The Democratic primary for Colorado's U.S. Senate seat got a little less crowded last week when Christopher "Critter" Milton, a retired financial adviser who spends a lot of time in the backcountry near his home in Park County, decided to ditch the Democrats and try to win the nomination of the tiny Unity Party to run against Republican Cory Gardner.
Milton, who only recently began actively campaigning, decided to switch parties after attending a nonpartisan forum sponsored by the centrist-oriented Unity Party last month in Monument.
Milton, a wilderness first-responder with avalanche training, said he intentionally didn't take part in the many Senate forums the Democratic Party sponsored last summer and fall because he thinks campaigns shouldn't last as long as they do.
"It essentially requires that anyone involved have a significant amount of capital to be able to run that campaign over that amount of time," he said in a recent interview. "It excludes almost everyone from the race."
He said he hadn't known anything about the Unity Party until attending the recent forum and was "astounded at the platform they provided for all sorts of perspectives."
"I've been circling the state talking about unity. I think that's essential," he said.
Milton said he has met with voters in all 64 Colorado counties, "connecting with people from the entire spectrum."
One outreach method he's tried lately involves inviting interested Coloradans to "ski with U.S. Senate candidate 'Critter' Milton."
On a Thursday in late February, Milton said he drew about a dozen interested skiers at Arapahoe Basin when he posted the invitation online, noting that he would be wearing a green jacket and helmet and black mountain pants.
"That's one of the advantages I bring to this race is a broad knowledge base and an ability to talk to anyone, to sit across the table and have a reasonable conversation. That's what we need to do is bring people back together. There's too much division," he said.
The Unity Party, he said, is most interested in unity, and that's its biggest selling point.
"We are stronger united than divided, and we are certainly divided. There's a lot of propaganda in play we need to work around. We need to start teaching people how to learn and not worry so much about what they learn — things like quality of source and how to get both sides of the equation," he said. "I also think this country was founded so we could have differences of opinion and still sit across the table and have a conversation about common ground. There are some things we all share, that we need to address."
In particular, Milton said he was attracted to the party's support for term limits — but thinks they don't go far enough.
"We need to reform our entire campaign system," he said. "A lot of people talk about term limits, but I think limiting time and capital spent on campaigning is essential. The way to do that is to really restrict the amount of money that flows in, to give each individual a stipend they can route to campaigns as a way to engage people into the system who don't have disposable income."
He said he also favors distributing information about candidates the way the state mails out a "blue book" describing arguments for and against ballot measures.
The three issues Milton plans to campaign on are education, the climate and legalization of marijuana and other substances.
"They all tie together very closely," he said.
"When we talk about the climate, most people talk about emissions, going to a carbon-neutral economy. I think that doesn't go far enough. We need to start working on technology that's going to counteract our existing impact, and we need to be talking about carbon-negative, not carbon-neutral."
He envisions taking recycling to a whole new level, with technology that can "actually break things down at a molecule level," allowing 3D printers to reassemble everything from food and water to DNA.
"That is essential to the future of our climate," he said, adding that what he's talking about could be decades away but stressing that it won't happen without far-sighted politicians taking the lead.
"That's one of the things I bring to the table is that long-term perspective," he said. "That's one of the biggest flaws in our system now is a focus on quarterly earnings, which makes it very difficult to invest in the long term."
The Colorado Unity Party earned an official designation as one of the state's minor political parties — joining the Greens, the Libertarians and the American Constitution Party — when it accumulated its 1,000th member in early June 2017. Last fall, the state elevated a fifth minor party, when the Approval Voting Party gained a sufficient number of members.
The designation allows the state party to nominate candidates directly to the November ballot instead of its candidates having to petition their way on.
Since it passed the minor party milestone, Colorado's Unity Party grown to 1,705 active members — "Uniters," the party decided in an online poll — still only 0.05% of the state's nearly 3.5 million active, registered voters.
Milton will have some competition for the U.S. Senate nomination at the Unity Party's state assembly on April 4 at the Broomfield Community Center.
Two Uniters who had been seeking the Senate nomination have since decided against it, but another pair of hopefuls has emerged: Stephan “Seku” Evans and Paul Fiorino, who both grabbed attention but didn't wind up with many votes in previous runs for mayor of Denver.
The party plans to conduct a debate between the Senate candidates in the morning before voting to nominate one of them to the ballot.
But first the assembled Uniters have to amend the party's bylaws to permit nominating a candidate who has only been a member of the party for a little over a month.
Bill Hammons, a founder of the Unity Party and its national chairman, said he plans to do everything in his power "to encourage this move to expand our roster going into the general election.”
A Unity Party spokesman told Colorado Politics that the Colorado Secretary of State's Office has issued an opinion saying there's no reason the Unity Party can't make the bylaw change "now that more and more candidates are liking what they’re seeing."
After lunch, party officials plan to gavel in their national convention and nominate a presidential and vice presidential ticket.