Colorado State Representative Makes a Bid for the U.S. House

By Julia Caulfield

State Rep. Donald Valdez

State Rep. Donald Valdez

Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District has a history of flipping between Republican and Democratic representation – the seat is currently held by Republican Representative Scott Tipton. But Colorado State Representative Donald Valdez is hoping to move it back to the Democrats. He is one of two Democrats currently running in a primary to challenge the Republican candidate. Valdez currently serves as the Representative for District 62 in the Colorado State House of Representatives, and spent a few days in Telluride this week to talk with voters. He sat down with KOTO News to talk about his campaign and why he’s running.

Julia Caulfield (JC): Thanks for being here and chatting with us today. First question, hopefully an easy one, why are you running for Congress?

Donald Valdez (DV): Well, thank you, Julia. You know, here in rural Colorado we need a voice now more than ever – for rural education, for infrastructure, broadband, but also more importantly is our water. Our water’s precious – all the way from the top peaks on the continental divide, all the way down into our communities and to the agriculture industry. Water is essential. It’s our life blood, not only to us, but also the next generation.

JC: You’re currently serving in the Colorado State House. You were first elected in 2016, and re-elected in 2018. Why are you now making the jump to go from the state legislature to the federal House of Representatives?

DV: You are correct. I am the state representative for House District 62 which covers eight counties … this is essential to get out and voice for rural Colorado, because each and every one of our communities has uniqueness, but also the culture, the history, and the home for so many – whether it be our veterans who we need to advocate for each and every single day. Healthcare needs from young to the very young, and the elderly and the wisdom that they have, we need to gain that and pass it on to the next generation now and engage the next generation to be leaders in our community.

JC: The 3rd Congressional District is very large, running from the very northern parts of the state to the southern parts of the state. If you are elected, how do you balance the needs of folks who are living across a very wide range of land?

DV: My current district I cover eight counties and the 3rd Congressional District covers 29 counties from Craig, Steamboat all the way south into Cortez, and Towaoc, and Ignacio, and the dynamics are interesting but we all have the same issues. Economic development is a key issue to continue growth in our communities. With that we need quality and quantity of our water, make sure our soils are healthy, so we continue to grow our food and the agriculture aspect, knowing where our food comes from. Agriculture is a huge, leading industry in the state and the 3rd Congressional District does cover more than half the state of Colorado – but the beauty of the 3rd Congressional District is heaven. The beauty of the majestic mountains, the dynamics of the people, the heritage, the culture, and that’s one of the reasons that I’m running – because we need a voice for rural Colorado. One of the major issues that is affecting our communities is addiction. The heroine, the meth, and the opioids have taken almost two generations, and it’s sad and we need to stand up, enough is enough. We need to get more prevention and education and treatment for those who are battling.

JC: You’ve mentioned agriculture and water as being some of the issues that are really important to you – also education, support for veterans, affordable healthcare, and economic development. These are big issues, some of them are going to be more bipartisan than others, but none of them are small, easy issues to find an answer for. How do you start addressing those issues if you’re elected?

DV: Well, you address those issues one at a time. They’re all issues that affect our communities and affect each one of us, especially healthcare. Healthcare, the cost of healthcare, the cost of prescription drugs, the cost of visiting a doctor, whether you decide to put food on your table or pay for a procedure or surgery that you desperately need to continue to engage and be that persona that you need to work or your livelihood.

JC: Before we leave, I’ll ask a more fun or easier question. I assume you’ve been traveling all over the 3rd Congressional District, and we’ve mentioned that it’s large, when you’ve been traveling in the car or on flights has there been any music that’s really been speaking to you?

DV: The music of the mountains. The mountains keep calling me. And On the Road Again with Willie Nelson, every single day.

Filmmaker Aims to "Humanize" Politics in New HBO Documentary

By Julia Caulfield

David Modigliani (Photo courtesy of HBO)

David Modigliani (Photo courtesy of HBO)

The 2018 Midterm elections brought many lesser known politicians to the national stage. In his new documentary, Running with Beto, director David Modigliani chronicles then-Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s campaign to unseat Senator Ted Cruz, and become the first Democrat to win a statewide race in Texas in 25 years. K-O-T-O’s Julia Caulfield spoke with Modigliani about the film.

