Q&A with Michael Fields: A new voice to keep conservatives on message
By: Dan Njegomir Aug 13, 2018
This fall’s coming cage fight between Colorado’s left and right will include at least one contender who’s battle-tested, agile and streetwise — at the tender age of 31.
Michael Fields has emerged in no time as a leading man for conservative causes and a tormentor on Twitter — if a polite one — to liberal activists and operatives. He first made his mark several years back when he took over as Colorado state director for pro-free market advocacy juggernaut Americans for Prosperity.
The fast-tracking Fields certainly seems to be going places on the starboard side of the political divide and just last month was named executive director of Colorado Rising Action. As Colorado Politics reported recently, the upstart organization is a state-based offshoot of the center-right America Rising Squared and its affiliate, America Rising. That makes the effort a counterpart to the state’s well-established, all-things-left advocacy outfit, ProgressNow Colorado and its provocateur-at-large, Ian Silverii.
And while Fields is a relative veteran on the Centennial State’s political scene, his latest gig amounts to a new voice for the right that will join the noise and take on the likes of Silverii’s organization as the campaign season heats up.
Fields offers details on that, on the governor’s race, and more — including what he and Silverii might talk about if they weren’t going toe-to-toe during an election season — in this Q&A.
Colorado Politics: You have been a man on the move these past few years as a next-gen advocate for all things center-right. Recap for us where you’ve been and tell us about your newest calling. What brought you to Colorado in the first place?
Michael Fields: A few things brought me to Colorado. First, I met my wife in college, and she grew up in Boulder. Her dad, Brain Cabral, was an assistant football coach at the University of Colorado for 25 years. (Go Buffs!) Second, I went to law school at CU. And third, I wanted to get out of Illinois. I couldn’t get away from the state completely, however. My former governor, Rod Blagojevich, ended up moving in right down the street from us (at the federal prison in Jefferson County).
CP: You have been a forceful spokesman (and prominent Twitter presence) in support of school choice and education reform. You’re also a dad and former teacher with a personal stake in the future of education. And you’re a political point man who is probably relishing the rift the education-reform debate has created among your Democratic adversaries. Does your pitch on education issues have traction among Colorado’s No. 1 voting bloc, unaffiliateds? Enough to to make a difference in a gubernatorial race in which the Democratic nominee embraces some of the GOP’s educational platform, notably charter schools?
Fields: First and foremost, I’m a proponent of a quality education for all kids. I strongly believe that this means having educational opportunities that best fit students and families. I also believe that teachers should get paid more. While legislators are great at taking selfies in front of rallies at the Capitol, they aren’t as good at prioritizing education in our $30 billion state budget. I also think that school districts should put more money into classrooms instead of enlarging the administrative bureaucracy. Those views, I believe, are shared by unaffiliateds across the state.
Education reform has long been a bipartisan issue in Colorado, so I was a little surprised to see the Democrat Party vote to basically kick Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) out of their tent. That doesn’t seem like an inclusive (or smart) strategy. Also, during the gubernatorial primary, the president of the Colorado teachers’ union, Karrie Dallman, had an awkward 10-second pause when asked if they would support Jared Polis in the general election. So, it will be interesting to see how this rift continues to play out.
CP: Why in your estimation is Colorado perennially purple — some say, trending blue — and what is the message from the right for connecting with swing voters? What do you see as the heaviest lifting for you in that regard — assuming you’re willing to share that publicly?
Fields: If you’ve read The Blueprint by Adam Schrager and Rob Witwer, you know that in the mid-2000s, the Democrats in this state got tired of losing. They became well-funded and well-organized. And that’s still the case today. I think conservatives can do a better job of staying on message — and focusing on issues that matter to all Coloradans. Conservatives should be talking about how we fix our roads, improve our education system, and protect voters’ ability to vote on tax hikes. They also should be pointing out how extreme the left is becoming. Liberals are pushing for a $33 trillion national single-payer health care plan. They are trying to virtually end oil and gas production in the state. And every year, they try to pass a new $1 billion tax hike. Conservatives can fight back — but to do so successfully, they’ll have to follow the Cory Gardner 2014 playbook.
CP: When Colorado Politics reported on your latest career move, we included a comment from ProgressNow Colorado’s Silverii about your new employer. Ian’s a pro who instinctively kicked into high gear, dished out his standard talking points, and of course dissed GOP gubernatorial hopeful Walker Stapleton. Ian’s also a super-smart guy and by all accounts, a very pleasant fellow — like you. What would the two of you talk about if you could do it offstage, offline and off-duty — just a couple of guys over a beer?
Fields: I did notice that Ian came after us pretty hard. He knows that nationally, America Rising has a great reputation for tracking and research. It’s clear he’s attacking us because he’s worried about the impact that Colorado Rising Action is going to have on the ground here in Colorado.
But actually, each time I’ve run into Ian, he’s been nothing but nice. I’m sure we would get along great.
CP: What is the greatest vulnerability of his candidate, Jared Polis?
Fields: I think Jared Polis’ biggest vulnerability is that he’s out of touch. On one hand, he voted against a 2.6 percent pay increase for our troops (who make an average of $36,000) because he believed it was too expensive. And then on the other hand, he justifies supporting a national single-payer system that would cost $33 trillion.