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Gov. Jared Polis On Guns, Bipartisanship And His Plans For Higher Office

Gov. Jared Polis

Just last week, The Washington Post posed the question: How politically divided is the U.S.? 

The answer, according to The Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy, is that while the country may be slowly coming together in certain aspects, American unity has been declining over the past three decades. 

Such strong divides can make being a politician particularly hard for people like Jared Polis, the Democratic governor of Colorado. Colorado is a “purple” state, meaning it has a tight mix of both Democratic and Republican voters. 

Leading in such a state during these turbulent political times can be a challenge, and on this week’s Walker Webcast, Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker spoke with Polis about how he has managed to bridge the divide and what his plans are for the Centennial State.

Walker kicked off the discussion by noting that it is Pride Month in the U.S., and asked Polis, who is one of only two LGBTQIA+ governors in the county, what it means to him to represent this community. 

“One of the things we really cherish about Colorado is we celebrate all, no matter who you are or where you’re from,” Polis said. 

He said that ultimately, no matter how people identify, what matters most to them is the work the government does for the issues they care about. The discussion should really be about “what unites us and what brings us together,” he said. 

Walker moved on to a particularly hot topic at the moment — guns — and asked Polis how he is handling calls for changes to gun laws in a state that has large swaths of residents on both sides of the issue. 

Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker on the Walker Webcast.

Polis cited Colorado’s “red flag” law, which gives judges the power to issue what’s known as an “extreme risk protection order” against individuals who have been proven to be a danger to themselves or others and order them to surrender their firearms for a period of 14 days. He said he hopes this law will be embraced by the bipartisan group of legislators working on new gun laws because he believes the law has allowed Colorado to evade many tragedies. 

“People in different communities don't always know about this [law],” Polis said. “So we’re working on making sure that anybody facing a situation with a loved one is equipped with the information about how easy it is to use the red flag law and potentially save their own life or the life of their loved one.” 

Polis said that while Colorado has universal background checks for gun owners, someone can drive to a gun show in a nearby state and purchase a weapon anyway. Because of this, he said, he supports universal background checks to keep people who have lost the right to bear arms from obtaining them. 

Walker pointed out that along with his success in politics, Polis was a successful businessman who founded ProFlowers, an online florist. He asked Polis what he liked most about the public and private sectors. Polis said that while he found the private sector exciting every day, the public sector gives him the additional fulfillment of knowing he is truly working for others. 

On the topic of working for others, Walker asked Polis how he manages to stay in touch with his large constituent base, which includes a wide range of tech workers, business investors, ranchers and farmers. 

“Our biggest export in the state is beef, and so we are at our heart a farming and ranching state,” Polis said. “We really talk about it in terms of rural and urban unity — it’s about both sides being stronger together and needing one another.”

Walker asked Polis how the revitalization of Colorado’s urban areas is coming along, particularly his Revitalizing Main Street Plan that targets areas like Downtown Denver, which was hit hard by the pandemic. 

“What the main street investments really do is put millions of dollars around connectivity,” Polis said. “It's about bypasses that connect downtowns to residential neighborhoods, transit quarters, bridges and pedestrian crossings. It’s really about making a better experience in small and big towns across the state through the built environment.” 

Walker closed out by asking Polis if he has any plans to run for higher office if President Joe Biden chooses not to run for re-election in 2024. 

“No, I am really excited about the job I am pursuing right now, the best job in the world, the governor of Colorado,” Polis said. “I will be deeply honored to be able to do that for four more years.” 

On June 23, Walker will be speaking with Adi Ignatius, editor-in-chief of the Harvard Business Review. Register here

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and Walker & Dunlop. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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