Posted: May 01, 2010
Election 2010: U.S. Senate candidate Jane Norton
The complete transcriptMike Cote
The following is a transcript of a video interview conducted on April 16 with Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jane Norton. Watch video segments from the interview on ColoradoBiz TV.
ColoradoBiz: How has your role as lieutenant governor prepared you to be a U.S. senator?
Jane Norton: If you want to be lieutenant governor, you have to run a statewide race. I had the privilege of doing that and being in all 64 counties, meeting people and hearing about what their issues were, raising money and building an organization. That part was certainly helpful. I'm the only candidate in the Senate race who has run and won a statewide race so that kind of sets me apart. And that's been good experience.
(When I was) lieutenant governor, Gov. Owens asked me to work on health insurance reform for our small group market, our small business guys. And certainly having the experience and knowing what works in terms of bringing down the cost of health care and encouraging more people to buy health insurance was good experience. And finally, working on behalf of Colorado's extraordinary aerospace community: We worked with the Denver Chamber; I was head of the (Colorado) Space Coalition. We had the opportunity to advocate on behalf of aerospace and it was great economic development for the state.
ColoradoBiz: Your closest competitor Ken Buck (Norton also faces Tom Wiens), used his showing in the Republican Caucus to brand himself as the grass-roots candidate versus someone who is more closely aligned with what he's saying is Republicans in Washington. What's the message you're trying to send to counter that?
Norton: I think Ken is trying to say that, but I don't think it's actually sticking. I'm the private citizen here in this race, and he's the public official. But we've been really pleased with our showing at the caucus. We got into the race seven or eight months after Ken got in the race so we have some work to do to catch up obviously. We tied in the caucus, and we feel good about that.
ColoradoBiz: Explain your decision to use the petition process to secure a spot on the primary ballot.
Norton: That was a recent decision, and we'd gone through certainly the county assemblies and the caucus, and we felt good about the kind of support we had. But as we looked at the environment - you know, it is not a business as usual environment. We have so many people who have never been involved in the process before and are excited to become involved.
We decided that we wanted to do a two-fold approach. And that is concentrate on our delegates to the state convention and yet increase or maximize our message to the broader primary electorate so that's why we decided to go the petition route. And I have to tell you. It's gotten our volunteers fired up because, as you know, we have to get petitions signed in each one of the congressional districts. And in the first six hours that we had the announcement up, we had well over 300 people sign up to be a part of the process. So it's encouraging.
ColoradoBiz: You've had a lot of success raising money, raising more than any other Republican vying for a seat. What do you attribute that success to?
Norton: It just shows the support we have, the electability factor. People show their support by writing a check. I think it's been very gratifying to see that they believe in our candidacy. They believe certainly that Michael Bennet is vulnerable and that we have a true opportunity to win this race. And I think that's why we're seeing the gratifying fundraising that's going on right now. And certainly earning people's support through their financial support.
ColoradoBiz: You mentioned electability. As you know, this race has been considered one of the top four; USA Today recently noted it is one of the most hotly contested races in the country. What's at stake here?
Norton: First of all, think about (newly elected Republican Senator) Scott Brown's race in Massachusetts. For Republicans, that was that critically important 41st vote. And if the Republican Party can get more and more conservatives, certainly they have an opportunity to stop things like Obamacare, the out of control spending that we're seeing, the job loss and those kinds of things. What's at stake is a United States Senate seat that is vulnerable and that people know we can win and bring Colorado values back to the Senate.
ColoradoBiz: You lost your father recently. That must have been a tough thing to deal with while you're working on this campaign.
Norton: It's never easy to lose a parent, but my dad, Walter "Bus" Bergman, was just a great American hero. He served in the Pacific during World War II. He was a Marine, 89 years old. He always talked about the guys who never came back as being the true heroes. He was a baseball coach, most recently at Mesa Junior College. So for 30 years he had a great group of men who play for him. But back on the war issue. We had the opportunity to talk about that we as Americans send our best and brightest all around the world for the history of our country to defend the cause of freedom. Yet at home now we have an administration that's giving away our freedom, some people feel like, so the importance of being able to win this seat was important to him. He was a competitor all of his life. And he had the opportunity to say, "Jane, I want you to continue on to work hard and to win this. It's too important to the country.' So he really did inspire me.
