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A Vacation Epiphany: Colorado Highways Could Be a Campaign Issue

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Highway 36 (credit: CBS)

Highway 36 (credit: CBS)

Dominic Dezzutti By Dominic Dezzutti
CBSDenver.com Blogger
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I was fortunate enough to enjoy a road trip vacation over the past Memorial Day weekend. My travels took me to New Mexico and it offered a first hand look at the condition of Colorado’s highways, especially outside the metro area.

What was most telling was the very physical reaction when we crossed the border north bound from New Mexico into Colorado. It was stunning to literally feel the major difference between the state highways.

Complaining about the condition of our state’s roads is neither something new nor unexpected. But what occurred to me, as I considered where I would be getting an alignment for my car, was that our state’s roads could very easily become a populist and popular issue in this year’s election.

Like most problems that need to be solved by the government, fixing our roads comes down to money. But with various constitutional constrictions on state government spending, a solution is elusive.

But considering that our state’s highways affect almost every citizen directly, it seems to me that this is an opportunity for candidates to focus on a problem that citizens across the spectrum would like to see addressed.

I also wonder what affect the issue of roads could have on a campaign, especially a statewide race. What better way to address something that impacts citizens in both rural and urban areas?

So if this is such a great idea, why aren’t more candidates taking advantage of this concept?

That question may have many answers, but I think one of the big reasons comes down to the fact that campaigns expect voters to only react to issues on an emotional level. While roads are important, it’s extremely difficult to make them emotional.

Other issues like gun control, education and energy can be boiled down to emotional reactions. Roads are basically a pragmatic concept.

Perhaps focus groups and polling don’t show that roads are a hot button issue for voters, but I think it would be short sighted to ignore the opportunity.

In fact, the candidates running for Governor would be wise to remember that John Hickenlooper went from also-ran to runaway frontrunner when he ran for Mayor of Denver after he embraced changing parking meter rates back to $1.00 an hour. I can’t imagine that parking meters were polling high months before the election, but the issue undoubtedly helped Hickenlooper separate himself from the crowd.

The solution to our state’s roads is more complicated than lowering a parking meter rate, but the lesson about populist issues remains the same. Everyone drives or rides on these roads and if someone out there is willing to place them high on their political agenda, it could very well become an issue that separates a tight race.

If you are on the fence on this issue, before you make up your mind, drive a few minutes on roads in another state. Trust me, the experience will be enlightening, jarring and frankly a little bit shocking.

Dominic Dezzutti’s Latest Blog Entries

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.

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