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Julia Caulfield (JC): Hi David, thanks for chatting with me today.

David Modigliani (DM): Thanks so much for having me.

JC: Your film follows Beto from the beginning of his campaign for Senate in 2018, before most people knew who he was, but there were so many new candidates who were running that year. Why did you choose Beto as the subject of your documentary?

DM: Like many great things in life, it comes back to baseball. I play on a sandlot baseball team in Austin, Texas, and in the spring of 2018 the De Amuletos de El Paso showed up, and they had a center fielder with a name I hadn’t heard before, who happened to be a U.S. Congressman. I was playing first base and he hit a single, and he told me he was running for Senate. I had been looking for – really since the 2016 elections, feeling the way we dehumanize each other through politics, and how much that causes us to, kind of, tune out – and I was looking for a story that might re-humanize it, or make it feel accessible in some way. So, when Beto spoke to the crowd during the seventh-inning stretch, in his dirty uniform, and brushed his sweaty locks aside, he certainly looked like somebody who could hold the camera and be the star of a movie, but it was really when he talked about the idea that he was going to go to every single county, even the most conservative that Democrats had long written off, that he was going to run without any PAC money, that kind of experiment in democracy was really exciting to me, and felt like a story that would be worth following and that would be an exciting thing to capture and then put out in the run-up to the 2020 cycle, certainly long before we would have imagined that he would be a candidate for the presidency.

JC: Campaigns are obviously fast moving, they can be a bit of whirlwind, especially getting towards the end. But it was really clear that you wanted to catch some of those moments of calm, with his family, playing basketball, why was that an important aspect for you to show in the film?

DM: I think it’s so much of what we don’t see. You know, it’s not life and death like it is in the military, but there is some similarity in the sense that when someone serves the public, the whole family serves, the whole family sacrifices in some way. Beto was home about two days a month for about two years. So their family sort of navigated that experience. It felt relevant to me in terms of showing what it’s really like to run for office. It was also exciting to me to show people who were new to politics, and no one is newer to politics than kids! I think seeing the democratic process through eyes sort of takes us back to that first blush, first experience with this whole process, and maybe allows an audience to view it in a different way.

JC: As a historical spoiler alert, Beto lost his race in 2018.

DM: It’s true! Spoiler!

JC: I assume that as you’re filming, you’re starting to think through the process of what the story is going to be, what the narrative arc is going to look like. Did that change once the election happened and you found out he had lost? Or were you playing in a way that you were able to easily change between a win or a lose for the arc of the film?

DM: You know, Plan A for this film was really, that he was likely to lose. We knew that Ted Cruz had won the 2012 Senate race by 16% and that a Democrat had not won statewide in Texas for 25 years, so there was a real sense that this was a long-shot; and then he went and made it close, went and made it really close. But we were always prepared to tell a story in which the candidate was going to lose.

JC: There have always been movies, and documentaries, and TV series about politics and politicians, but right now it really feels like we’re living in a moment where following politics is almost a national pastime. Do you think your film adds into a narrative that almost treats politics as entertainment?

DM: It certainly does feel like politics is more central to our conversation, and I think that a lot of it has become controversy driven, click-bait entertainment, infotainment, and I think there’s also a way in which the news covers politics by treating the rest of the country and the viewing audience as pundits. You know, “what are people saying about this or that,” that’s a big part of what drove me to make this film; to get back to the real human experience of politics, and getting beyond that click-bait, surface level. As opposed to the real work of knocking on doors, the real conversations that are had between people, and the real emotional experience of volunteering or being a grassroots activist, of allowing yourself to believe in something larger than yourself; making yourself emotionally vulnerable and really seeking change in this country.

JC: Well, David, thanks for taking the time to chat with me today.

DM: Thank you so much. I really enjoyed the conversation.

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That was David Modigliani talking with K-O-TO’s Julia Caulfield about his new documentary, Running with Beto. The film is available now on HBO.