Colo. Swing County Worries About Defense Cuts

Steve Inskeep talks to Bob Murphy, mayor of Lakewood, Colo., about voters' concerns. Thousands of people there have jobs related to the government. Lakewood is in Jefferson County, a swing county, where the population is evenly divided among Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

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And now here's something that's organic to our political discussion - the nation's economy. As the parties hold their national conventions, we're checking in with mayors in swing areas of the country.


Which gives us a picture of local economies, among other things. Many of these mayors hold non-partisan offices, meaning they run without party labels. That affects how the mayors talk to constituents and how they approach local problems. Though in the end they do belong to a party, as in Lakewood, Colorado, where Mayor Bob Murphy is a Democrat.

GREENE: Thousands of people in Lakewood have jobs related to the government. A giant ammunition plant from World War II is now home to a federal office complex.

INSKEEP: Defense contractors have many employees in Lakewood today. And the mayor says that influences the local debate over the size of government.

MAYOR BOB MURPHY: Certainly when there are discussions of cutting defense spending or cutting spending in space research, we get involved on the state and national level. And it's not just those nearly 6,000 jobs at Lockheed Martin, but it's all of the associated subcontractors and there are, you know, that goes into five figures in terms of employment. So the voters here are very well-informed. And they get that connection between the cuts in spending and local employment.

INSKEEP: Are people concerned about the flip side of that, the growing national debt and the deficit that the government is running up every year?

MURPHY: Absolutely, that's of great concern to everyone. I think people believe we just need to find that balance between slowly reducing that debt, yet not doing it so quickly as to cause another economic crisis.

INSKEEP: I wonder if what you're describing explains the contradictory, almost chaotic rhetoric from the parties on this issue, because people are concerned about the debt but they also understand the economic power of what's being spent by the government in different places.

MURPHY: Yes. I think people understand that, as the employment grows somewhat in the private sector, cutbacks in the government sector can kind of lead you to treading water.

INSKEEP: You're in a county that voted for President George W. Bush in 2004. And then went to the other side and voted for President Obama in 2008. What, if anything, do you think changed locally to cause that different result?

MURPHY: It was a gradual evolution. It began around 2004. Virtually all of our statewide representatives in Lakewood are Democratic now, partially in reaction to activism on social issues that took place in the earlier part of the last decade, which the people of Colorado don't react that well to.

INSKEEP: Are you saying there are a lot of voters that are fiscally conservative, might feel comfortable voting Republican, but they're socially liberal?

MURPHY: Exactly, and I'm not sure I would use that word liberal. But I would say that they're very independent-minded here. And it's a little bit of that Western don't-tread-on-me ethic.

INSKEEP: What's weighing down the president in Colorado, if anything?

MURPHY: I thing the hammering on jobs and the economy is probably the number one issue, and we could talk at length about both parties' responsibility there. But the Republican message has thus far had some impact.

INSKEEP: Bob Murphy is the mayor of Lakewood, Colorado. Thanks very much.

MURPHY: Thank you, Steven.

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