On the Road with Bill Winter

For the next five days, mcjoan from DailyKos.com and I are traveling the state to post field reports directly from the campaign trail of Colorado’s most competitive Congressional races.

Bill Winter cuts an imposing figure. A veteran of both the Navy and Marines, he is candid and direct. He’s also quick to hug campaign volunteers and staff. Mary, a local volunteer fresh from a Winter embrace, remarked that she was most impressed by Bill for raising the issue of the federal debt, currently at an astronomical $8.57 trillion.

“I relate this to the average person by telling them that 20 percent of federal taxes withdrawn from their paychecks goes to pay the national debt service,” said Mary. “You might as well just send a check to China.”

Adrian nervously explained that he had never volunteered on a campaign before this morning. He listened intently to the others reflect on their previous blockwalking experiences while they tried to calm his fears of what lay ahead.

“It was pretty painless,” he laughed later. “Until this election cycle I never thought I’d be ringing doorbells. The thought of it gave me hives,” he said. “But it was easy. Bill is a great candidate and a great person.”

As the groggy staff and volunteers gulped coffee for a quick caffeine-blast, Winter was joined by HD-39 candidate Mollie Cullom to jointly canvass an Aurora neighborhood near Chambers and Smoky Hill Roads.

A quick drive through neighborhoods of perfectly manicured lawns and rapidly melting crusty snow drifts from the sudden 10-inch dump of a few days ago, they finally located the targeted area. Winter and Cullom knocked on doors, spoke to identified voters, and dropped literature with quickly scribbled personal notes all the while trailed by an entourage of campaign staff, a reporter and photographer from the Aurora Sentinal and Cullom’s husband. A future unaffiliated constituent remarked to Winter on the doorstep, “Think of the laypeople when you’re in Washington.” He lamented that incumbent Rep. Tom Tancredo was too polarizing and focused on immigration to the detriment of the district’s needs.

Racing from a bit of canvassing, the Winter team descended on the Heather Ridge Country Club for an official endorsement by VetPac — the Veterans’ Alliance for Security & Democracy.

Winter also served as event emcee and suggested that Tancredo’s campaign conducted a poll two weeks ago because of a tightening race. He vowed that if the election results put him within 3-5 points of victory, that he would announce his candidacy on November 8 for the next election cycle in a rematch against Tancredo. Winter previewed the theme of his radio buys this week to feature Tancredo’s connection to white supremacist groups, a story that has been extensively reported by Colorado Confidential over the last months.

The group’s executive director Col. Richard Klass, USAF (Ret), remarked that the American people no longer buy the GOP’s “stay the course” rhetoric. He stated that they are now promoting benchmarks which will ultimately fail because of a lack of timetables.

Klass continued that the Army is currently planning continued deployments for 140,000 troops over the next four years. Meanwhile, Rep. Tancredo earned a C-rating from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America’s scorecard. The Disabled American Veterans reported that Tancredo only supported 25 percent of the group’s concerns.

He complained of a complete lack of response by the Department of Defense to support the 194,000 veterans who are homeless, of which 5-10,000 are in Colorado. Approximately, 1,000 documented homeless persons served in the current conflict. He recounted a story of a husband and wife — both Iraq war veterans — who are currently living in a homeless shelter with their 10-month-old baby.

Lorin Walker, vice director of VetPac, recalled how her father USAF Capt. Bruce Walker was shot down over Vietnam in 1972 and was declared missing in action. She spoke on behalf of veterans’ families calling the Bush Administration’s war effort “unethical and morally untenable”.

Accepting the endorsement, Winter explained that his father served in the Navy and was as an orthopaedic surgeon at a Veteran’s Administration hospital. Winter’s brother also answered the call through the Air Force and is currently a VA psychiatrist treating returned service members for post-traumatic stress disorder while the White House continues to cut funding and services for veterans. Winter vowed to go to Washington to represent veterans interests.

Bernie Rogoff spoke on behalf of the National Guard Association of Colorado. He decried the lack of support for the Guard stating that funding, once earmarked for training, is now being redirected to infrastructure building in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The administration is leaving equipment in country for future redeployments,” he said.

Stan Davis, a veteran from Lakewood and state coordinator for Gen. Wesley Clark’s political action committee WesPAC, presented Winter with a framed endorsement letter from Clark. Davis recommended today’s Denver Post column by John Farrell which recounts the experience of an Army captain in Iraq as required reading for anyone uncertain about casting their vote.

Winter ended the event as he began his day earlier organizing a neighborhood canvas in a Starbucks’ parking lot. He hugged Davis and then recited the inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

“That’s the America I believe in,” concluded Winter.