Jared Polis stumps in Eagle County | VailDaily.com

Jared Polis stumps in Eagle County

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyDemocratic candidate for the U.S. Congressional District, Jared Polis, right, answers a question from County Commissioner Sarah Fisher, left, regarding his position on immigration during a speech Thursday.

EDWARDS ” Jared Polis has been an Internet entrepreneur, a philanthropist and a state Board of Education chairman.

He’s only 32-year-old.

The Boulder Democrat has even made a Forbes list of the world’s richest young people. Now, the self-described “progressive” is entering national politics as a candidate for the 2nd Congressional District, which includes Eagle County.

“I certainly enjoy the nonprofit work I do, I enjoy the business work I do, but I feel a calling to do more to ensure that this country can maintain its promise of hope and opportunity in perpetuity,” Polis said.

At a meeting in Edwards on Thursday, he told local residents about his ideas. He wants universal health care, and said he will soon publish a plan that outlines how to accomplish that.

“We can reduce the inefficiencies, remove costs from the system and create a national universal health care plan,” he said. “The difficulties are political, not economic or the feasibility of it. It’s just a matter of the public will.”

The current 2nd District congressman, Mark Udall, says he plans to run for U.S. Senate in 2008.

Two other Democratic candidates have announced intentions to run for Udall’s seat: state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald and environmentalist Will Shafroth.

Former Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone, a Republican, has said he is considering a run.

Polis says the war in Iraq is a “disaster.”

“The longer we maintain a presence there, the worse the situation will become,” he said. “I think Congress should use whatever leverage they have to make this president commit to a timeline for withdrawal.”

He wants to proceed with the war on terror by weaning the U.S. off of oil and fighting worldwide poverty. He advocates the use of alternative energy. “As long as we rely on oil, some of those funds will go toward people who hate our country and our way of life,” he said.

He says global warming is the single biggest threat to our way of life. He would push to make the U.S. is a global leader in reducing carbon emissions, not a “global lagger, as we’ve been under the Bush administration for the last seven years.”

In 2004, Forbes magazines named him one of the richest Americans under 40. His estimated net worth of $160 million put him at 28th place ” right between tennis player Andre Agassi and race-car driver Jeff Gordon.

Polis said he doesn’t know if he’s going to spend a lot of his own money.

“Right now, we raised more money than our opponents, so there wouldn’t be any reason to spend any more money,” he said. “If there’s a lot of special interest money coming in from the other sides, I will certainly believe in myself enough to invest it.”

He won’t take “political-action committee” money from special-interest groups, he said.

Polis served on the state Board of Education for six years, and has created New America Schools, which are charter schools where recent immigrants between the ages of 15 and 21 will learn English. A New America School is planned to open in Eagle County this fall.

He helped pass Amendment 23, which requires increasing funding for the state’s public schools. He was also an advocate of Amendment 41, an ethics bill that passed last November but has caused confusion about who could accept gifts.

Polis co-founded his first company, an Internet service provider, while he was still in college. He later made millions off the sale of bluemountainarts.com, the online division of his parents’ greeting-card company. In 1998, he founded an online flower company called proflowers.com that was later sold.

The son of a poet and an artist who also run the greeting-card company, Polis said he and his family have vacationed in Vail for many years.

Polis is openly gay, but called that a “private matter” and not something that affects his candidacy.

“There’s lots of things that candidates are,” he said. “You’re a member of a particular race and a particular religion.”

According to the Boulder Daily Camera, Polis recently sent an e-mail to members of the gay community asking them to “make history” by helping send the first-ever “non-incumbent openly gay man” to the U.S. House.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.

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