Election 2010: Jane Norton
Jane Norton has far exceeded her Republican rivals in the race to secure funds to campaign for the Aug. 10 primary. But she had to split her front-runner status after Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck narrowly bested her in the Republican Party Caucus in March. She recently hired state Sen. Josh Penry to run her campaign.
We recently talked with Norton, 55, about the campaign at her Centennial campaign headquarters. The following transcript was edited for space and clarity. Watch the interview and read the complete transcript at www.cobizmag.com.
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.
ColoradoBiz: Your closest competitor, Ken Buck, 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 are Republicans in Washington. What’s the message you’re trying to send to counter that?
Norton: I’m the private citizen here in this race, and he’s the public official. 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: 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 twofold approach: concentrate on our delegates to the state convention and yet increase or maximize our message to the broader primary electorate.
ColoradoBiz: You lost your father recently. That must have been a tough thing to deal with while you’re working on this campaign.
Norton: My dad, Walter “Bus” Bergman, was 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. 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.”
ColoradoBiz: 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: I think the Tea Party movement is one of the most exciting things I’ve seen. 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 are people who are getting off of their couches and onto the streets.
ColoradoBiz: Now that the health-care reform bill has passed there is a call among Republicans to repeal it. Is that realistic?
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 it is going to be very difficult, realistically, when you have a president who could veto that measure. 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.
ColoradoBiz: Supposedly the recession ended sometime last year. Small businesses are still having problems with access to capital. What needs to happen to turn this around?
Norton: 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.
One of the things that I’ve called upon doing is to do away with the payroll tax for perhaps three years. 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 approaches, whether it’s nuclear, whether it’s other renewables like wind and solar, gas, solar, all of the above.
ColoradoBiz: What kind of immigration policy do you recommend to make sense of our borders and the labor force? (This interview was conducted before Arizona passed its controversial new law.)
Norton: My position on immigration has been somewhat mischaracterized so I want to be very clear that I’m not for amnesty. 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 they want to hire are here on a temporary basis, and they’re here in fact legally.
ColoradoBiz: How do we secure enough water to meet the demands of a growing population?
Norton: 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. How we balance that then with our growing municipalities becomes the real rub.
ColoradoBiz: We’re mired in two wars still, in Iraq and Afghanistan. What’s your position on the future in those two conflicts?
Norton: Mike and I have a grandson who is serving in the U.S. Army right now, so we’re personally very interested and vested. I was pleased the president agreed with General (Stanley) McChrystal that we need additional troops in Afghanistan. I fear if we leave too early in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda and other terrorists will be able to gain that training foothold that they had in the past. 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.