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Senate candidate has a plan, but 2-party system makes him largely unknown

October 31, 2014 Updated: October 31, 2014 at 9:13 am
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Dr. Steve Shogan campaigning with supporters in Pueblo. Photo courtesy of the Shogan campaign

Steve Shogan and his campaign team hit Colorado Springs and Pueblo this week trying to let voters know there is a third option in the ugly battle between U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, the Democratic incumbent, and Republican Rep. Cory Gardner.

There are actually fourth, fifth and sixth choices as well.

But as Shogan and his fellow minor-party and unaffiliated hopefuls have learned, getting traction in the nation's entrenched two-party political system isn't easy.

Bill Hammons, an accountant and runner in Boulder who founded his own political party with 47 voters, Raúl Acosta, a 48-year-old independent and father of nine who works in IT, and Gaylon Kent, a Libertarian from Steamboat Springs who is a truck driver, writer and retired Navy sailor, also are on the ballot.

Shogan, 63, took leave from his Denver practice as a neurosurgeon to campaign full time in the race for Senate as an unaffiliated candidate.

One clever campaign sign in Colorado Springs points out: "Shouldn't take a brain surgeon . but sometimes it does."

He's on TV with a few ads but has been left out of every debate between Udall and Gardner in a race that has become an ideological showdown dominated by social issues such as access to abortion and birth control, partisan politics in Washington, D.C., and President Barack Obama's administration.

"Some of the real frustration I've had with the campaign is we don't get answers, we don't get substantive answers to the questions people have about policies," Shogan said.

Shogan is not afraid to delve into the gritty details of his platform.

He wants to tackle the exploding national debt by first stabilizing Social Security from pending bankruptcy.

"There is no way around the fact that we either need more revenue or we have to reduce costs," Shogan said.

His plan calls for a little of both: raising the retirement age to 69 and tying it to life expectancy and increasing the income threshold so the highest earners pay more into the system and receive more benefits.

After that, he wants to rewind the Affordable Care Act.

"I think that Obamacare was well-intentioned, but unfortunately everyone wound up selling out to special interests, and now we have the worst of both possible worlds," Shogan said.

He's in favor of a single-payer system that would provide a base level of health care for everyone using a dedicated funding stream like a value-added tax. The concept would take employers out of the picture, and individuals could purchase supplemental insurance on the free market with little to no government mandates about what those policies provide.

Both of those concepts are political non-starters for most elected officials.

"In the Senate, with it being as closely matched, an independent can really be a swing vote and start to use that independence to try and break up the gridlock and get some things passed," Shogan said.

Shogan's hopes briefly looked promising, with a Quinnipiac University poll saying 7 percent of likely voters supported Shogan. But that poll fell by the wayside a month later after the university issued a second poll with vastly different results.

Typical of the challenges third-party candidates face, neither Kent nor Acosta was able to connect with The Gazette for interviews this week due to their work schedules.

Hammons is in the race for more esoteric reasons than Shogan - he's helping to found the Unity Party of America and after he ran for Congress in 2008 to get the party recognized on registration forms in Colorado. He decided to run for Senate this year to keep the party going.

"We need a fundamental change outside the two-party system," Hammons said.

"One of the reasons I ran this year was to place my party back on the voter registration . Colorado is actually one of the easiest states to get on the ballot and it's easier to get a party officially recognized."

Hammons said the party stands for an amendment requiring the U.S. to create a balanced budget every year, federal term limits for both the House and Senate, and outlawing gerrymandering to create districts politically favored to one of the two major parties. The Unity Party is active in 34 states, including Colorado.

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