Mike Johnston (D), a candidate for U.S. Senator, stands in the living room of Montrose County Democratic Party chair Kevin Kuns Monday.  (Courtesy of Justin Tubbs/ Montrose Daily Press)

April 29, 2019 — Mike Johnston wants to be the next Colorado U.S. senator.

The 44-year-old former state legislator ran in the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary against eventual governor Jared Polis. He is one of many in a crowded race to try to unseat Republican Cory Gardner, who has been U.S. senator since 2015.

And though the election is more than a year away, more than 50 people showed up to a get-together at Montrose Democratic Party chair Kevin Kuns’ home Monday evening to meet Johnston and hear about his policies.

At first glance, it might be difficult to see what sets him apart from other candidates. Like many Democrats, he is for an easier pathway to citizenship for immigrants, tough on carbon emissions and wants to see schools funded better. At the same time, his idea about public university education strays from the policies like presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s, who proposed making college free to everyone.

His ideas are what he hopes gets him elected. Johnston said he knows he is going to need more than simply being the blue candidate for Colorado.

“It’s easy to just say, ‘Here are why Trump and Gardner are terrible,’” Johnston said to those at the meet-and-greet. “By the way, it’s hard because they give you a lot of ammunition — they do lots of stupid things over and over again, which are hard to ignore. But I do think what people fundamentally want is, ‘What are we actually going to build? What is going to be possible for us to do again in this country if we’re in control?’ I think (saying), ‘We’re not Trump,’ is not enough.”

Zero emissions

Johnston said he would like to see the economy be an entirely carbon-free economy. He said he’s been a proponent of the “Green New Deal” but would propose his own version of it.

“My belief is you can do that — I think technology supports that — by the year 2040,” he said.

Johnston said he would propose mandating that every energy source the country uses would have to produce zero carbon emissions, meaning more renewable energy sources. And if oil and gas companies wanted to continue to drill, they would have to find ways to get to zero emissions.

Serve to learn

Johnston calls his policy on higher education “The American Promise.”

“What I believe is you should get up to two years of debt-free college in exchange for service to your country,” he said. “The idea is that it is a civilian form of national service.”

He said one wouldn’t be required to join the military but could work doing things like building trails, or working on flood mitigation or intervening in the event of a national disaster. He said it would be a civilian form of the Reserves.

“It also means it puts you back shoulder-to-shoulder with people you might not agree with on all issues, actually serving your country,” Johnston said. “One of the things the military has done well is created a real sense of camaraderie. There are no partisans in foxholes.”

Path to citizenship

Johnston believes in creating a path to citizenship, regulating visas to allow migrant workers to cross the border and enforcing legal immigration at the point of employment.“(After granting) that path, we are going to make sure everyone who came over to work have done the right steps,” he said. “If you give people the chance to go through the right steps, I believe they will. Right now, they have no path to go through those steps, then they’re held accountable for not going through them.”

Public option for healthcare

Johnston supports a public option for healthcare that would make it affordable and equitable. Rather than a “Medicare for All,” it would be a “Medicare for all who want it.”

Justin Tubbs is the managing editor at the Montrose Daily Press.  You can reach him at justint@montrosepress.com.

Montrose Daily Press | May 1, 2019
Print or download article