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What it Takes: Jared Polis Edition

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

In the front seat of his chief of staff's Volvo station wagon, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) is "focused on winning back the House," part of a sentence that ends abruptly when he answers his cellphone.

"Ben? It's Jared Polis," he says. For the next several minutes, he touts Mark Takano, a teacher running for California's 41st district in Riverside County, telling a reporter there that Takano's sexual orientation - he is openly gay, as is Polis - is of little importance to voters.

Hanging up the phone, he continues his thought without so much as a pause. "So, right now, as I said, anybody who is focused on being a leader in the party should be focused on winning."

Polis' day on Sept. 20 began with two fundraiser breakfasts. He had a lunch fundraiser and then, after Congress voted in the afternoon, a fundraiser for Kyrsten Sinema, a Democratic House candidate in Arizona, which Roll Call accompanied him to.

Polis would also take in a documentary screening for a film on climate change, a dinner hosted by the Concord Coalition honoring Members who backed the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan, then head to two more fundraisers.

In politics, brutal schedules aren't unusual for the ambitious people who walk the halls of the Capitol. But Polis, who started at Princeton University when he was 16, carries himself with special urgency. According to Democratic sources, he is looking at a bid for Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman. The current Vice Chairman, Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, is vacating to run for Caucus Chairman.

"Maybe there's Members who are not as involved in politics, but those of us who are focused and aspiring leaders etc., the next 50 days it's all about winning," Polis said.

The Sinema event was at lobbyist Robert Raben's Capitol Hill house, a common rendezvous for Democrats. Raben himself, a prominent former Justice Department official and lobbyist on LGBT issues, was absent.

The small crowd of about 20 included people with ties to Arizona, the LGBT community and those representing social workers, Sinema's first job out of college.

Although he told Roll Call that Takano's sexual orientation was of little importance to voters, Polis noted in remarks to the fundraising crowd it was a "reason for excitement."

With Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) retiring and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) running for Senate, the number of openly gay House Members might decline. Polis has recruited several candidates to change that, including Sinema, who would be the first openly bisexual Member.

"Hopefully we can move forward, not backwards," Polis said.

He is the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's Red to Blue program, which provides special fundraising and guidance to the most likely Democratic pickups across the country.

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