Jared Polis Wants to Represent

On May 21, Internet millionaire turned Democratic Party insider Jared Polis formally declared his intention to run for the second Congressional district seat currently held by Mark Udall, a declared candidate for the U.S. Senate. (Polis' website can be accessed here.) By doing so, he's opening himself up to a level of scrutiny that he's generally avoided to date -- with the notable exception of an extensive profile in Westword.

For "Young Blood," published in August 2004, Polis provided unprecedented access, spending time with yours truly at events related to the Colorado Board of Education (which he chaired at the time), as well as pet projects like the New America School and Aurora's Cinema Latino. In addition, he drove me to a Colorado Rockies game, nearly getting us into two accidents over the course of a fairly short drive.

After the piece ran, Polis initially took issue with the description of this hair-raising commute before conceding that it may have accurately reflected the trip after all. However, he remained unhappy that the article was a warts-and-all portrait rather than a straight-up valentine, and he made his displeasure clear by not replying to subsequent phone calls and e-mails from Westword.

Granted, Polis has continued to speak to folks at the Denver and Boulder dailies, and he did confirm that he's gay -- something he was still keeping to himself at the time of the Westword cover story. (He declined to talk about his personal life beyond saying, "It would be difficult to incorporate a relationship into my current lifestyle.") For the most part, though, he's limited his public comments to remarks about specific issues such as Amendment 41, an ethics measure he backed whose passage has triggered a slew of unintended consequences, or cooperated only with full-bore puff pieces like an offering about a mentoring group called TechStars that ran in the May 20 Denver Post.

That kind of behavior isn't going to fly if he's serious about becoming a Congressman, as opposed to being a power behind the scenes. Polis will have to be more open and less thin-skinned, granting access even to media members who aren't interested in working as glorified flacks for his agenda. Because he's a rather soft-spoken person with a sometimes flinty edge, rather than a typically extroverted politico well practiced at turning on the charm, he may have difficulty with this transition. But one thing's for certain: The campaign will be more interesting simply because he's in it. -- Michael Roberts

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