Congressman Jared Polis seems to be developing a Marilyn Musgrave problem. He represents a safe congressional seat and has taken to using that position to raise his own profile on controversial issues. We also find Polis meddling in local policy, which falls far outside his jurisdiction – a move that cost Musgrave the respect of her former constituents long before it cost her, her seat in Congress.
After getting elected to a safe GOP seat in 2002, Musgrave became known for her laser focus on outlawing same-sex marriage and protecting the unborn. The strong stance against gay marriage made her a target of the “Gang of Four,” a group of Colorado millionaires and billionaires who made it their mission to put Democrats in control of the state.
The Gang of Four, of which Polis was a proud member, would spend millions to defeat Musgrave. They slowly chipped away at her reputation and convinced the conservative voters in the 4th Congressional District that Musgrave’s priorities were not in line with their own. Finally, after three cycles of brutal attack ads, Musgrave lost her seat to Democrat Betsy Markey in 2008.
In a somewhat ironic turn of events, Polis’s own crusade against fracking smacks of the same hubris that led to Musgrave’s defeat. While Polis’s constituents might agree with his stance on the issue, he has become too narrowly focused on it and risks alienating moderate voters who care about issues beyond fracking.
Here’s the thing to remember: Musgrave eventually lost even though the majority of voters in the 4th District remained pro-life and pro-traditional marriage. It was the perception that she cared more about raising her own profile than serving her constituents that finally did her in.
Polis is in the early stages of making a similar mistake. He sees an opportunity to gain notoriety by funding fracking bans across Colorado. As he pursues this path, he is increasingly neglecting other important aspects of his job, and ultimately, putting his seat in jeopardy.