By REED KELLEY
MEEKER | Patricia Zornio, a biomedical researcher from a family of Trump supporters, hopes to stand up for science in the United States Senate. Starting her possible campaign fairly early, Zornio is making concerted swing visits throughout the state to meet voters and talk about issues for the 2020 election. She’s considering a challenge to sitting Colorado U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, whose first, six-year Senate term is not up until January 2021.
All interested voters are encouraged to meet and talk with Ms. Zornio this Saturday, July 28, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Meeker Café, 560 Main St.
Obviously a scientist by training, Zornio claims to be passionate about taking smart, evidence-based solutions to Washington, D.C. From strong economies to protecting Colorado’s natural resources, Zornio wants to make science benefit the people. Her team is working hard to explore a viable grassroots candidacy. In the process, she hopes to bring a change to politics that voters can feel good about.
A Colorado resident since 2009, living in Superior, Zornio was raised in conservative, rural New Hampshire. She was the first in her family to study for an advanced degree, pursuing clinical neuropsychology and exploring novel therapeutics for severe mental illness. She has become an expert on rare and undiagnosed diseases. But politics have always tugged at her. With the same methodical approach she used to build a career as a translational scientist, Zornio is laying this groundwork for a Senate run in 2020. She has spent much of the past year crisscrossing Colorado in order to participate in town halls and speak to interested groups.
This past weekend, Zornio and her team attended “get to know you” sessions throughout northeastern Colorado. She says she’s testing the waters, to see “if people are interested in potentially voting for a progressive female scientist from a rural background.” So far, she thinks, the signs are good. This weekend, she turns to northwestern Colorado.
Zornio is the first to admit that her commitment to science, as well as her politics, is a departure from that of the family she grew up in, all of whom, she thinks, voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Zornio said her father’s initial reaction to her plans was stony silence which has only recently begun to yield to acceptance. In the view of family members,she says, “Science has taken away things,” such as pulp and paper mills, which they believe were driven out of business by environmental regulation. They do not seem to grasp science’s connection to lucrative high-tech jobs, clean water and good medical care, she said.
Her own family experience, however, has helped her prepare to talk about science and its role in making policy as she meets voters, collecting names of would-be donors and campaign volunteers. “You’ve got to humanize it,” she said. “My father and I are still learning how to talk politics.” Colorado is a state, Zornio recalls, that voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in each of the last three presidential elections; Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory in 2016 was close to five percentage points. It’s considered a purple state with strong conservative pockets.
Zornio is also a classical pianist who identifies herself as an “official band geek.” In another part of her life, she helps organizes jazz, classical and musical theater, too, she said. On the issues, Zornio would bring a background in healthcare and environmental sustainability to a run against Gardner. She is single and said she worked her “whole life before college to get to Stanford,” where she earned her degrees, and she’s keenly aware that an engaged political campaign would mean giving up a flourishing career in science. But her career has also connected her to lots of patients facing death, and they have taught her an important lesson: “People really tend to regret the things they didn’t try.”
Zornio urges voters to “come on out and share what is important in your community.” She’s provided the following contact information: Facebook Trish Zornio (Scientist); Twitter @trish_zornio; Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patricia “Trish” Zornio is a lecturer in behavioral neuroscience at University of Colorado Denver, and a biomedical researcher formerly at CU Boulder, Denver Health and Stanford University School of Medicine. She leads multiple statewide STEM efforts including Policy Research Initiatives, State Coordinator for 314 Action and Youth Board Advisor for 500 Women Scientists. The 314 Action group is a nonprofit aimed at transitioning scientists into policy-making.