Robert Ramirez, a Westminster business manager, and the unopposed Republican candidate for Colorado House District 29, is the latest candidate to sign the CUT pledge. The pledge,
put forth by the Colorado Union of Taxpayers, covers a wide range of free market issues including tax and spending reductions, education reform, and protection of private property rights against governmental takings.
Ramirez has a good shot at beating liberal Democrat incumbent, Debbie Bennefield, by mounting a hard charging, grassroots campaign that’s already garnered about 120 volunteers. Ramirez skillfully kept potential primary opponents at bay by convincing them he was the strongest candidate to take on Bennefield, and he got those Republicans to unite behind him. Pretty impressive for a conservative, Republican activist making his first run for elected office.
Why didn’t Ramirez sign CUT sooner? The answer is not that Ramirez was weighing the political costs and benefits, or whether he should triangulate as a “moderate.” I spoke with Ramirez at length, and he’s about as opposite from a triangulator as you could find. He’d already signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge, and was doing research and asking questions. At the Tea Party events on April 15, he got his remaining couple of questions answered, and signed the pledge.
Robert Ramirez and Limited Government
I recently enjoyed a wide-ranging discussion of the issues with Robert Ramirez, and this is Part I of that interview. He’s extremely intelligent, and passionate about changing the errant course the Democrats have taken Colorado. He’s a staunch free market conservative. He believes government needs to get out-of-the-way of business, by reducing taxes and burdensome regulations. Job creation will follow those simple steps, as he knows from his earlier career as a business manager in Texas. Ramirez also believes this platform will attract the independent voters that make up a large percent of District 29.
I asked Ramirez, what ultimately motivated him to run for the House? His 11-year old daughter, Lauren. Lauren it seems is a precocious fiscal conservative herself, and had just read an inspirational quote from Ronald Reagan. She showed it to her Dad and told him he could help get the country back on track economically if he became part of the solution by getting elected to office. The whole family attended the Tea Party events on Taxpayer Day at the Capitol, and “enjoyed” a visit to the golden dome to watch the legislature in action. His first-person account reads like a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and I urge everyone to read the hilarious adventure on his blog.
Ramirez makes clear he’s not joust mouthing talking points. He continually cites examples from his experience managing a business that employes over 110 Coloradans. It was refreshing to talk to a candidate who looks at budgeting and job creation from a private enterprise perspective, instead of a government “revenue shortfall” perspective. Ramirez told me that office holders need to recognize that underlying a “revenue shortfall” are hurting working families who don’t have jobs or who aren’t making as much and thus they are paying less in taxes.
His opponent, however, doesn’t get this in the least. She is one of the most extreme liberals in the Colorado House. Besides her pandering legislative record, one look at her website makes you think you put the wrong search terms into Google and wound up at a local SEIU website instead.
I spoke briefly with Bennefield, and she denied being an extreme liberal. She said she’d broken with her party several times. I asked her to give me some examples, but she couldn’t name any off the top of her head. She also posed the usual liberal false choice: If government can’t extract more taxpayer money from the public, they will cut basic services. I asked her, couldn’t reduction in government employee pay and benefits like PERA be a third solution? She said, “No.” I asked, “why not”? At that point she told me she had about 300 emails to read.
Ramirez on being an Hispanic, Identity Politics and Immigration Reform
I also asked Ramirez about the apparent loss of Hispanic support the Republicans had achieved. He doesn’t believe there has been a loss; rather, that in Colorado, unaffiliated voters of all demographic groups turned more to the Democrats in 2006 and 2008. He thinks his free market, lower taxes platform will bring in the unaffiliated voters this year. House District 29 has a small percentage of Hispanics, but he recognizes that his Mexican-American heritage will likely appeal to the natural ethnic affinity Hispanic voters would feel towards him.
While Ramirez welcomes Hispanic support, he disdains identity politics. “When we start putting Hispanics in one category, African-Americans in a separate category, Caucasians their own category, we’re resegregating ourselves,” Ramirez told me. “We’re losing the gains made by the civil rights movement when people do that.” Ramirez would prefer we don’t even use group-identity terminology, and that we should all identify as Americans, without the hyphens. Ramirez appreciates that we all have different backgrounds, but believes our backgrounds are less important than our common bond as Americans.
He told me some Hispanic activists called him up and asked if the Republican party was “catering” to him as an Hispanic. He told them and me that he didn’t want the GOP to “cater” to him as an Hispanic.
Ramirez also opposes affirmative action and illegal immigration. He acknowledges that the current system is a bureaucratic nightmare that needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, so that the legalization process is fair and efficient. Ramirez is opposes to amnesty legislation. He realizes that solving the illegal immigration problem is a complex one for a state legislature, given federal domination of the issue. I liked the fact that he didn’t play games and act as if the Colorado legislature could single-handedly remedy the obvious problem, as many career politicians like to demagogue on this issue.
Ramirez has a growing number of committed volunteers, many of whom accompanied him to the Jefferson County Assembly on Super Saturday. Ramirez says his fundraising has gone well, and he anticipates having 200 volunteers in the next 10 days. His race really deserves state GOP money even though Bennefield is term limited in 2012. As prominent conservative political writer, Ben Degrow pointed out, “a win in north Jeffco probably would help seal a transfer of power in the Colorado House of Representatives.”