Black Lives Matter

Interview: Andrew Romanoff for US Senate

The closely watched primary race to nab the Democratic nomination for US Senate and unseat the conservative and Trump apologist Cory Gardner isn’t as close as Andrew Romanoff’s supporters would like it to be, but Romanoff and his team are taking nothing for granted.

When I spoke to Romanoff over the phone yesterday, he sounded tired, and who can blame him? With just over three days left until the June 30 ballot deadline, and about 495,000 Democratic primary ballots returned as of Thursday, June 25, out of just over 1 million registered Democrats (not to mention just over 1 million unaffiliated voters), a lot of votes are still in play. Romanoff and his team are determined to capture as many outstanding votes between now and Tuesday.

Romanoff’s critics point to his centrist positions in the past as a member of the Colorado House of Representatives, but in his pursuit of the US Senate seat, his positions on a variety of issues have pivoted sharply to the left. That’s in marked contrast to the more mainstream, moderate platform of his opponent, former governor John Hickenlooper.

Education, healthcare, economic inequality, structural racism, and environmental justice are just some of the Great, Big Issues that Romanoff wants to tackle as a US Senator, but our broken healthcare system in general and a coordinated, just, and effective national response (or lack thereof) to the pandemic are his top priorities.

“We need a better answer to the pandemic,” he said. “That means better testing, contact tracing, isolation, and treatment. [We need to] accelerate the development of a vaccine, and especially help families and small businesses [trying] to weather that storm.”

Romanoff is campaigning on a platform that includes “Medicare for All”, and he’s not afraid to use the universally recognized phrase “single payer healthcare plan”. He makes a direct connection between the patchwork healthcare system we have now and the horrifying outcomes we’ve seen in the wake of Covid-19.

“With 100 million Americans without health insurance, [the consequences of the pandemic are] even more of a disaster now. I put healthcare high up on my list.”

That’s not to say that the upheaval of the last few weeks in the wake of George Floyd’s murder is far from his mind. Early in his career, Romanoff worked for a time at the Southern Poverty Law Center researching the Ku Klux Klan, and taught English in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. A commitment to human rights has defined his personal life and professional career since long before he thought of jumping into politics.

“There are a thousand things we can do [to address structural racism]. We should acknowledge the sin of slavery and genocide that have scarred our nation since before its founding, that persistence of injustice that has now endured for centuries. So when it comes to discrimination it’s not enough to put laws on the books. We have to eradicate injustice in every form, not just in the criminal justice system but also in education, healthcare, unemployment, housing, banking, lending.”

Romanoff points to the pandemic as not causing these inequities but rather exposing them to the raw light of public consumption. “What we need is more than awareness, although that’s a start.”

In a recent debate against Hickenlooper, he embraced reparations for Black and Indigenous peoples, and his platform calls for policies ending police violence. Although it’s unclear where the funding will come from for these programs, his simple declaration of support for what has historically been a controversial idea but which has taken on new meaning during the Black Lives Matter movement, is a notable difference between his campaign and that of Hickenlooper. The former governor hews closely to a “pragmatic” platform that spotlights diversity initiatives while maintaining favorite Democratic programs such as the Affordable Care Act, rather than overhauling the system entirely.

“My approach would do do far more good for far more people, including communities fo color, than either of my opponents,” Romanoff said. “There are real differences between Hickenlooper and me.”

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