Politics often carry quite a few negative connotations, and many of those involved are guilty by association. Dishonest, selfish, power-hungry, childish, rude, malicious, elitist; the list goes on and on. National corporate media fills its 24-hour news cycle with incessant criticisms of elected officials, often tinged with strategic biases, so often that those who watch might think all politicians are corrupt. The recent infusion of money in elections brought on by decisions like Citizens United has expanded the election season timeline and its scope of vitriol, with vicious attack ads filling the airwaves.
But too often we forget that politics are not all malicious attack. Nor is the political theater that exists at the higher levels of government pervasive among all local politics. Running in Colorado’s House District 53 for the Democratic Party is Jeni Arndt. House District 53 extends southward from several blocks past Mulberry Street down to around Trilby Road, constrained by College Avenue in the East and the front range in the West. I sat down with the candidate Monday, discussing her decision to run, her political philosophy and some of the issues affecting District 53 and Colorado.
I was remarkably surprised to find how open Arndt was. Not only did she sit down with me, but it was her who approached the Collegian in the first place, primarily to discuss Allie Woeber’s piece on women in politics. On that particular subject, Arndt remarked that in Colorado, the legislature is about an even split gender-wise. While the positions of Colorado Governor, Washington Senate and House seats are entirely male with a single exception, Arndt believes that imbalance will be resolved in the coming half-decade.
The candidate also demonstrated refreshing civility when we arrived at the subject of her opponent, Republican challenger Tim Bessler. She quickly detoured by saying if I had questions on Bessler, I should ask him. While refusing to personally be involved in negative campaigning, that does not mean her campaign has been devoid of conflict.
Arndt disavowed involvement in an incident for the Bessler campaign in which Anne Wilseck, volunteer secretary for Larimer Country Democrats, created a satirical URL of Bessler’s website, with links leading to The Onion. For my part, I thought the stunt was pretty childish but inconsequential, with only speculative links to Arndt. It should be noted my research found that Bessler’s Facebook page for his campaign has a video (more like powerpoint, really) which infers Jeni Arndt’s (referred to as Ms. James-Ardnt for reasons I fear may be misogynistic, intended or otherwise) involvement in the issue.
Fracking is a major issue of concern in Colorado and Fort Collins more specifically, and her approach to the issue placed primacy on the heath and safety regulations. She also discussed the low severance tax rate in Colorado, comparatively to Wyoming or Utah, and how changing that arrangement would create a more equitable relationship between oil companies and government.
Arndt also noted her love for campaigning, that her favorite part of her run has been canvasing. She estimates she has knocked on at least 2,500 doors, and that her campaign will have covered 31 of the 33 total precincts of District 53 by Election Day. The value of service seemed to be important to her as well. She claimed to have no aspirations of using a state house seat as a launching platform for a long political career. “I already have a career,” said the lifelong educator who has a BA in sociology, a masters in geography, a masters in special education, and a Ph.D. in literacy, and currently working on an MBA from CSU. Rather, it seemed to be the cause of serving Fort Collins residents, a place she has lived since a young age, that motivated her to run.
I cannot go so far as to endorse Arndt to represent me and the district I live in, because I have yet to meet with Mr. Bessler and weigh both of my options. But in my estimation, her appointment to office would place a capable and educated candidate in a legislature that needs it. And the best part for those who are unsure? Give her a call. She’ll find the time for you. What more can you ask of a representative?
Collegian Editor Zack Burley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter by @ZackBurley.