By Justin Criado and Jessica Kutz Daily Planet Staff

Former CIA officer and Ophir resident Bob Baer spoke to the public about the possibility of running for the state’s 3rd District Congressional seat in 2018 during an event Wednesday night at the Wilkinson Public Library’s Program Room. 

Baer, a New York Times best-selling author and CNN contributor, said he plans to hold more public question-and-answer sessions along the Western Slope over the next couple weeks to gauge the public’s interest. 

“I would consider running for Congress if I have a coherent message which people agree that’s convincing, and I would run. That’s basically where I am the next couple weeks,” he said. “…At the end of three weeks of this, I will know if there is any (support). I just don’t know (now).

“I used to overthrow countries for a living. Changing the 3rd District may be harder than overthrowing countries, but I’m willing to give it a try.”

Telluride resident Sarah Holbrooke introduced Baer to a group of about 25 citizens at the library. People wandered in and out during the event. 

“We want to get him out in front of some people now to hear his thoughts and also (the public’s) thoughts,” she said. 

Baer spoke about his background growing up in Aspen during the 1960s and his unlikely path to a 21-year CIA career (he applied for the job as a “prank”). The job placed him in war-torn countries in the Middle East and beyond. 

“I lived in one war zone after another, and what I watched was society’s collapse, whether it was Peru or Cambodia. I watched civil war. I watched the process. I watched the default to nativism to racism to violence, the whole thing,” he said. 

He said there’s a clear division in America, given the latest presidential election and ensuing circus. 

“What really disturbs me is I’m seeing we’re really a divided country. I’m seeing the precursors of these divisions getting worse,” he said. “…We are a country that’s heading down the wrong road.”

The lack of jobs and health care were two topics he touched on during the 40-minute event. 

“What I know is that you have disaffected people, whether it’s millennials that can’t get jobs or people in Grand Junction or anywhere else,” he said. 

Though he hasn’t made a decision just yet, Baer is scheduled to be one of three potential candidates attending what’s billed as a “District 3 Summit” in Ridgway on July 21. 

The summit is organized by D3 Indivisible Colorado, a chapter of the national Indivisible organization that arose in the wake of the presidential election. The group promotes a progressive political agenda. 

Other potential candidates set to attend the event are Chris Kennedy, who previously served on the Grand Junction City Council in 2015 and is the owner of Kennedy Telecommunications Services LLC, and Diane Mitsch Bush, who is currently a state representative for Eagle and Routt counties. 

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez — who has held the District 3 seat since he was elected in late 2010 — has also been invited to join the summit. Tipton defeated Democratic candidate Gail Schwartz, a former state senator, handily in November.

Erika Gordon, spokeswoman for the organization, said she has not yet heard whether Tipton will attend.

For those who think it is a bit early to be vetting candidates for the 2018 election, Gordon said not so.

“The sooner that you can announce (a candidate) the sooner you can start building support and raising money and developing a campaign,” she said. “It is definitely not too early. 

“We want to find the right candidate.”

Gordon said the impetus for organizing the summit was to unite groups in the region who are all working toward the same goals. 

“We really need to get everybody in the same room. We need to know the people that we are communicating with in Durango, Alamosa, Pueblo and the San Luis Valley,” she said. “We need to meet each other.”

Apart from the panel of potential candidates, the summit includes a series of workshops aimed at equipping participants with activism techniques and ideas. Topics range from how to reach voters, communication techniques for bridging the political divide and how to engage millennials, among others. 

“We wanted to create a toolkit for people to take back to their towns and their organizations so that they can feel empowered to be better activists, better organizers and better leaders,” Gordon said. 

According to Gordon, the summit is expecting between 100 and 150 participants.

On July 20, the summit will kick off with a Meet and Greet at Provisions Café in Ridgway at 4 p.m. The July 21 event takes place at the 4-H Center starting at 8 a.m. Registration is $25.

For more information or to register, visit d3indivisible.co/d3-summit. The summit registration deadline is July 16.


This article was originally published by the Telluride Daily Planet on July 6, 2017