JENNAYE DERGE/Durango Herald
JENNAYE DERGE/Durango Herald
First-generation American and Coloradan Joe Neguse is a Democrat running for Colorado secretary of state, and he says he can do something positive on behalf of everyone, not just the Front Range.
On a 12-city tour with a platform of voting rights and business development, Neguse said he has a vision.
“The right to vote is sacred to me,” Neguse said from a rooftop gathering at the Crossroads building Sunday afternoon.
The practicing attorney is a graduate of the University of Colorado and member of the university’s Board of Regents for Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District.
His parents came to the United States in 1980, having fled war in Eritrea, Africa.
“They taught us how important it is not to take that for granted, those freedoms that we have in the United States that don’t exist in a lot of places in the world. It begins with the right to vote and the ability to participate in our democracy,” he said.
Neguse said no matter who serves as secretary of state, he or she should be protecting voter rights, empowering people to get involved.
He co-founded New Era Colorado, a nonprofit that works on boosting voter registration and encourages involvement for tens of thousands of young people.
“Republican, Democratic, independent – it’s a right that I believe the secretary of state should be protecting,” he said. “Harnessing technology for folks who are elderly or disabled, so they have a more positive voting experience. Make it easier for those who are fighting overseas – protecting our democracy – making sure they have every opportunity to participate in our democracy.”
He also believes that getting young people involved early will help them stay involved.
“I want to make Colorado the number one state in voter turnout,” he said. “I’m concerned about the hundreds of thousands of people who aren’t voting.”
He also is interested in sparking business growth to bridge the gap between the Western Slope and the Front Range.
“We are known as a start-up state,” he said, “(We need) a secretary that recognizes that and is going to build relationships with communities outside the Front Range, like with the Chamber of Commerce and economic councils here in La Plata County, and figure out ways to encourage, inspire and motivate innovators and entrepreneurs here in Durango.
Before departing for Telluride, he said Colorado needs less partisan politics.
“Colorado needs a partner in this office. That has been missing for the last three-and-a-half years,” he said.
La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Parker, a Republican, was also on the patio Sunday.
“The reason I’m here today is that the relationship between the (Colorado) County Clerks Association and the secretary of state’s office has been very frustrating,” she said. “We haven’t been able to progress like we would like to.”
Parker said she felt she could work with Neguse, and she is attracted to his non-partisanship.
“Next year, I’ll be the president of the county clerks association,” Parker said, “and the majority of us are Republican; however, the majority of us are advocates for voting rights, and when you work, live and breath elections, you just want to give people that opportunity. That’s why I’m here.”