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Parker pounding the pavement in state House race

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Political neophyte jumps into race with both feet walking

By Tom Fildey and Vicky Gits

Editor’s note: Democrat Mary Parker is running against Republican Justin Everett in state House District 22. An upcoming issue will include a story focusing on Everett.

 

Mary Parker doesn’t have a piece of pet legislation to push when and if she gets to the Capitol as a state representative. But she has a burning desire to express her conviction that people need to participate in democracy for the system to work.

A lot of people talk the talk, but Parker is walking the talk.

So far the Democrat has logged 600 miles and pounded on 13,000 front doors since March in her first campaign to represent state House District 22, which consists of most of the unincorporated area of South Jeffco between Friendly Hills on the north and C-470 on the south.

Parker is facing a longtime Jeffco political figure, Republican Justin Everett, who served for seven years as president of COHOPE, a homeowner association group.

Everett won the Republican primary in June against businessman Jared Bauman.

In 2006, Everett ran against Mike Kopp and Kiki Traylor in the primary in Senate District 22, which Kopp won. Everett has the backing of numerous well-known GOP leaders this time around.

In contrast, Parker is a grassroots candidate with virtually no political connections but a wealth of life experience as a mother, volunteer and businessperson who has lived in South Jeffco for seven years.

About 50 people turned out at the Columbine Public Library on Aug. 22 for a town hall and question-and-answer session with Parker, who brought along a table full of peach pastry and chocolate-chip cookies along with her political signs and pamphlets.

Somebody figured out how to make a temporary car-top sign out of a couple of yard signs. Someone sported a Prius festooned with Mary Parker logos.

While getting ready to face the audience, Parker was monitoring her cell phone closely. One of her daughters was expected to give birth any minute.

“I never thought I’d run for office,” Parker said. She explained that one day she was doing voter-registration work and a man came along on a bicycle with an American flag attached to it. Parker thought he must be a patriotic citizen, but it turned out he never bothered to vote.

“Democracy is like a lot of things. You either use it or you lose it,” Parker said. “We need to be involved.”

Parker has set the goal of reaching 20,000 front doors and 1,000 miles before Election Day, Nov. 6. She brings a pedometer along to track her progress as she treks around the neighborhoods.

Parker has pledged not to accept any political action committee money during or after the campaign. “When I get into office, I don’t want to have to think about the donations that helped me get there,” Parker said.

Parker has a background as a working mom with experience in both big corporations and small businesses. She was a systems engineer and networking manager with Hewlett Packard for 20 years and is the mother of four daughters and grandmother of four. She and her husband run a small business, HR Solutions, specializing in compliance and compensation services.

She has volunteered for six years as a court-appointed special advocate, working with neglected and abused children in Jefferson County. She was also a truancy special advocate for two years. She was president of the Eagle View/Eagle Point homeowner association from 2007 to 2009.

Her main goal as a candidate is not to pass a lot more laws but to be in a position to impartially evaluate proposed laws and decide whether they are needed and whether they have unintended consequences. “I intend to learn as much as I can,” Parker said. “I don’t think we do enough evaluation of the bills we pass.”

Before the question-and-answer session, Parker gave the floor to school board member Paula Noonan, a vocal proponent of the proposed school-tax increase, who spoke for about 10 minutes in favor of ballot issues 3A and 3B, which would raise $39 million in operating funds and $99 million in the form of a bond issue for capital improvements.

After a brief introduction, Parker answered questions at random from the largely friendly audience about her opinions on the Jeffco Schools tax increase, roads and bridges, birth control, immigration and gay marriage.

Parker’s positions on the issues are pretty much in line with what one might expect from a Democratic Party candidate.

She believes in a path to citizenship for immigrants, equal protection for gay couples, more money for education, doing something about gun proliferation, and endorsing a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion.

She was not so sure of what to do about raising money for roads and bridges.

“I hear a lot of complaints about registration fees, especially on commercial vehicles, which are really high. I would like to see things more spread out,” she said.

Some excerpts from the question-and-answer session:

On immigration: “It comes down to jobs. People think (immigrants) are taking jobs and suppressing wages. People believe non-documented persons have access to medical assistance and welfare. For employers, cheap labor is a plus. I don’t have the answer. I strongly support a path to citizenship.”

On gay marriage: “I support equal rights under the law for everyone, but I also believe a church has the right to define what it believes is a marriage.”

On TABOR (the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights: “It’s one of those bills with unintended consequences … . It ties the hands of the legislature. The consequences of the law weren’t entirely foreseen, and it won’t be easy to fix.”

On ballot issues 3A and 3B(Jeffco Public Schools’ taxes and new bond): “(Not spending on schools) is like cutting off your nose to spite your face. If we don’t pass the ballot issues, we will have to cut 400 teachers. It won’t make schools more efficient. JPS does a great job with transparency and having open meetings.” She said citizen advisory boards help promote wise spending decisions.

On gun control: “What happened in Aurora is just appalling. … Here we are 13 years later, and we haven’t done anything. Some people say you just can’t stop a deranged person. You shouldn’t feel your children are at risk if they go to the movies … . We have to do more to keep guns out of the hands of the deranged. We should look at automatic weapons. It’s not OK to have an Aurora every few months and say, ‘Oh, well.’ ”

On abortion: “The government doesn’t have the right to make decisions about what an individual can do with her body.”

State health exchange law (SB 200): “I’m impressed by the support the law has had from business as well as hospitals. It’s a step in the right direction. (Health exchanges) shouldn’t be sidetracked by federal legislation. (Health exchanges are organizations set up to create a competitive marketplace where individuals and small businesses can purchase competing health insurance policies.)

• On new laws: “We do not need new laws. The constitution is already one of the longest of all the states. We need a way to measure the effectiveness of the laws we pass.”

• On the economy and jobs: “The state passed a law to allow municipalities to waive sales taxes in order to attract businesses in some cases. I think it’s a good idea.”

On fracking to extract oil and gas: “I am concerned about safety and water. It’s a good question. Should the state (or the affected municipalities) set the rules? I don’t have all the answers. But I’m sympathetic with homeowners that have a well being drilled 150 feet from their doorsteps.”

On political competitiveness: “I’m glad the district is a challenge (equally divided between Democrat, Republican and independent registered voters). So many races have no opposition. Competitiveness is good. It’s kind of hard to have a democracy just by default.”

For more on Mary Parker, visit www.maryforstaterep.com.