ColoradoBiz: You mentioned people who haven't been involved in the process before. What do you make of the Tea Party and the disenfranchised people who feel like they want to make a change and who are making the Republican Party rethink its strategy?
Norton: Absolutely rethink their strategy. I think the Tea Party movement, the 9/12 groups is one of the most exciting things I've seen. I've been in and around watching the process for a long time. I was in the Reagan administration. The fact that people are saying, "I don't like the direction the nation is headed. I want to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. I'm tired of just complaining." What we're seeing is people who are getting off of their couches and onto the streets. I think it's very healthy for the process.
But people are also saying it's principle over party. And we want people who are going to believe in our principles of freedom, limited government, personal responsibility and the dignity and value of every individual. And it's not so much about the party anymore, it's about principled leadership.
ColoradoBiz: Now if there's one thing you and Ken Buck share is a desire for smaller government. In recent decades, smaller government has not been something championed by either party. Government has gotten bigger and bigger in Washington. How do you change that?
Norton: Well, I think you have to look at the experience. You're in vogue if you talk about limited government. But one of the differences between Ken and myself is our budgets as elected officials or in a tax-supported job. I've had two of those in state government, one when I was head of the state health department and secondly when I was lieutenant governor. And in both of those instances, my budget was less than when I left office than when I started office. And I think that's a big difference. Ken, as Weld County district attorney, his budget has grown by 50 percent. So look it if someone talks about being for limited government and yet they grow their budget, I think that is suspect. In both of mine my budgets were smaller when I left office.
ColoradoBiz: Now that the health-care reform bill has passed there is a call among Republicans to repeal it. Is that realistic, and what do you think should happen at this point?
Norton: I have been one of those who have endorsed the repeal and replace movement because I do think it's very detrimental to our nation's competitive advantage to have a health-care bill that is taken over by the federal government. There are things that we could do to truly bring the cost of health care down and cover more people than having the government take control of all of it.
Repealing is going to be very difficult, realistically, when you have a president who could veto that measure. So until we have a different president I think repealing it will be very difficult. But one of the things we could do is to not fund those portions of it like the 16,500 new IRS employees that it's going to take to implement provisions of the bill. There are things that the Senate, that the Congress can do to actually not implement the legislation in ways that have been envisioned.
ColoradoBiz: Now supposedly the recovery ended sometime last year. Small businesses are still having problems with access to capital. What needs to happen to turn this around?
Norton: There are actually things that we can do that would help businesses do what they do best, and that's expand and grow. You know, the issue is not so much about job loss, it's about the fact that we're not creating jobs. As I travel around the state people say the No. 1 issue is the uncertainty in the market. Small businesses aren't sure what's going to happen. Are we going to have a cap-and-trade tax foisted upon us? What about health care, access to capital, a reasonable regulatory environment, all those fundamentals that provide certainty for our small businesses are not there right now.
Some of the things that I've called upon doing is to do way with the payroll tax for perhaps three years. That would really help small businesses, give them some certainty. I've said let's cut discretionary spending by 20 percent and then freeze that cut for three years. I talked about reducing or eliminating the estate tax, not passing cap and trade. Because we have to make sure we have, for credit-worthy individuals and businesses, access to capital. We need affordable energy. We need a reasonable regulatory environment and those kinds of things that are going to bring certainty to the market and to our small businesses.
ColoradoBiz: Cap and trade seems to have lost some steam for now. How do we balance the development of renewable energy and traditional sources so that we're not dependent on foreign fuels?
Norton: I'm not for cap and trade so I'm pleased to see that -- and hopefully it will not pass - because it is a huge tax on Colorado and working families. I think everyone agrees that we need a sound energy policy that includes all of the above approach, whether it's nuclear, whether it's other renewables like wind and solar, gas, solar, all of the above. That's what we should be focusing our efforts on rather than a cap-and-trade type of a tax.
