With less than two weeks to go before the August primaries, it’s time for careful analysis, snarky remarks and (largely inaccurate) predictions.
Here in El Paso County, we’ve tended to focus upon the mud-splattering, name-calling, take-no-prisoners race for the 5th Congressional District seat, featuring the beloved comedy team of Jeff Crank, Doug Lamborn and Bentley Rayburn, or upon Mark Waller’s attempt to pull state Rep. Doug Bruce’s snout out of the public trough.
Admittedly, both contests are high in amusement value, but that’s about it.
Get past the smoke and mirrors, and it’s hard to find any significant political differences among the conservative Republicans vying for the conservative Republican vote. For connoisseurs of election-year hyperbole, however, there are plenty of collectible items.
Let’s start with the amiable Crank, who’s doing his best to portray himself as a fire-breathing, flag-protecting, Reagan-reincarnating, IRS-banning, concealed-weapon-carrying, federal-expenditure-cutting, principled conservative. His opponents are, to hear them tell it, even more conservative! They’ll fight those godless, communist Democrats to their last breath — not that they won’t reach across the aisle to pass legislation that all Americans (except those pesky, benighted Democrats) want.
And like Crank, they’re 100 percent American, fervent supporters of all things conservative and crazed opponents of all things liberal.
In such a donnybrook, the choice is clear — vote for the best guy.
I admire Lamborn’s political skills, Rayburn’s military service and Crank’s intimate familiarity with Washington as Joel Hefley’s longtime chief of staff. Joel was both a principled legislator and an effective one — a person who served his constituency well and, as a member of the House Ethics Committee, refused to cover up the wrongdoings of powerful members of his own party.
From Hefley, Crank learned the difference between politics and principle, between honorable compromises and unprincipled sellouts. Realistically, Jeff’s chances are diminished by Rayburn’s narcissistic refusal to quit the race.
So while Lamborn likely pulls this one out, Jeff still has my vote.
Those of us whose admiration for Bruce is, shall we say, restrained, would love to see him consigned to the dustbin of history. Yet despite his oft-chronicled missteps, not to mention missed kicks, he retains the affection of many Springs residents.
Personally, I hope the voters kick him to the curb; professionally, I’ll miss him. Reporters need a few unfettered lunatics in office. Absent Charlie Duke and Betty Beedy, the Dougster is all we’ve got.
Up in Boulder, where liberals revel in the mountain air and conservatives are seldom seen, three Dems who seek to replace U.S. Rep. Mark Udall are engaged in an extraordinarily nasty primary race. In this safely Democratic district, whoever wins takes the seat in November.
The combatants: to your left, the former executive director of Great Outdoors Colorado and scion of one of Colorado’s oldest political dynasties Will Shafroth. And slightly farther to your left, former state senate majority leader and famously competent political infighter Joan FitzGerald. And even farther to the left, the 30-something Internet centimillionaire/boy wonder politician Jared Polis.
Like their El Paso County counterparts, they’re chasing the base – but in this case, it’s a liberal base. Imagine Colorado Springs, then travel through the looking glass. Which candidate is most ardent in his/her opposition to the war? Which is most supportive of the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender/transsexual community, most committed to universal health care, most dismissive of the Bush administration, most supportive of organized labor and most dedicated to the environment?
As in Colorado Springs, the race might not be won by the most qualified candidate, but by the craftiest campaigner.
Shafroth is widely admired for his work at GoCo, where he was responsible for crafting and implementing far-reaching policies that preserved environmentally and esthetically important landscapes. He was a capable, even brilliant, administrator who has already left a lasting legacy. He dealt easily and collegially with local officials across the state – and did so without favor or partisanship.
At 33, Polis is among the most successful businessmen of his generation — not just in Colorado, but everywhere. After selling his Internet-based business, Blue Mountain Arts, for hundreds of millions, he was elected to a term on the State Board of Education.
With Rutt Bridges, Tim Gill and Pat Stryker, Polis was one of the Democratic “Gang of Four” that combined during 2004 and 2006 in the devastating financial takedowns that put Democrats in control of the state legislature.
FitzGerald has been an effective legislator, if hardly inspirational. While Shafroth and Polis were off being movers and shakers, she was working the crowd. She did what good politicians do — built name recognition, performed favors, went to meetings, walked precincts and cultivated the powerful, especially the unions. People tend to vote for politicians they know, or who a friend knows — and everybody knows Joan.
Shafroth and FitzGerald have each raised more than $1 million and Polis has spent close to $4 million of his own money. The numbers are so large that they’ll cancel each other out — voters may just tune out the commercials, the mailings and the smears, and choose the familiar name — and that’d be FitzGerald.
Just north of Boulder, in the reliably Republican 6th Congressional District, Republicans Wil Armstrong and Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman are both vying to replace retiring incumbent Tom Tancredo. To the ill-concealed fury of the Republican establishment, Coffman is a virtual lock — even though Armstrong, the son of former Colorado Sen. Bill Armstrong, is favored by the powerful.
And why are the Repubs so mad? Because if Coffman wins, Gov. Bill Ritter will appoint his replacement as Secretary of State — leaving the GOP with exactly one statewide elected official, Attorney General “Lonely John” Suthers.
Congressman Lamborn, let me introduce you to Congresswoman-elect FitzGerald and Congressman-elect Coffman. You’ll be growing old together in Washington – so, please let’s make nice and work together for our state’s benefit.
And here’s a special present for all of you (delivered in a plain brown wrapper): your colleague Diana DeGette’s soon-to-be-published tome, “Sex, Science and Stem Cells.”
It supposed to be about stem cells (yawn …), but it’s much juicier!
Here’s a quote from the jacket blurb:
“…too many of our elected officials are simply incapable of thinking rationally about sex … our older male politicians couldn’t even talk about any aspect of human sexuality without biting their lips to avoid snickering like schoolboys.”
Coffman! Lamborn! Stop snickering!
John Hazlehurst can be reached at John.Hazlehurst@csbj.com or 227-5861.