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Election win ‘important closure’ for LGBTQ Coloradans, governor-elect says

Five-term Colorado Democrat Jared Polis on Tuesday became the first openly gay man to be elected a U.S. governor. Polis joins John Yang to discuss his historic win and his campaign for better health care, gun violence prevention, and renewable energy.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, as we have heard, and as we have just been discussing, there were a number of historic victories last night state by state.

    John Yang talks with one of those winners.

  • John Yang:

    Judy, yesterday five-term Colorado Democratic Congressman Jared Polis became the first openly gay man to be elected a U.S. governor, winning about 52 percent of the vote.

    He joins us now from Denver.

    Mr. Polis, congratulations, and welcome to the "NewsHour."

    I want to ask you, first off, it was only about 25 years ago that Colorado voters passed an amendment that banned state or local protections for gay men and lesbian women. How — did you reflect on that? And how did it feel last night when the same state elected you its chief executive?

  • Colorado Governor-Elect Jared Polis:

    Well, you know, I think it's important closure for many LGBT Coloradans and supporters of equality here.

    It's also a great step for our Colorado brand, right? That had been a little bit of a tarnish on Colorado from a generation ago. And I think people know that Colorado is open for business, and regardless of who you are or who you love or your race or anything about you, we would love to have you come to our great state to help make our quality of life even better.

  • John Yang:

    You have always run as an openly gay man. Your first race was in 2008. It was a little bit after Colorado had banned same-sex marriage.

    Did it ever — did you ever wonder if that was the politically right thing to do, or politically best thing to do?

  • Colorado Governor-Elect Jared Polis:

    Well, look, again, I — you know, when you put yourself out there for public office, you always want to talk about, what are your ideas to improve our quality of life?

    And, for me personally, I just never let who I am hold me back from offering my ideas about how to make our state greater and fix our roads, improve our schools, save people money on health care.

    I'm glad the voters agreed with my ideas. And I'm looking forward to working to get them done as governor.

  • John Yang:

    Well, let's talk about some of those things you want to do for Colorado.

    You ran on a campaign that pushed universal health care in a state that rejected it at the polls two years ago. You were pushing gun violence prevention in a state with a lot of hunters and sportsmen, and renewable energy in a state where the oil and gas industry is pretty influential.

    How are you going to get those things done?

  • Colorado Governor-Elect Jared Polis:

    Well, again, I think that the future and a forward-looking vision is what won out at the end of the day.

    There's nothing inconsistent about uniting Colorado's past, which we honor, with our future. We are a state of gun owners and hunters and sportsmen, and there's nothing inconsistent with that and additional steps to reduce gun violence and have safer gun ownership. We're looking forward to working with our legislature to pass a red flag law, to be able to have a temporary mental health hold on people having a mental crisis from accessing their weapons.

    And we're looking forward to moving forward to renewable energy. We have a goal of our whole state reaching 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. And, of course, we know in the meantime, of course, we still burn fossil fuels.

    And that's why we're focused on that demand end, on making the grid renewable, and making sure that we improve automobile efficiency.

  • John Yang:

    What's your first priority when you take office?

  • Colorado Governor-Elect Jared Polis:

    Well, I have got to commute over to find my way to the capitol and get ready to work. We're going tow work right out of the gate with the legislative session, which actually starts a few days before I get sworn in, on making sure that we can move forward on saving people money on health care, on getting kindergarten opportunities to every Colorado family.

    Our state only has half-day kindergarten. We want to get to full-day kindergarten in our first legislative session. So we have a lot of goals. And I'm looking forward to working with Republicans, independents, Democrats to make sure that Colorado can be even better when look back in the next five, 10 years.

  • John Yang:

    You talked about — in that answer, you talked about health care. You talked about expanding kindergarten.

    Colorado, in certain areas, still has a pretty anti-tax sentiment. How are you going to pay for those things?

  • Colorado Governor-Elect Jared Polis:

    Well, that's — a great thing about our state is the governor and legislature can't raise taxes. Only the people can. The people just rejected several tax increases. I didn't support them either.

    I think it's always a question of, how do you make government more efficient? How do you do more with what you have? In health care, the answer is spending less, not spending more. We spend far too much on health care. We want to use a bundle payment system in Medicaid, like Arkansas has done, which saves 20 to 30 percent.

    We're looking at creating a high-risk pool, like Alaska and Oregon have done, to get some of those higher-risk cases off of the books of the insurers, to have a downward pressure on rates.

    So, we have a lot of great ideas. And they all will save money.

  • John Yang:

    Let me ask you about the job you're leaving.

    What advice would you have for your colleagues, your House Democratic colleagues, about dealing with President Trump now that they have the majority?

  • Colorado Governor-Elect Jared Polis:

    Well, I think we need to be responsible.

    And, at the end of the day, it's not about politics and games and partisanship. It's about what we can do to make our country better. I mean, that's why I'm doing this. I hope that that's why people across the country stepped up and ran for office.

    Of course, holding the president accountable is part of our constitutional system. But we should never take our eye off the ball about what we can do to improve the quality of life for families across our entire country.

  • John Yang:

    Do you think they ought to be pushing, pressing investigations of the administration?

  • Colorado Governor-Elect Jared Polis:

    Well, if there is wrongdoings, those should be investigated.

    But, again, I think the agenda should be centered around saving people money on health care and growing our economy and making it work for everybody, improving our schools, and really those kitchen table issues that I think people will want, people — the House of Representatives and the Senate to make progress on.

    And I think the electorate wants people to work together, not just beat each other's throats all the time. I mean, we do that enough around election time. It's really time to work together, because, at the end of the day, Republicans, Democrats, independents, we all care about our kids. We all care about our quality of life.

    Let's try to find common ground.

  • John Yang:

    Governor-elect Jared Polis of Colorado, thank you very much.

  • Colorado Governor-Elect Jared Polis:

    Thank you.

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