Republican candidate for Congress Marina Zimmerman has a message, and it’s one we all need to hear.

Our conversation began the same as most; hello, good morning and thank you for your time. As pleasantries gave way, things quickly took an unexpected turn.

When asked to verify a few unknown personal details, Zimmerman revealed a heart-wrenching story: Both of her parents have succumbed to complications from COVID-19, and her brother died young having been born with a rare and debilitating genetic disease called Noonan’s Syndrome.

Trish Zornio (Photo by Holly Hursley Photography)

What unfolded next was the story of a young girl who says she spent her after school hours in hospital wards with her brother, visiting research laboratories for treatments and crisscrossing military bases thanks to her father’s service in the U.S. Air Force.

It’s a combination of life experiences, she says, that have instilled the strong values of compassion and service. 

“Seeing the pain families go through,” she paused, choking up a bit while thinking of her brother, “it makes me feel like we should be more inclusive, and address the mental health of bullying and poking fun of people with disabilities and others who are marginalized.”

Compassion and service, Zimmerman says, are also where today’s Republicans have lost their way. “We’ve lost our respected, competent voice at the table.”

Zimmerman, of course, is referencing her over-the-top, antic-fueled opponent, incumbent Rep. Lauren Boebert. It’s what prompted the former crane operator to run in the first place.

Zimmerman’s vision for a “Republican reset” is bold. Sure, it comes with some classic refrains: small government, fiscal responsibility and a strong defense for the Second Amendment — Zimmerman, like Boebert, is also a gun-toting woman.

But Zimmerman’s new vision also comes with some almost shocking and downright inspiring common sense suggestions for conservatives. Among them, she says Republicans should embrace the science of human-accelerated climate change, and seize on the inherent potential for capitalistic innovation.

She also insists public health matters should not be politicized, saying “I couldn’t wait to get the vaccine and am about to get the booster.” She believes using these as political tools is “harmful to people.”

Most of all, Zimmerman says we must restore institutional respect, balance, compassion and integrity of service. “I have a hard time calling the Boeberts and Cawthorns Republicans,” she says. “They’re the deniers. [Republicans] should not tolerate hate speech, discrimination, racism, or reps that do not serve their constituents.”

Here, the conversation pivots. Zimmerman is quick to note Boebert isn’t doing anything for her constituents, and has already sent me her top five policy priorities: Mental health, environment (e.g. water and wildfires), economic opportunities, public education and rural technology. She’s eager to talk policy, and says after being failed by Boebert, constituents are, too.

She starts by referencing how she envisions playing a role in converting existing unused resources — such as the Regional Center in Grand Junction — to address mental health, veteran, child homelessness and other needs.

She places an emphasis on helping people get back on their feet, and envisions reviving bipartisan work to get district issues fixed. It’s a striking departure from Boebert, as is Zimmerman’s practical support for federal tax dollar allocation.

“Funding, funding, funding,” she says. “Yes, we do want our federal tax dollars to come back to Colorado. We don’t want to overburden our state tax funds. We don’t want them going back to other states.”

Not everyone is rooting for Zimmerman, most notably Colorado GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown who previously worked on Boebert’s campaign.

Zimmerman also hasn’t been prominently featured in news coverage to date, although with criticism of Boebert growing, she recently gained some national attention

At a time when many are questioning how the media can better manage attention-grabbing antics, it raises the question of why more attention hasn’t been paid to Zimmerman — particularly by those such as Kyle Clark who inexplicably featured Boebert on his show during her incumbent challenge of former Rep. Scott Tipton, easily helping to launch her profile. Clark has not similarly featured Zimmerman to date.

Asked if she’d ever been contacted by Clark, Zimmerman simply replied, “No, but I’d be happy to talk with him.” 

This, to me, is where we start. The media should actively seek out Republicans — such as Zimmerman — who are running to reboot the Republican Party, allowing them to more frequently provide contrasting statements on pivotal issues.

If the media is forced to feature Boebert’s latest antics for attention, as we too often are, the least we can do is simultaneously inform voters that they have alternate choices — including from within their own party.

Trish Zornio is a scientist, lecturer and writer who has worked at some of the nation’s top universities and hospitals. She’s an avid rock climber and was a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate in Colorado.

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Trish Zornio is a scientist, lecturer and writer who has worked at some of the nation’s top universities and hospitals. She’s an avid rock climber and was a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate in Colorado. Trish can be found on Twitter @trish_zornio