Mike Fallon, Republican candidate in District 1, takes on Diana DeGette, seeks cure for Congress
It's the middle of the afternoon and Mike Fallon is at Pint's Pub. The Republican candidate for Colorado's 1st Congressional District wasn't driven to the bottle by the rigors of campaigning, however.
Rather, he's holding the first in a series of town-hall meetings that will take place at bars and coffee shops around Denver.
Still, one could sympathize with Fallon if he did need a drink. He's running in a district that hasn't elected a Republican since 1970.
His Democratic opponent, Diane DeGette, has been the district's representative since 1997, and in 2008, she took 72 percent of the vote. But Fallon sees an opportunity in grassroots guerilla tactics like the town-hall meeting, and he hopes to capitalize on voter discontent with establishment politicians.
A former ER surgeon and urgent care clinic owner, this is Fallon's first foray into politics, and his campaign is fully leveraging his outsider status and background as a businessman. But unknowns have trouble raising money; Fallon estimates that he'll need at $1.5 million to unseat the incumbent, but he'll likely only bring in $150,000.
He also admits that his public speaking skills are rusty; although once he warms-up, he seems a natural at the podium. And at Pint's Pub, he displays a politician's innate instincts when he deftly deflates an audience member's call for a revolution.
We caught up with Fallon to discuss his uphill battle, the proposed ballot amendments, and how to be a social conservative in a liberal first district.
Westword (Jonathan Easley): Why are these town-hall meetings a better strategy for you than the suit-and-podium approach?
Mike Fallon: I'm not a career politician. I'm an ER doctor, so I'm used to wearing scrubs. I'm also a business guy. I relate to people on a real level, and getting to know people in the district that you want to represent is very important. Where I think Congress has gone wrong is that they no longer represent their constituents. They represent their parties and ideological agendas, and I'm talking about both sides of the aisle. I'm trying to get with the people who are from our community and who have the best interests of our community at heart. I'm not just doing what the party tells me to do, or what the party power expects. So I think this fits my personality. I'm not just going to do the formal political stuff.
WW: Let's talk a little bit about the district you're running in. I'm sure you don't need to be told, but a Republican hasn't been elected since 1970 and Diane DeGette has been in office since 1997. What makes you think the district is ready for a change now?
MF: I understand that this race is a statistical challenge for me, but my campaign is not based on Republican versus Democrat versus independent. It's based on what is best for America and best for District 1. When I knock on doors, I'm finding that people are concerned about jobs, the economy,= and the out-of-control spending. Both parties have been guilty of the out-of-control spending, and both parties are somewhat responsible for the economy. So we're in a time when there has been a reawakening, or a realization that in our lifetime we are on a path that is not sustainable.
The entitlement programs, the government giveaways and the growth of government that has been going on for the past decade is so out of control and so out of touch with what the people of this country want that I think the message transcends party. I think for the first time in my life someone who has conservative fiscal values can win in Denver.