At present, twenty people have submitted applications for Colorado's Secretary of State job, including several big-name politicos: Andrew Romanoff, the term-limited speaker of Colorado's House of Representatives; Ken Gordon, the majority leader for the state senate; Rosemary Rodriguez, the chairwoman of the Election Assistance Commission, Representative Bernie Buescher, a Grand Junctionite who was just defeated in a re-election bid, and more. However, there are some surprising candidates as well -- no one more so than Aaron Harber, host of Channel 12's Aaron Harber Show and a familiar figure in debate and election coverage in recent months. Not that Harber thinks his television efforts alone qualifies him for such a post. "I think there are areas where I have a lot of expertise and can really bring to bear my background," he says. "My training and experiences are unique -- and most people don't know about that."
Harber points out that he has degrees from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Moreover, his work with enterprises such as the American Research Corporation and TeamOne Systems dealt extensively with software and other high-tech matters that he sees as key to the Secretary of State's mission.
"I think one of the problems the office has had is, the people who have served as Secretary of State often don't have enough of a technology background to make the best decisions," he says. "If you're negotiating with a company, or your staff is negotiating with a company, for a contract to perform certain functions, it's critically important that the people at the top have a real understanding of what's possible and what's not possible, what technology can do and what it can't do. And I think a lot of times in that office, promises have been made by technology companies that haven't been fulfilled, or haven't been fulfilled in a timely manner."
Of course, Harber feels his broadcasting efforts, which have brought him into close contact with innumerable lawmakers as well as journalists (among them those from Channel 4 and the Rocky Mountain News, which recently partnered with Channel 12 on election coverage), will pay dividends, too. He argues that "the Secretary of State's office needs to work much more closely with the media to create greater transparency, whether it be in the whole election process in terms of voting and registration or whether it's in terms of campaign records and contributions -- where the money is coming from."
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Although Harber is a registered Democrat who was the Dems' nominee for the Secretary of State position way back in 1990, he believes that his TV exposure has given him a reputation for being fair and evenhanded -- something he also considers to be an attribute. "The last thing we need is to have this office headed up by someone who is seen as highly partisan," he allows. Indeed, he emphasizes that he has no interest in using the job as a stepping stone to the U.S. House or Senate.
Outgoing Secretary of State Mike Coffman recently followed this path, winning election in the 6th District to replace Tom Tancredo -- and Harber acknowledges that if the Democrats want to pick someone eager to duplicate this feat, he may not be the right choice. But he points out that even though Coffman is the first Colorado Secretary of State in recent memory to have succeeded at this goal, his task was made more difficult by the headlines he generated in his day job. "If you talk to Mike Coffman, he would probably tell you that the was able to go on to higher office only because he served as Secretary of State for such a short period of time," he maintains. "And make sure and note that I was laughing when I said that."
This last remark implies that the Secretary of State gig is thankless -- yet Harber would love to take a shot at it anyhow. "We can do much better for the people of the state of Colorado," he says. "And I'd be honored to have the opportunity to take on the challenge." -- Michael Roberts