Democratic CD2 candidate Joe Neguse discusses immigration, climate change

Samantha Ye

man standing by sign
Joe Neguse, a 34-year-old Democrat, is running for the Congressional District 2 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives this midterms election. His opponents are Republican Peter Yu, Libertarian Roger Barris, and Independent Nick Thomas. (Samantha Ye | The Collegian)

From reforming immigration to addressing climate change, Joe Neguse has prepared detailed plans for the direction of Congress—now all he has to do is get there.

The 34-year-old Democrat is running to replace Jared Polis as representative for Congressional District 2, which includes Larimer County.

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If elected, Neguse would be the first African-American elected by Colorado to Congress and one of the youngest members serving in the House of Representatives.  

It would be a situation Neguse is familiar with.

In 2008, the University of Colorado at Boulder graduate was elected to the Colorado University Board of Regents, making him the second African-American regent in Colorado history, according to his campaign site.

In 2015, he was appointed executive director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies under Hickenlooper which, at age 31, made him one of the youngest people nationally to head a state cabinet.

Though a congressional representative is a major step up in terms of responsibilities and competition, Neguse said his deep concerns with the direction of the county ultimately drove him to run for the role in Congress.

“If there were ever a time for people of good faith to stand up and serve, now would be it,” Neguse said.

Neguse criticized the “unjust and immoral conduct” from the administration, citing the separation of children from parents at the border and President Trump’s many disparaging comments about the press.

Instead of coming together to address issues like student debt, Neguse said Congress has remained complicit in allowing the administration to “undermine every bit of progress we made under the Obama administration.”   

Much of Neguse’s platform includes continuing ideas currently circulating within the Democratic Party, either by supporting already introduced bills like the Expanded & Improved Medicare-For-All Act for universal healthcare or pushing for popular progressive reforms like universal background checks for gun purchases.

But just as important to him, Neguse said, is achieving bipartisan cooperation.

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He cited his time on the Republican-majority Board of Regents and in the state consumer protection agency as evidence of his experience working with people from both major parties to achieve the greatest good possible.

“I would try to bring that same philosophy, that ethos, that we had here in Colorado that at the end of the day, more important than your party affiliation is what you intend to do for the people that you seek to represent,” Neguse said.

He hopes his bipartisan drive, if elected, will be a distinguishing part of his service. He also hopes this year’s election will bring more young, new faces to Congress who are willing to work across the aisle.

Having co-founded New Era Colorado, a non-profit dedicated to registering and mobilizing young voters, Neguse is particularly committed to giving young people’s concerns the proper representation.

“I think representation matters and it’s important for the young people here in our district to have a voice,” Neguse said.

Neguse said electing him for this university-laden district would be “a great way to ensure that young people have a seat at the table.”

But, irrespective of who they support, Neguse said, it is crucial for students to turn out and participate this November for the most important election of their lifetimes.

On the Issues

Neguse has plans for a wide range of action, each solution tailored to a problem he sees.

On climate change, Neguse views it as “an existential threat” which Congress must combat in several different ways: pricing carbon or charging a “carbon tax” on carbon dioxide emitters, eliminating oil and gas subsidies and increasing investments in renewable energy such as solar and wind.

“An omnibus piece of legislation that drives us towards a carbon-free future, I think, is incredibly important for our country and for, not just our generation…but for the generations that will follow,” Neguse said.

With a daughter coming in a week, Neguse said he thinks a great deal about the world she will inherit.

In regards to immigration, Neguse has an even more personal connection as his parents immigrated to the U.S. from Eritrea, then a country at war.

Neguse, again citing the effects of increased family separation, said his top concern right now is the treatment of immigrants by the current administration,

“I say that as a son of immigrants, as someone who has been fortunate to be a citizen of our country, to live the American Dream,” Neguse said. “And given my parent’s journey to this country, immigration reform is something I care deeply about.”

Reform he supports includes passing a clean Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act to give immigrant youth and young adults brought to the U.S. as minors a path to citizenship, reforming the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and a comprehensive reform akin to the 2013 bill proposed by the bipartisan Gang of Eight which passed in Senate but not the House.

When it comes to free speech and social media, Neguse said he would devote more quantitative research into the issue to find a solution.

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have come under fire from all sides of the political spectrum in the last few years for allowing foreign influences to spread political disinformation and discord on their platforms and more recently, for alleged political censorship.

Neguse said he believes there needs to be some form of federal regulation of major social platforms but he is currently unsure of what legislative vehicle that would take.

As a younger candidate who knows the importance of legal cannabis, Neguse said he supports something like the Marijuana Justice Act to legalize it federally.

Neguse is also determined to hold the U.S. Department of Education accountable for their regulatory actions by using Congress’ oversight powers. He also hopes to make higher education more accessible by “ensuring that every public higher education graduate finishes debt-free,” according to his campaign website.

And if the opportunity arises, Neguse says he would vote to impeach Trump.

“I do believe that this president, based on the body of evidence that’s out there, has committed high crimes and misdemeanors,” Neguse said. “And, I’d vote to begin the impeachment process.”

Collegian reporter Samantha Ye can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samxye4.