The maneuvering began as the New Year dawned. Colorado Democrats prayed, not for rain, not for forgiveness, but that wildly popular Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper would deign to run for governor.
None of the other contenders were thought to have a chance against the GOP’s anointed candidate, U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez.
Democratic candidates come and go — mostly go. Multi-millionaire activist Rutt Bridges announced his candidacy, then withdrew after less than two months, saying that he “just doesn’t have the stomach” for the rough and tumble of electoral politics.
Meanwhile, Marc Holtzman made it clear that he was running for the Republican gubernatorial nod, despite efforts from party elders to persuade him to drop out for the sake of “party unity.”
Far from dropping out, Holtzman began a series of punishing attacks on Beauprez, accusing him of flip-flopping on the issues, and sticking him with the unfortunate moniker “Bothways Bob.”
One delighted Democrat, quoted in CSBJ, quipped “Holtzman’s writing our commercials for us!”
Hickenlooper declined to run, clearing the way for the plodding, colorless former Denver district attorney Bill Ritter. Some Democrats were visibly dismayed — a pro-life former missionary and career law enforcement guy??!! But even the Boulder liberals bit their lips and supported him, if grudgingly.
During a raucous GOP state convention at the World Arena, Holtzman didn’t get enough votes to qualify for the primary ballot. He failed to collect enough signatures statewide to make the ballot, and exited the race on June 22.
Crippled by a vicious primary fight, Beauprez self-destructed. Every week saw a new blunder:
Meanwhile, Ritter pulled ahead in the polls, and, running a cautious, mistake-free campaign, won easily.
Led by Ritter, Democrats made massive gains across the state. Democrat Ed Perlmutter replaced Beauprez in Congress, giving Democrats a 4-3 majority in the state delegation. In the state legislature, Democrats increased their majorities to 20-15 in the Senate and 40-25 in the House.
Even in Colorado Springs, the Democratic tide was felt, as John Morse easily ousted Ed Jones from his seat in the state Senate, and joined fellow Democrat Mike Merrifield in the legislature.
But despite the loss of Jones’ seat, El Paso County Republicans turned back the Democratic tide elsewhere.
Although incumbent Joel Hefley refused to endorse GOP congressional candidate Doug Lamborn, and a number of prominent Republicans defected to Democrat Jay Fawcett’s campaign, Lamborn prevailed with 60 percent of the vote. In retrospect, it appeared that much of the excitement for Fawcett’s candidacy, fueled by a fall poll that purported to give him a substantial lead, was simply a combination of wishful thinking and media hype.
The Business Journal didn’t fall for the Fawcett hype, thanks to our confidential informant, the Seasoned Political Observer, who observed on Sept. 1: “You know, (Doug) Lamborn’s gonna get elected. All he has to do is keep his mouth shut, and repeat one word every five minutes — Republican, Republican, I’m a Republican …”
But, as we suggested throughout the year, maybe the Democrats have found a new template, embodied by our new governor, by Senator-elect Jon Tester from Montana and by dozens of other newly-elected Democrats from the Mountain States.
By dropping or downplaying their signature issues, such as abortion rights, gun control, affirmative action and business over-regulation, while sticking to crowd-pleasers such as environmental protection, renewable energy and an end to the Iraq War, Democrats finally found themselves in tune with majorities in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and Arizona.
Critics of Colorado’s permissive statutes governing initiatives had a field day (or a field year), as no less than six initiatives made the ballot. A brief rundown:
Except in the yet-to-be built Southern Delivery System, which continued to encounter roadblocks.
As the Business Journal reported in June, and in subsequent updates, the tangled regulatory environment, as well as stiffening opposition by Pueblo politicians and business leaders, might delay or kill the project.
Locally, our elected officials tussled with Pueblo Chieftain Publisher Bob Rawlings, with U.S. Rep. John Salazar, and even with each other, as Mayor Lionel Rivera accused Councilmember Tom Gallagher of seeking to profit from his inside knowledge about the project.
And don’t ask where it’s all gone, if you want to get along with me, said Public Employees Retirement Association boss Meredith Williams, responding to CSBJ’s August analysis of PERA’s finances.
Our story, Williams claimed, “presented a one-sided and unfairly negative view of the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association.”
Well, maybe — fairness, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.
Meanwhile, those cranky folks at The Economist unkindly pointed out some weeks ago that PERA’s unfunded pension obligation amounts to $2,500 per Colorado resident — fifth worst among state pension plans.
And speaking of The Economist, its article about PERA ran beside an article about the uranium boom in the American West — covering a story that the Business Journal had explored in detail two months earlier.
Exploring the relative odds of various forms of gambling, the Business Journal found on Sept. 15th that the odds of buying a winning Powerball ticket are so bad that “… there’s almost no statistical difference between the odds of buying a winning ticket and the odds of finding the winning ticket on the street.”
That knowledge, however, was not enough to restrain the editorial staff (including the article’s author) from throwing five bucks a piece into the office Powerball pool a week later.
The legislature banned smoking in virtually all public indoor places in Colorado, but exempted casinos, enraging bar and tavern owners.
Curious to find out just how and why the casinos had succeeded in getting such a legislative gift, the Business Journal tried to find the answer. What we found was “… a baffling hall of mirrors, where nothing is as it seems, few legislators who were willing to talk on the record and a labyrinth of powerful lobbyists working quietly to bend lawmakers to their will.”
In other words, we were stonewalled. Thanks to the legislature’s opaque procedures, the likely authors of the casino exemption artfully avoided public scrutiny. And who were they? Read the archived story at www.csbj.com.
The Business Journal reported that leaders in Boulder are ardently courting the business community. Massive new construction is transforming and revitalizing Boulder’s once-sleepy downtown.
Springs leaders, asked to comment, were envious, if a little dismissive. But maybe Boulder’s on to something — Forbes announced in mid-December that, based on indices such as the percentage of residents who are college graduates, Boulder is the smartest city in America. Fort Collins came in eighth and Colorado Springs didn’t place.