Finding Your Legislative Champions

Interview with Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO-2)

With Quorum Federal, dozens of datasets are available at an individual’s fingertips to identify legislative champions for issues their organization cares about.

First, you can look at bills—who is sponsoring and cosponsoring the most bills on legislation you care about? Who is successful at moving these bills through the process and getting things done on our issue?

Then, you can look at documents—who mentions our issue the most in press releases, newsletters to constituents, floor statements, and on social media? Who is spearheading the trending hashtags? Who is using the words we’ve included in our policy messaging?

Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO-2) exemplifies what it looks like to identify a legislative champion on education and technology. Since his election in 2008, Polis is one of the top 10 most frequent sponsors of legislation mentioning education and a top 15 most frequent sponsor of legislation mentioning technology. In 2018 alone, he’s among the top 10 House members in mentions of education and the top 25 House members in mentions of technology.

We spoke with Rep. Polis about how his personal experiences helped guide the issues he would go on to champion in Congress:

Local/State Leadership Experience

Representing Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District was not Polis’ first taste at elected office. He got his start in politics as a member of the Colorado State Board of Education. And before focusing on education as an elected official, he was the Superintendent of a public charter school.

“I’m passionate about education, I really think education is the key to opportunity for kids to break the intergenerational cycles of poverty that hold so many Americans back from success and so that is really where I spent a lot of my time,” Polis said. “It takes working with a diverse group of stakeholders that often means teachers and school districts and many others to be able to navigate a bill all the way through to signing.”

Industry Experience

Experience as an entrepreneur in the tech industry predisposed Polis to be a champion on technology issues in Congress. As someone who started multiple companies, he has been able to put himself in the shoes of other entrepreneurs when drafting legislation that impacts the ability for early-stage companies to thrive.

“I started here in Congress the Innovation and Entrepreneurship caucus, also Startup Day Across America, where we get a number of members of Congress to visit early stage companies in their district to highlight that innovation engine of the American economy,” Polis said. “I’ve really tried to take some of those lessons to make sure I can be a resource to other members of Congress who haven’t had that experience of starting and running a business.”

Bottom Line

While Polis’ background, dialogue, and past legislative activity indicates his willingness to champion issues in education and technology, it’s important for constituents and advocacy groups to reach out when they have an ask for his office to bring priorities to his attention.

"My constituents engage in a lively debate and we get to be a part of that and respond,” Polis said. “We see all of it whether they call in, email in, post, tweet...I hear from staff every week about what my constituents are saying so that I can be responsive as their Representative.”

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