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In Swing State Of Colorado, Voter Says She Has To Settle For Choice Of Evils

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In Swing State Of Colorado, Voter Says She Has To Settle For Choice Of Evils

Politics

In Swing State Of Colorado, Voter Says She Has To Settle For Choice Of Evils

In Swing State Of Colorado, Voter Says She Has To Settle For Choice Of Evils

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/360300838/360300839" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

One of the contests that could decide control of the Senate is in Colorado. Steve Inskeep traveled there to knock on voters' doors. In this first part, we meet Ili Bennett, a woman hit hard by the Great Recession and hungry for big changes in the country.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We've been knocking on doors this week. It's the final week before an election that decides control of the Senate. So we traveled to the swing state of Colorado, scene of one of the vital Senate races. We walked suburban neighborhoods that are expected to be decisive. Knocking on voters' doors is a low-tech way to scope out an election. We meet voters at home to get visceral slices of the American story. Consider the Aurora, Colorado woman standing outside her house just as it started to rain.

Hi, my name's Steve. How are?

ILI BENNETT: Hi, Steve. Good. (Laughter).

INSKEEP: Her son was helping her to spread a blue tarp on the ground beside the house foundation.

BENNETT: Oh, this is just - if it rains too much, the house floods. So we put this down to keep it from doing that.

INSKEEP: There's a reason Ili Bennett lives in this aging house. She invited us in out of the rain to talk about it. She's been living in this rental since the bank foreclosed on her last home. The nation was emerging from the Great Recession at the time.

BENNETT: It's horrifying. We lived through it. We lost our home.

INSKEEP: Was it a house like this or a different kind of place?

BENNETT: It was - (laughter) - it was a very nice place. They sold it for $400,000 or so. Yeah, it was pretty sad. But I couldn't find a job at the time like millions of people couldn't find a job.

INSKEEP: Bennett is 61 with a mass of curly, blonde hair. She's divorced. She says she was trying to find a better job when she lost the house.

BENNETT: It was a bigger home. I'd lived there some 23 years. So it was - it was just very difficult. I went back to school and earned an education that I can't pay for. So yes, I'm very in tune to a lot of the things that are going on because I'm living it.

INSKEEP: These days, she says, she's on disability. She's living with her son.

And your son is 22. Did I hear you say that?

BENNETT: Twenty-three.

INSKEEP: Twenty-three.

BENNETT: He's going to school. He's trying to get an education. And it's going to be tough to see how that's going to all pan out as far as paying back. I think that that's another agenda that should be addressed. We should have a better opportunity for these kids that are going to school not to have to be stuck with $30,000, $40,000 in debt and trying to pay it back on a Pizza Hut delivery salary.

INSKEEP: Knocking on doors in this part of Aurora, Colorado, we sensed many people living on the margins. The little houses date from the mid-20th century. The trees in the yards have had time to grow huge, though many of the homes are run down. We found multiple single parents renting houses. A woman was on her way to work as a bartender. An unemployed man was on his couch in the afternoon. Colorado's economy is growing, driven by an oil boom and population growth. You just don't feel it on this street. Nor do you see many campaign signs or other symbols of the coming election. But this month, a postal worker walked down this street delivering ballots. This year, for the first time, every registered voter in Colorado received a mail-in ballot, including Ili Bennett.

BENNETT: I've found it very hard to vote this year.

INSKEEP: Democratic Senator Mark Udall is in a close race against Republican Cory Gardner. Gardner is a conservative congressman. He says he should replace a senator who has nearly always supported President Obama. Mark Udall has warned that his challenger would restrict women's reproductive rights. Both lines have been used by candidates across the country. Neither message resonates in this house.

BENNETT: Roe versus Wade was years ago. And now it's all being brought up again as part of a political agenda. That's ridiculous. We need to talk about wages. We need to talk about food prices. I want to see a big change. I want to see a revolution of change. We need something drastic in this country to get our candidates and our government to listen to the people - 'cause they're not.

INSKEEP: Well, Cory Gardner, the Republican Senate candidate, has said - you're rolling your eyes.

BENNETT: (Laughter).

INSKEEP: He's said, I'm the guy for change. Are you for him? You want change.

BENNETT: I don't think I'm looking for his type of change.

INSKEEP: She definitely did not mark her mail-in ballot for Gardner but couldn't bring herself to say explicitly who did get her vote. Ili Bennett already has thoughts about people who might run for president in the next election in 2016.

INSKEEP: Does anybody interest or excite you?

BENNETT: Elizabeth Warren does.

INSKEEP: Warren is the Massachusetts senator who's fired up Democrats with talk of cracking down on Wall Street. Life experience has given Ili Bennett a taste for many flavors of radical rhetoric.

BENNETT: I think the Tea Party was a start in that direction. Unfortunately, they can't all agree on what needs to be agreed on. And I think we can make some changes. I really do.

INSKEEP: I think you've hit on something insightful here. And I want you to help me with this a little bit because the Tea Party, those are some very conservative people - Elizabeth Warren, very liberal person. But they both represent deep unhappiness with the way things are. And it sounds like they both struck a chord with you. Am I right?

BENNETT: Yes.

INSKEEP: For now, she told us she must settle for a choice of evils. And having said that, she showed us around the rental house stuffed with decorations for Halloween, "The Wacky Book of Witches" and framed pictures on the living room wall.

BENNETT: My son did this picture. Is he not great? He did that one...

INSKEEP: She loves the picture. It's a drawing of a crow feasting on a skull.

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