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South Jeffco’s Flerlage touts his fiscal approach

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By Emile Hallez

South Jeffco Democrat John Flerlage began his lengthy campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in early 2009, only months after the newly elected congressman had taken office. With the general election now just four months away, Flerlage is confident he can sway voters in the historically Republican 6th District — despite having raised a fraction of the funds that Coffman has.

The key to Flerlage’s approach, not surprisingly, is campaigning on ideas rather than divisive platforms, at least on fiscal issues. And he’s been going door to door telling conservative and unaffiliated voters just that.

“It’s not just rhetoric. … Every Republican and unaffiliated voter in this district knows that I’ve been seeking them out on their turf,” said the political newcomer, adding that he’s canvassed every county in the district. “I don’t see that from the other candidates and the incumbent.”

On social issues, Flerlage, a 22-year Marine Corps veteran, has no qualms with being stamped as a liberal — he supports abortion rights and an end to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

On economic policy, however, partisan politics don’t factor into his views, he said. Attacking the national debt should be a top priority, he said, outlining his plan to do so through cutting Department of Defense acquisitions, further overhauling the health care system and implementing “a fair and simple tax code.”

Though he supports current health care reform, a lot of work remains to make the system efficient and sustainable, he said.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction, but I think electronic health records need to be implemented,” said Flerlage, adding that more transparency related to medical fees is necessary. “We need to eventually separate employment from health care insurance. … There’s follow on reform to be done.”

And despite his stance on diverting military spending, Flerlage, a former fighter pilot who is now an airline captain, nonetheless takes a hard line on national security. He was opposed to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, he said, though the wars in that country and Afghanistan should be ended responsibly. And the U.S. should support military efforts to suppress “extremist groups” in the Middle East and around the world, text on his website states.

Boosting the economy, a concern ubiquitous among voters, is also a puzzle for which Flerlage, 52, offers a solution. Investments in education are necessary, he said, along with efforts to increase the district’s high-tech exports and power the country with domestically obtained energy sources. The district’s economy is too dependent on government spending, he said, citing the example of Buckley Air Force Base and federal contracts with Lockheed Martin.

“In order for economic growth to succeed, we need to invest in three things: people, energy and trade. We need to run our economy on clean, American-made energy,” he said. “In the 6th District, we hardly participate.”

More funding for schools, from elementary to university levels, is crucial to developing an adept workforce, he said.

“We’re taking $80 million-plus out of our school districts across the 6th District,” he said. “That’s the wrong way to go. We need to invest in our schools. Community colleges are key. … We are not adequately funding our investment in people.”

And although a late entry into the race by Aurora Libertarian Rob McNealy could attract fiscally conservative voters, Flerlage said the move has not changed his campaign strategy.

“With Libertarians, I have mostly common ground on the areas of security and (civil) rights. Their approach to prosperity is different,” he added about governmental intervention in market regulation. “Counter-party trust was lost when the financial markets froze up.”

Flerlage moved with his family to South Jeffco in 1995. His three children have attended Jeffco Public Schools, and he briefly coached hockey at Columbine High School, from which his son graduated.

Though he doesn’t expect every Republican in the district to support him, capturing a small share of those votes is crucial to his success.

“We need half the unaffiliated vote, and I think we can do that,” he said, adding that he will need 10 to 20 percent of the Republican vote. “I’m optimistic about everything.”

 

Contact Emile Hallez Williams at emile@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22. For updates, check www.ColumbineCourier.com.