Transgender Democrat undaunted by GOP dominance in challenging Lamborn
Misty Plowright has passion.
The Democratic candidate hoping to oust incumbent U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn talks about a political revolution sweeping the country, as well as the 5th Congressional District, pausing from time to time to rein in her exuberance.
"I'm a go big or go home kind of person," the first-time candidate said when asked why she chose a congressional seat instead of something more local for her first bid for public office.
"I've never really known how to do anything but reach as far as I can," she said.
Plowright is Colorado's first openly transgender candidate to run for U.S. Congress. But the 33-year-old tried to steer the conversation away from that and spent most of an hour-long interview recently at her east Colorado Springs home talking about issues that drive her passion.
Veterans issues, health care and infrastructure are her top three, while she sought to downplay her transgender status that some have called a publicity stunt.
Plowright didn't publicly identify herself as a transgender woman until the Democratic Party's El Paso County assembly in March when she stood up to speak.
"I put that out there so that people would know," she said. "And then if they're not comfortable with it, they can vote for my opponent."
"My big thing is honesty," Plowright said just before taking a shot at the reputation of politicians, who she said "most people think are dishonest anyway."
Plowright didn't accuse Lamborn of being dishonest. But she said the Republican and his convincing victories in the 2014 and 2012 elections have made him complacent on the job.
"He doesn't have to be accountable to the voters," she said. "He relies on the 'R' next to his name and thinks he can just cruise to victory."
Facing no Democratic opponent, Lamborn won the seat in 2012 with 65 percent of the vote. Independent Dave Anderson took second with 17.4 percent. And in 2014, the incumbent won again with 59.8 percent.
Plowright, who was unaffiliated until becoming a Democrat in July 2015 to support Bernie Sanders' run for the presidency, said the Democratic Party won't invest in the heavily Republican 5th Congressional District race "because they deem it completely unwinnable." The district includes El Paso, Teller, Fremont, Park and Chaffee counties.
Despite the usual buzz over Lamborn's dominance in her district, Plowright insists that she is qualified and focused on the issues.
Infrastructure, especially the need for high-speed internet in more rural areas bubbles to the information technology professional's top priorities. And in Colorado over the last few years that issue has also been an important one for voters. More than 50 state municipalities opted out of a decade-old law that they say limits their ability to help provide infrastructure to reduce broadband costs.
Plowright said the United States went through a similar movement when President Franklin Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Act to bring electricity to isolated rural areas.
Veterans issues are also among her biggest concerns. Plowright said she "gets so mad I can't see straight" when she hears of veterans being denied services. The 33-year-old wants to remove veterans' benefits from the U.S. defense budget and give them their own line item.
"Every vet that served wrote this country a blank check," she said, insisting that veterans should be able to "go see any doctor they want" rather than waiting in line at Veterans Affairs for health care.
The Democrat also wants to eliminate the deportation of U.S. veterans.
"As far as I'm concerned, anyone that has served this country honorably should automatically be granted citizenship," she said.
Lamborn agrees with Plowright on the state of Veterans Affairs. He too wants to eliminate what he calls "the scandalous behavior of having waiting lists."
He told The Gazette Friday afternoon that the voters need to continue to keep him in office because he is "more motivated than ever to go back to Washington and fight for conservative and traditional values."
The member of the House of Representatives' Armed Services, Natural Resources and Veterans Affairs committees said he wants to use his third term to reverse budget cuts for the armed forces and "start rebuilding the military." And he is motivated to open up more U.S. land for the production of "natural energy."
Plowright said the issues dominate questions by everyone she talks to about her campaign. She said tea partiers, Libertarians, Democrats and even Republicans want to know what she would do if elected, not about her transgender identity.
And while there are almost twice as many registered Republicans (180,790) as Democrats (92,166) in the 5th Congressional District, Plowright notes there are more than 145,000 unaffiliated voters and says the conservativeness of the district is a misconception. She believes those numbers could tip the election in her favor.
"This district has a much more libertarian streak than people give it credit for," she said. "I wouldn't live here if it didn't. I love it here."
U.S. Representative Doug Lamborn (R) has had a stranglehold on the 5th Congressional District, winning the seat convincingly in 2012 and getting re-elected in 2014. He is being challenged by Democrat Misty Plowright in the Nov. 8 election. Here is a quick look at their campaign finance.
- Doug Lamborn
- Misty Plowright
Note: Lamborn last reported his finances on Oct. 19 and the last report Plowright filed was Sept. 30.
SOURCE: Center for Responsive Politics