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For This Colorado Voter, Oil And Gas Debate Plays Out On His Property


As the election nears, we've been knocking on doors. We walked the streets in areas considered vital in this fall's election in Colorado. That state is the scene of one of the races that will decide control of the Senate. It's also a swing state in presidential years. Going door-to-door in the evening, talking with voters, gave us a special view of the state of this country.

Just an amazing view - you can see for miles, even though we're not on much of a rise here. You can see the lights of Denver stretching out in the distance.

This is an unincorporated area east of the city. It's a development off of a thoroughfare called Gun Club Road.

Crescent moon, and a substantial house here - a three-car garage.

Houses sit spread out on wide, open lots of several acres each.

Skull on the lawn. Of course, it's Halloween. We rang the bell and touched a finger to the wind chimes.


INSKEEP: Hello. Hi, guys.


INSKEEP: Hi puppies. Whoa, don't run...

A woman answered the door. When we said we wanted to talk about the election, she passed us off to her husband. He arrived home a short time later, still wearing the blue medical scrubs uses at work.

ANTONIO COVELLO: We've done good. I mean, we been very blessed.

INSKEEP: Antonio Covello is a surgical physician's assistant. He runs his own business. It performs bariatric surgery for people who need to lose weight. Even in Colorado, one of the fittest states in the nation, there's no shortage.

COVELLO: My patient population hasn't - hasn't dwindled, you know, always stayed busy. It's gone well.

INSKEEP: Elsewhere in today's program, we're meeting a single mom who's economically on the edge. Covello is not, prospering even though he did not graduate until his early 30's.

COVELLO: I had children when I was young. And school took a little bit longer.

INSKEEP: He's 37 now. His family lives in this four-bedroom house with a view. Marks on the wall chart the growth of his two sons, each growing toward a high line marked, dad. Covello's wife is working for an oil company, a firm distributing Exxon products. Lately, new drilling technologies have brought Colorado's oil and gas boom closer to this home.

COVELLO: We had some people out here telling us that they'd like to frack underneath our house, which is an interesting process.

INSKEEP: Could you actually imagine giving somebody mineral rights to drill under your house somewhere?

COVELLO: Yeah. (Laughter). Yeah. (Laughter). I could.

INSKEEP: He's decided the fracking would be so far underground it would not affect the water well on his property. Driving across Colorado's Front Range, you see pump jacks rocking as they suck up oil and crews drilling everywhere. Fracking is an issue in Colorado's election, though not in a way you might imagine. The Democratic governor and his Republican opponent both argue they support the industry. The only question is, how much? The Democrat faces a strong Republican challenge, as does the Democratic U.S. Senator. Antonio Covello is watching.

COVELLO: For this next election, it'll be interesting to see what happens, to see if we go back to a so-called red state - I put that in quotes - or if we stay purple.

INSKEEP: Covello considers himself conservative and would be eager to see Democratic gains erased. He chuckled when I mentioned Democratic Senator Mark Udall and his Republican challenger.

COVELLO: Udall and Cory Gardner.

INSKEEP: Why are you smiling?

COVELLO: (Laughter). Because it seemed Udall always voted with the president.

INSKEEP: Covello already mailed in a ballot for Republican challenger Cory Gardner. Yet, he's founded a vacuous campaign, with the Republicans focusing on President Obama and the Democrat hammering on women's rights. Other issues are much more on Covello's mind. He's been watching cable news, both Fox and MSNBC, and wondering about his country's course.

COVELLO: Afghanistan, why are we still there? I know we're starting to pull troops out. What'd he do with ISIS? It'd be nice to get an answer.

INSKEEP: You don't feel like you know what the strategy is.

COVELLO: Correct, besides dropping a lot of bombs on them. Those can be interesting videos, to see a bomb strike from a jet or wherever you see that video from - a drone, whatever.

INSKEEP: But does it sound to you like...

COVELLO: It doesn't seem like we're making any progress whatsoever. We get to hear about ISIS making a million dollars a day in black market oil sales. We get to hear about them making more progress on territorial grabs. That's scary stuff.

INSKEEP: And for all his good fortune, Antonio Covello ends up worried about issues closer to home. Protests over a police shooting in Ferguson Missouri this year have held his attention. Society, he says, seems more divided. He has yet to find a leader he would trust to bring people together. We've been going door-to-door in Colorado, and we're hearing voters over the next few days as Election Day approaches. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.