Democrat Root Routledge is running to unseat Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., for the second time, on a platform centered strongly around climate activism.
Routledge’s campaign is a solo operation. After being a delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., in 2016, Routledge was inspired to pursue his first attempt at representing the 3rd Congressional District of Colorado. Although collecting only 2% of the vote, his candidacy in 2018 allowed Routledge to learn more about the nomination process, equipping him with the skills he said he needed to announce his candidacy for 2020.
“I never stopped being a candidate in 2018,” Routledge said. “It’s just me. I do my own filing with the FEC (Federal Elections Commission), I don’t have an entourage or a campaign manager. ... That’s not where my campaign is, and I chose to do it this way because I need time to get everything ready.”
Routledge moved from Canada to the U.S. when he was 7 years old. Before serving in the Vietnam War, he had lived in various Western rural states, and after finishing his service in 1972, he moved to Colorado, settling in Durango 25 years ago. Since then, Routledge has made climate activism his primary focus and believes that his climate platform will differentiate him from the other three Democratic candidates.
“Climate is the most important existential threat to humanity ever, and it is current, and it is bearing down on us,” Routledge said. “It is surprising to me that no one has spoken on it.”
Diane Mitsch Bush, Donald Valdez and James Iacino, the other contenders, had barely mentioned climate, Routledge said, and “they think that they have to have an opinion on everything” instead of focusing on the pressing issues.
“We don’t have anything passed in Congress to deal with climate change,” Routledge said. “I’m a veteran from a war so I’ve got a lot of fight in me, and that’s why I jumped in and made climate a focus because it’s so important.”
As a “scientifically educated systems engineer,” Routledge said he understands the complexity of the climate and the severity of the situation, which will give him an edge over Tipton, who is “literally a climate denier.”
In a 2017 interview with ThinkProgress, a public policy research organization, Tipton said that while he does believe climate change exists, it is caused by natural climate cycles, rather than humans. His pro-environment scorecard with the League of Conservation Voters is currently at 9%.
Aside from climate, Routledge outlined four issue areas he intends to prioritize should he serve as representative: a healthy democracy, a healthy economy, a healthy population and a healthy environment.
“If our democracy isn’t functioning, which it isn’t right now, with gerrymandering and the dark money in politics, then we don’t have a chance in fixing anything,” Routledge said.
In terms of a healthy population, Routledge referenced hurdles in obtaining access to health care and said that as a low-income senior, he supports Medicare for all because he understands the financial toll health care can take on an individual.
While he acknowledges the issues affecting the 3rd Congressional District, such as preserving public lands and improving health care access, Routledge said he is not going to spend time working on issues that are already being addressed in Congress.
“I have studied what’s out there and I know what the bills are,” Routledge said. “I don’t have to re-create them. I can support what’s already in place. But when you look at the big picture, at the strategic things that are affecting the viability of our future, if we don’t help our future, nothing else is going to happen.”
Routledge said that while he is confident in his climate platform, he is at a “great disadvantage” in terms of campaign funding, having only received $2,000, with $1,500 being campaign loans. However, if he can raise the necessary funds, he believes he can take on his opponents.
“I’ve really got what it takes if climate becomes the issue,” Routledge said. “I don’t think that’s a hard sell, and if that’s the issue, I don’t think anyone can touch me.”
As the only candidate to make climate a campaign focus, Routledge hopes to rally the 3rd Congressional District behind him and fight for change in Washington.
“I’m not going to Washington to reach across the goddamn aisle,” Routledge said. “I will go to Washington to fight for the future with passion in my heart and fire in my belly and lead on climate because that’s what we need right now, and it’s our last chance.”
Ayelet Sheffey is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.