ColoradoBiz: Along those same lines, the state is about to force its largest utility to shut down some old coal plants and replace them with natural gas or other lower-pollution fuels. What do you think of that measure?
Norton: I'm running for federal office, and that's more for the state Legislature and at the state level. But Colorado has been a great producer in the oil and gas and coal. But Colorado has 9 percent of the clean-burning natural gas in the nation. We have a 90- to 100-year supply of that. Our oil and gas industry employs 70,000 Coloradans, a $23 billion impact in our economy. So it's an absolutely critical issue that we need to look closely at. A lot people say you can't be for jobs and against the people who create them. I'm saying let's allow our oil and gas industry to flourish rather than putting onerous regulations on them.
ColoradoBiz: Immigration is coming back on the stage again. (This interview was conducted before Arizona passed its new law.) What kind of policy do you recommend to make sense of our borders and the labor force?
Norton: My position on immigration has been somewhat mischaracterized so I want to be very clear that I'm not for amnesty. I am for secure borders. What we need to do is secure the borders. That is first and foremost. We have to do that. It's in our national security interests for us to know who is in our country so that's the No. 1 priority.
But beyond that what we need to be doing is a temporary guest worker program so that our employers know, in an effective and an efficient way that the people that they want to hire are here on a temporary basis, and they're here in fact legally. I'm saying a temporary guest worker program, and it is incumbent upon us to ask the question. Do we need hospitality workers? Do we need seasonal workers, farm workers? Do we need engineers, scientists? Do we need physicians?
I think if Obamacare is full implemented, and we don't replace it, we will need physicians. So the dictates of our work force and our economy should be what drives the kinds of folks we're hiring from overseas.
ColoradoBiz: Another big issue is that tends to get ignore a lot, at least among the general population, is water in Colorado and the West. How do we secure enough water to meet the demands of a growing population?
Norton: Water is the lifeblood of our state obviously. First of all, if I have the privilege of serving as senator for the state of Colorado I will do all in my power to be sure that we do not open up those compacts that have been negotiated. Colorado has a history of a hundred years of managing its own water so I would certainly do all that I could do to fight a federal reserve water act. Beyond that we have to ensure that our ag community and ranchers have a future that includes access to water.
And how we balance that then with our growing municipalities comes the real rub. And I think that there's more that the municipalities (can do) - some of them are doing a very good job of efficiencies and building codes in terms of conservation and storage. We need to be looking at those federal storage assets that we have right now to ensure that we are utilizing them as efficiently as possible.
ColoradoBiz: We're mired in two wars still, in Iraq and Afghanistan. What's your position on the future in those two conflicts?
Norton: Very difficult issues, obviously. Mike and I have a grandson who is serving in the U.S. Army right now so we're personally very interested and vested in the whole notion. Let me talk a little bit about Afghanistan first. I was pleased that the president did agree with General (Stanley) McChrystal that we do need additional troops in Afghanistan. I fear that if we leave too early in Afghanistan that Al Qaeda and other terrorists will be able to gain that training foothold that they had in the past. So we must never allow that to happen again.
Certainly it's in our national interests on the Iraqi side - we saw the surge work - to make sure that they have a stable government, that they're able to self govern. That's obviously the key to why we were there. The surge worked, and I think we're pleased with that. And it's in our national security that we have a stable Iraq.
ColoradoBiz: Why do you want the job?
Norton: I care very deeply about the direction our nation is headed. And for me first it was a huge stimulus, a $787 billion stimulus; then it was cap and trade. With cap and trade they can't get it passed so they're circumventing the process by pushing forward in terms of the EPA in other agencies really encroaching in areas.
The straw that broke the camel's back for me was our health insurance, the health care system being taken over by the federal government. The federal government is out of control. And we are mortgaging our children's and our grandchildren's future. It's overspending, it's overtaxing, it's overregulating. And Washington just isn't listening. We need Colorado conservative values in the Senate, and we don't have them right now.
Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.