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Gay man wins Colorado US Congressional seat
Gay man wins Colorado US Congressional seat
by Lisa Keen - Keen News Service

A Gay businessman has won the Democratic primary for a U.S. Congressional seat in Colorado and, in a strongly Democratic district, is now well-positioned to win the November general election.

Running against the state Senate president who had a strong record on Gay civil rights and who had earned the backing of several prominent Gay activists in the state, Jared Polis, 33, won a three-way race for the Democratic nomination in the heavily Democratic Boulder area.

Polis, frequently described in the Colorado press as a self-made millionaire in internet businesses, made his name publicly as an education activist, who established a foundation to support educational efforts directed at students with low-income families. In 2000, he won a seat on the state Board of Education.

Polis won the nomination to vie for the seat being vacated by incumbent U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, who ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate.

Polis' strongest competitor was state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, but conservationist Will Shafroth made a significant run, too. According to the Denver Post, Polis won with 42% of the vote to Fitz-Gerald's 38% and Shafroth's 20%. Fitz-Gerald conceded the race shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday night.

The district, the 2nd Congressional District, encompasses the heavily liberal city of Boulder, parts of Denver, and has been represented in Congress by a Democrat since 1975. In 2006, Udall beat the Republican challenger 68% to 28%.

The race in Colorado was reportedly one of the most expensive in the country. According to the Post, Polis contributed $5.3 million of his own money toward his campaign - more than three times the money raised and spent by each of the other two candidates. The Boulder daily newspaper, the Camera, said Polis relied on "a massive bankroll to fund his political ambitions&."

"It's been a long year campaigning," said Polis, in an interview with the Rocky Mountain News, a daily newspaper in Denver. Polis began campaigning for the seat 15 months ago, and called the contest both "invigorating and challenging."

The Denver Business Journal reported that Polis, a native of Boulder, co-founded the online greeting cards bluemountainarts.com and launched an online florist service. He sold bluemountainarts.com in 1999 for a reported $780 million.

Polis won a seat on the state Board of Education in 2000 and served there until 2006 and he established a foundation to support educational efforts directed at students from low-income families.

The Denver Post noted that Polis' being Gay rarely came up during the race but said Polis has promised to support equal rights for Gays in Congress. Fitz-Gerald, too, was seen as a strong supporter of Gays and had the backing of such well-known Gay philanthropists as Tim Gill and Scott Coors. In 2006, noted the Post, Fitz-Gerald put a measure on the state ballot seeking to grant equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. The measure failed.

Polis "vows," said a Post report last December, "to fight for Gay marriage, anti-discrimination laws and the right to serve openly in the military."

Currently, there are two openly Gay members of the U.S. Congress - both Democrats and both in the House. One is Tammy Baldwin, who represents Wisconsin; the other is Barney Frank, who represents Massachusetts.

The Rocky Mountain News ran photos of Polis with his partner, Marlon Reis, at his victory celebration. The paper said Polis walked into the celebration to the U2 song "It's a Beautiful Day."

©2008 Keen News Service

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