to the drop in confidence/optimism. That if it does exist, then money can be found for credit.
He then talked about the stimulus bill. He clearly favored a stimulus but would have preferred that it was mostly transportation and the rest additional infrastructure. When I asked about additional infrastructure, his answer was education. So repairing schools, etc. As he put it Roads & schools.
I asked if he thought the stimulus bill as crafted was a good idea and he said it was too early to tell. (I think this reply more than any other shows that Ryan is focused on what is needed and what works rather than what is the politically popular reply.) He then discussed the problems with the existing bill including how slow it is to get in to the economy and the small number of jobs it has created so far – all very fair points.
He also discussed what he would have liked to see, which is private/public partnerships first and temporary tax cuts second. The topic of private/public partnerships came up repeatedly and this is clearly a biggie for Ryan. I think if he is elected that his response to many (not all) issues will be to see if a public/private partnership can be crafted to address the issue.
The really interesting thing about all of this is Ryan's response is what he would have done, what he thinks of what was done, and fairly evaluating the impact of what was done. This is somebody focused on how to best solve the problem we face. I have no idea if Ryan's proposed approach will be the best, but I have no doubt that he will be working to come up with what we need rather than obstructing proposals merely for political gain.
He then jumped on to energy policy. He sees that it is critical to get us off of foreign oil. He wants us using everything, with natural gas being the biggest short/medium term source for a replacement. He discussed this in some detail about both the enormous reserves we have as well as how easy a replacement it is. But he also called out wind, solar, nuclear – how we should be using everything that works. He had a great line – if the French can get 80% of their electricity from nuclear with no problems, we should be able to do so.
He also spoke about healthcare, that the present system has major problems. He did not say much more on this as we had run out of time and he was just making sure that he had listed that as a key issue too.
He closed out with a very interesting observation – that Coloradoans, all Coloradoans, mostly want to be left alone by the government. He was not saying this as a reduce the government to zero issue, but that the government should endeavor to stay out of the way as much as possible. And the people in Colorado, be they Republican, Democrat, or independent, want government to minimize its impact on them. It's a message that will resonate with a lot of voters in this state.
So does Ryan have a chance? I asked him that and he replied that he will tell the voters what he offers – they will decide if that is what they want. He seems very comfortable both with who he is, and that the voters will decide based on what they see. Part of this may be his realistic look at the battleground – he's a compelling candidate in the general election but the primary voters are much more conservative than the moderate middle that decides state-wide races in Colorado. But I think that's part of who Ryan is – he will lay out what he brings to the table and the voters will decide if that is who they want.
Six years ago, not have the big bucks, not having the most active of the base – no way. But with the money going to Norton and the base going to Buck – and with the gigantic changes that are presently occurring in what is most effective in campaigning – he has a chance. It will require that he more effectively use the net and the new social web than his opponents. But he could.
The other big thing that struck me as the conversation went on is this guy has an amazing personal story. And he doesn't use it. He talks about what we face, what we need to do, what the government should be doing. But he brings virtually none of his ego into it – which is very very rare for a politician. He is clearly very charged up to do what he can to contribute to the community. And he thinks he can best contribute from elected office. But it's about the contribution he wants to make, not about him.
So what do we get with Ryan? He's definitely got the gravitas for the job. Equally important, he would go in working to make the government do its job as well as possible. He also would clearly focus on the giant problems we face – and would be working on solutions. I think he would be there in the middle, getting things done, and being shot at from all sides for his efforts to forge compromise.
Most importantly, his would be an active voice trying to end the toxic hyper-partisan environment presently in Washington. He'd make a good Senator.
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