The top candidates for Colorado’s Seventh Congressional District are facing off on energy policy and jobs, the debate breaking along predictable lines. Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter is a longtime advocate for renewable energy development, which he sees as an essential part of the drive toward national energy independence. He has supported so-called cap-and-trade legislation that would tax carbon as a way to move the country toward cleaner renewable fuels. Perlmutter’s main GOP rival, Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, calls Perlmutter’s stance limiting and told the Colorado Independent that he is for an “all of the above” national energy policy that includes opposition to cap and trade and an embrace of oil and coal as well as alternative nuclear and renewable power.
The difference in positions has already left a mark on the candidates’ campaign finance ledgers. Frazier so far enjoys much greater support from the oil and gas industry.
Perlmutter told the Colorado independent he wasn’t certain why the oil and gas industry in Colorado were contributing more to his opponent but he wasn’t surprised and he wasn’t altogether sure that couldn’t turn around.
“It may be that [the oil industry is] still on their ‘drill baby drill’ with their macho Republicans. But we’re in a new era, where we have had a ‘spill baby spill,’ so we will see.”
He said new-energy jobs, including in natural gas, would be a large part of Colorado’s economy in the post-Gulf oil spill era.
“We need to be more energy efficient. [Renewable energy] is good for the environment. It’s good for national security. It’s good for jobs. Natural Gas is part of that equation… I don’t understand why the industry is supporting Frazier so much, but if that is what they do, that is what they do.”
Perlmutter speculated that his long support of a renewable energy economy in the state hasn’t made him a clear friend of oil, a reductive assessment, he said. His support for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in his district has brought a lot of new and sustainable jobs. He said he is a strong supporter of expanding the natural gas industry in the state as a “superior transitional fuel” because it burns cleanly and efficiently, especially compared to coal.
Frazier, who is facing Lang Sais in the primary after a tight battle at the state delegate assemblies in May, said the reason the oil industry supports his campaign is because he rejects cap-and-trade and because he takes an “all of the above” approach to energy production.
“I do not support the cap-and-trade legislation that Ed Perlmutter voted for. That marks a clear distinction on energy policy,” Frazier said. “The U.S. should incentivize energy production instead of penalizing it.”
“I support more of everything in a way that protects our environment while taking advantage of our resources at home….We need a Congress that looks at all of our ability to support natural resources at home and supports renewables.”
Industry and grassroots support
According to Open Secrets.com, Frazier has received $50,549 in donations from the oil and gas industry, whereas Perlmutter has received $21,300.
Altogether, Frazier has raised $668,427, including more than $20,000 from the Coors family. Big donor Phil Anschutz has also given close to $20,000. Other Frazier donors include former Sen. Hank Brown, former DU President Marc Holtzman, and former Colorado GOP chair Bob Martinez. Frazier currently has $378,628 cash on hand.
Perlmutter has raised $1,216,087 and still has $1,250,801 on hand. Notable Perlmutter donors include Pat Stryker, who pitched in $4,800, and Colorado Democratic Finance Director Deborah Hill, who gave $2,400.
Forty nine percent of Perlmutter’s war chest has come from Political Action Committees. Critics often attack PAC money as non-grassroots special interest money because it’s not tied to individual voters or, as in Perlmutter’s case, individual constituents. Although Frazier so far has accumulated only 3 percent funding from PACs, that number will surely change should he win the GOP primary in August and larger donors and organizations seek additional ways to support his candidacy.
In the GOP primary, the state Republican establishment is backing Frazier, which this year– the year of the tea party– could be seen as lessening Frazier’s claims to grassroots support.
“Not at all,” Frazier said. “The good thing about our campaign is that we have a blend of traditional [party] and grassroots support. Over 90 percent of the donations have come from individuals in the state of Colorado. We have several thousand donors who have given to us.”
Perlmutter has received 83 percent of his total from Colorado donors. Sais received 76 percent of his donations from out-of-state sources. Sais has been promoted by Arizona Senator John McCain, for whom he once worked as a staffer, and has been endorsed by former Colorado Republican Congressmen Tom Tancredo and Bob Beauprez.
Perlmutter’s largest individual donors are lawyers. That’s a function of his being a lawyer for most of his life, he said. “Most of [those donors] are my friends,” he said.
The number one issue: jobs and jobs
Perlmutter said his focus is job creation. He pointed again to his support for the Renewable Energy Laboratory, the kind of feeder institution that drive a larger new energy economy, helping create new technologies and new businesses. He said those jobs would be sustainable over the long haul.
A member of the House Financial Services Committee, Perlmutter also noted that his work on Wall Street reform was a topic of great importance to his constituency. He said he and Republican Colorado U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman introduced an amendment to the financial regulation legislation that would help Colorado by allowing small banks to amortize real-estate losses over a seven-year period. Those banks he said, freed up from immediate debt, would be able to provide small business owners and others with loans.
Frazier said jobs and economic growth, controlling spending, increasing security, and immigration reform are “four of the biggest issues that are of most concern to the people I have talked to around the district.”
One of the lead advocates for Amendment 47, which would have made Colorado a “Right to Work State,” limiting labor unions ability to organize, Frazier said he would have opposed Perlmutter’s vote in favor of the “card check” bill that would have made it easier for unions to organize.[Photo: Perlmutter and Frazier]