|"Jesus was a Democrat. If you look at the things that he promoted and the life he asked us to lead, that's a platform right there." – state Rep. Angie Paccione|
Although she did not declare her candidacy Wednesday night, state Rep. Angie Paccione night strongly indicated that she will challenge U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave for her 4th U.S. Congressional District seat.
"If I run, I'm going to need a phenomenal commitment from the CSU Dems," said Paccione, D-Fort Collins, who spoke at the first CSU Young Democrats meeting of the semester. "If you are committed to helping me, I might commit to running. … I don't personally believe (Musgrave) is doing a good job."
Paccione , also an assistant professor at CSU's School of Education, said she has formed an exploratory committee to see what her chances are of beating the Republican incumbent. Initial polls were extremely encouraging, she said.
The first poll, according to Paccione's internal polling in the 4th District, gave her 40 percent compared to 46 for Musgrave. Another poll had Musgrave leading at 46 to 43 percent. And a final poll actually put Paccione 1 percent above Musgrave, Paccione said.
"(Musgrave) has the worst numbers of any (incumbent) in the country," Paccione said. "That gives me encouragement at being a candidate."
Although she promptly added, "At this point, I'm not running."
Most of Paccione's talk to the more than 30 students attending the 5 p.m. meeting focused on Referendum C, the measure on November's ballot that would allow the state to keep and spend a projected $3.7 billion over the next five years.
"This is something that will affect all of you and everyone who lives in Colorado" said Amy Krok, president of CSU Young Democrats, about the measure. "You are going to be the ambassadors for this referendum…to get the momentum going."
Referendum C would allow the state to keep money that would otherwise have to be returned to taxpayers under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, a section of the Colorado constitution that limits revenue growth.
"It's about responsible government," Paccione said, arguing for the importance of the referendum. "Government has to respond to the people's needs. Right now, we have huge needs and huge bills."
At least 30 percent of the expected $3.7 billion revenue from the referendum would be slated for community colleges and other higher-education institutions, including CSU. Another 30 percent would go toward K-12 education.
"We can't even pay our janitors to shampoo the carpets (at CSU)," Paccione said, who said the carpets here are shampooed only once a year. "We have no money for maintenance."
She also said that several Colorado schools are so cash-strapped that they have to rely on modular buildings to house students.
"A kid sitting in his desk fell through the floor boards of one of the modulars," she said, causing the audience to erupt in laughter. "State-owned buildings are crumbling."
An audience member asked Paccione to articulate an argument against Referendum C.
"It is the biggest tax increase in the history of the state," she conceded. But she added, "We're pleading with you… so we can pay the policeman, fix the buildings, and get Meals on Wheels back to our seniors. What kind of a community are we if we can't do these things?"
However, Dustin Harper, president of the College Republicans, is opposed to the referendum.
"It's a veiled way to increase taxes," he said. "It's a way for the state to keep more money while saying it's not a tax hike…I voted for (Musgrave) in the last election and I'll vote for her next time."
But Alida Bus, natural resources, recreation and tourism major, was in support of the measure and Paccione.
"It was awesome having Angie in," said Bus. "It's obviously a bipartisan issue…I'm going to talk to my friends about it."
Paccione briefly mentioned Referendum D, which she said was a "companion measure" to C.
"If C doesn't pass, D doesn't work," she said.
Referendum D would set aside $2.1 billion in bonds, including about $50 million for improving maintenance and infrastructure for the state's universities, colleges and community colleges.
Paccione also spoke about the country's current culture of partisanship. To illustrate her point that the country needs to move beyond petty political stereotypes, she told the audience she's an evangelical Christian.
"We don't have to say, 'I'm not a Democrat because I'm a person of faith,'" she said. "In fact, Jesus was a Democrat. If you look at the things that he promoted and the life he asked us to lead, that's a platform right there."