U.S. Congressional candidate James Iacino dropped by the Mancos Public Library Saturday to meet local voters and share his perspectives on a variety of issues.
Iacino, a Democrat who moved from Denver to Ridgway last year, is campaigning to represent Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, a seat which has been held by Scott Tipton since 2011. His business office and campaign headquarters are both located in Montrose.
A political newcomer, he is one of three Democrats currently vying for the seat, running alongside state House Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush and Durango resident Root Routledge, who all spoke at a forum in Durango earlier that day.
Iacino is the former CEO of the Colorado-based Seattle Fish Co., which was started by his grandfather more than 100 years ago, and he has also served on nonprofit boards related to education and childhood nutrition. He emphasized his business leadership as a missing quality from national politics right now, and spoke of the need to promote economic mobility.
He added that his campaign is focusing on its “ground game.” They will be embarking on a “29 counties in 29 days” campaign in February, visiting all counties in the 3rd Congressional District during the month. He’s also a private pilot, making the trek a little more feasible.
Iacino sat down with The Journal following the event for a question-and-answer session. This interview has been edited for clarity.
Why did you decide to run this year?
I think the state of politics in D.C. is more extreme than it’s ever been. And when I look at my boys, 3 years old and 9 months, it’s for them that I think right now is our opportunity to save our country, bring people back together and actually focus on getting things done to help people. Because it’s not happening with our current representation. I felt like this is my opportunity to serve my country and go to work to make it better.
What are your priorities as a representative of southwestern, rural Colorado?
Economic mobility and diversification, new job growth and reducing the risk of relying on one industry. Allowing people to take home more money from their paychecks. Make sure they have the opportunities to not have to work two or three jobs. Health care, providing access and affordable access through a public option to cover everybody and allow the government to negotiate to bring down costs.
And protecting our public lands. It’s what we have, and we have the opportunity to fight climate change, and promote our outdoor rec industry, and ensure that we have clean water and clean air for people, and that my kids are going to be able to enjoy the Colorado that I grew up with, that my father and my grandfather grew up with.
You talked about helping coal miners transition to more sustainable industries, along with implementing regenerative agriculture practices. How would you bring farmers on board with your plans?
I think the farmers are the ones that are doing it on their own. We just have an opportunity to support them financially, to help them make that transition. Farmers understand the importance of soil, and the importance of its ability to retain water, particularly to fight the coming drought years.
As far as the coal jobs and opportunities there, that’s where infrastructure comes into play. We can put people to work right away, those workers in particular, in investing in the future of the country by building out our renewable power grid. Replacing our sewer systems, replacing our roads and bridges. Those things that the country is going to need, to be able to be as successful as we are 50 years from now.
Teacher retention is a big issue here. What is that federal solution?
It’s putting a pool of money together specifically for teacher pay. It’s ensuring that states have access to that money, that they can then disburse to where it’s most needed, particularly in rural areas. But it has to be funded by the federal government because on the state level we’re not going to be able to get it done.
Why is business leadership needed in government right now?
Because we don’t have it, and there’s not a lot of business representation in Congress. And it’s ultimately where people vote, it’s their pocketbooks, it’s what’s most important to them. People in America want to achieve the American dream. They want the opportunity to work hard and provide a better life for their kids and their kids after them.
I bring a skill set of knowing how to grow jobs in Colorado, how to provide new opportunities for products to reach markets, and help support local farmers, ranchers.
Tipton is from Cortez, and has been well-supported here. How would you win those voters over?
We’re going to come here and spend time here. This is already my second time here, and we’ve only been in the race a few months. I think we need to do what Tipton doesn’t do, which is be available to the voters, answer the questions, hear the concerns, listen to the people.
How do you differentiate yourself from the other Democratic candidates?
I think it’s primarily the business experience. The former people who have challenged Tipton – time and time again, they’re former state legislators. People don’t have the business experience to be able to talk to people about growing jobs, diversifying the economy. Helping them with that economic mobility, and it’s something that I clearly bring.
What’s your role with your company now?
I’m executive chairman, chairman of the board essentially. Quarterly board meetings, holding my CEO and his team accountable. But they are running day-to-day operations, I’m 100% focused on the campaign.
What’s your health care plan?
We need to provide a strong public option, because we need to help people now. We need to get those people covered who aren’t covered. And that’s a lot of our customers, that’s the chefs, the people working in the restaurant industry and the grocers. And the small businesses who can’t afford to provide health care for their employees.
The current public system we have has no choice, there’s no competition. So by providing a public option, we can drive competition, we can reduce prices, we can make sure everybody’s covered, and we can take that pressure off of small-business owners, who oftentimes can’t carry it.
And also it provides a steady source of payment for rural hospitals. When you have people coming in with high-deductible health plans and they’re not aware of it, and they can’t afford those payments, rural hospitals are stuck with the bill, and it’s putting them out of business.