Longform

Ryan Frazier puts his job on the line with Amendment 47

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Connecting the dots is exactly what he tries to do when the cameras start rolling on the debate. With his smart business suit and charismatic panache, Frazier makes a stark contrast to Knox's rumpled shirt and tousled hair. Turning to the camera, making eye contact with the audience, Frazier quotes from a CNBC study — "and I do believe this debate is on an NBC affiliate" — that right-to-work states perform better economically than others.

When Knox mentions the deal between labor and business leaders last week to demonstrate the wide coalition against Amendment 47, Frazier counters that, "with all due respect," any other time an organization like Knox's used threats to get money and support, "it would be illegal." The councilman quotes from Samuel Gompers, founder of the American Federation of Labor ("I don't know if you know Gompers," he says to Knox): "I want to urge devotion to the fundamentals of human liberty, to the principles of voluntarism. No lasting gain has ever come from compulsion."

Again and again, Frazier sidesteps his opponent's demand that he reveal who, exactly, is funding the right-to-work campaign.

It's a performance that helps introduce a young, motivated and telegenic politician named Ryan Frazier to television viewers across the state.

But as the face of this issue, Frazier is more likely than Amendment 47's other backers, most of whom are safely ensconced in the private sector, to take the fall if it fails at the polls — or, worse, if it destabilizes labor relations for years to come.

As Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli puts it, "For his personal identity and image and possible moving up in the Republican Party, this could very well be positive. He will certainly be better known than he was. But there is also a risk. To win support at the state level and win bigger offices, you need to be a coalition builder, not just a person who can be easily identified. That may be a challenge."

No matter what happens on November 4, the sun will still come up on November 5, says Frazier. "The birds will still be flying, folks will still be working, and as long as I know I did what I did because I believed it to be right, let the chips fall where they may."

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner