polis at the blue sneaker ball

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis holds his phone out to video his partner Marlon Reis' speech during the Blue Sneaker Ball, part of the Polis inaugural celebration, at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in Denver.

Sometimes I think Jared Polis is one of the smartest people I know. And sometimes I don’t.

His ratio of smart to dumb looks a lot better than mine, but no one would elect me governor, despite my highly successful term as an Alabama Kiwanis Club president.

The first gentleman, Marlon Reis, not-yet-40 and spry as an athlete, found his way to the front of the essential worker line for a COVID-19 vaccination this month. Good for him.

I get it, taking care of their two children is essential. 

He was down in December when he and the governor came down with the virus and bounced back.

“Cases of reinfection of COVID-19 have been reported but are rare,” reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If this is political calculus, then Team Polis is really bad at math. I don’t believe that. I know them. He’s got one of the best teams political money can buy. What I do believe is he wanted to get his loved one taken care of, and nobody in his circle convinced him it would cost him in the eyes of a worried public, or he found it a political price he was willing to pay.

I’ve had somewhere around a dozen conversations about the politics of this with people who work in politics on both sides. I haven’t heard anybody yet tell me this was a good idea. They also don’t want to anger the governor by calling him out publicly, which is why I get the phone calls urging me to do it.

“It’s just bad form,” said a Democratic operative whose name, if you’re an insider, you’d probably know. “He needs to come out and say something, even if he says he regrets the decision.”

Voters remember the little things they understand on a schoolyard level more than the big things full of civics and math.

Voters en masse might not follow the pluses and minuses of oil and gas regulation, but anybody can recognize someone using their public position for personal privilege. That impression can linger, since he's bound to be portrayed as the wealthy and powerful King Jared.

George Brauchler wrote an op-ed in the Denver Post criticizing the move, among others. 

“The answer made me spit-take my drink,” he said characterizing his reading of calling the first gentleman a critical government worker.

“Official capacity?" the former DA prosecuted.

“The first gentleman is an unelected, unappointed, unpaid and unaccountable 'government worker,' but Polis says he is so ‘critical,’ Reis needed to be vaccinated before thousands of older Coloradans."

Polis could face Brauchler next year. Brauchler hasn't said, but he's atop a short list of Republicans who could pull it off.

As someone with a bad ticker who's lucky to still be here as it is, I've been stuck at home for 11 months. My cardiologist is crawling the walls over how long it's taking to get his most at-risk patients vaccinated. I've grieved four friends and a young nephew whose only connections were a funeral home. 

Show me a string to pull and I’ll pull it, if it brings one of them back for even a day. Like I said, it's hard to bag on Polis, but it's also fair to expect shared sacrifice from our leaders in the worst of times. On the pain train, the Polis family is in the front car.

Polis scored a precaution against reinfection.

I asked his office about it. His spokesman, Conor Cahill, pointed out in an email the long list of leaders who have gotten the shot as part of the “continuity of state government,” and Colorado is following the federal guidance. The spouses of President Biden and Vice President Harris are vaccinated, he said.

The first gentleman was included among the 240 members of Colorado’s legislative, executive and judicial branches, both officials and essential staff, who have been vaccinated so far.

It will max out at less than 350 people in state government out of more than 600,000 who qualify for the Phase 1B.2 priority list, which includes educators and Coloradans older than 65.

Conor was right about all that, of course, but this isn’t a numbers deal. Politics is a how-it-feels equation. Getting bumped back a spot in line never feels good.

The fortunate Polis family isn’t alone.

The first ladies of Kentucky, a Democrat, and West Virginia, a Republican, are essential, too, so is the spouse of former Vice President Mike Pence.

The bluegrass of privilege keeps growing in Kentucky, where six former governors skipped to the head of the line, taking along four former first ladies. Kentucky’s current Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, also hooked up his parents, and I bet they didn’t spend all night trying to reserve a spot in line at Walmart

It may be understandable, but nobody gets a statue for being understood.

The message is clear and, as Polis likes to say, bold: If we’re saving lives, it pays to be connected. 

Why are people close to the governor more important than people close to us? Because he's governor and we're not? That almost fits on a bumper sticker.

As Insights told you last month, the only person who can beat Polis next year is named Polis.

Score one for Polis.