Election brings new torrent of themes, extremes

It’s too bad that we can’t give politicians a mandatory timeout. We could brighten the dreary stretch of time between November and April by forbidding campaign activity of all kind — no speeches, no fundraising, no self-serving press releases, no “town hall” meetings, no partisan attacks.

Alas, such is not the case. While most of us struggle to survive, eager politicians roam the frigid landscape like starving wolves in search of prey.

They want your money! They want your vote! They want to drive out rival wolves!

So how are they doing?

Colorado’s alpha wolf, Gov. John Hickenlooper, looks as if he’ll retain his position as leader of the pack. His poll numbers are strong, and he’s easily out-raised the five motley Republicans jostling each other for the party’s nomination. Tom Tancredo, Scott Gessler, Greg Brophy, Steve House and Mike Kopp collectively raised more than Hickenlooper in the fourth quarter of 2013, but they’ve spent most of it fighting each other.

Tancredo raised the most ($192,000), but by spending $203,000 he finished the quarter with a depleted war chest. Meanwhile, folksy ol’ Hick already has a million bucks in the bank.

Polls are saying U.S. Sen. Mark Udall may be vulnerable, but incumbency is a powerful weapon. Like Hickenlooper, Udall doesn’t have to worry about a damaging primary fight. We can expect millions — even tens of millions — to be spent by right-leaning political action groups in support of Udall’s opponent.

We’re used to that — remember 2012 and 2008? Being a swing state means that we’ll suffer through months of partisan white noise, but the smart money is still on Udall.

You’d think that Republicans would seek out a sensible moderate to run for Udall’s seat, but apparently not. State Sen. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, might win a general election, but she made the fatal mistake of working with Democrats to set up the state health exchange mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Her disastrous fundraising numbers in the fourth quarter (only $51,000) suggest that she’s not a viable candidate.

That leaves freshman state Sen. Owen Hill and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck (we remember him from his 2010 race against Sen. Michael Bennet), both of whom cannily stick to the first rule of Republican politics: Don’t let yourself be outflanked to the right!

Here’s some serious pandering from Hill, taken from a recent email: “721,000 construction jobs and 528,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost because of the anti-scientific obsession with nonexistent global warming … Education is the key to success in the modern world.” Mammas, don’t let your babies grow up to be climate scientists!

Is Hill a climate denier? First and foremost, he’s a politician who wants to win.

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn has never been seriously threatened since taking office in 2007. Various potential primary challengers (Terry Maketa? Bob Gardner? Darryl Glenn? Keith King?) have given up, so secure is our congressman-for-life. His probable Democratic opponent, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Irv Halter, may have a fighter’s chance if he can paint Lamborn as anti-military, anti-economic development and incompetent.

Here’s one apparent campaign mantra: Mammas, don’t let your babies grow up to be climate scientists.

It looks as if state Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, has a tough battle to grab the Republican nomination for attorney general, replacing the term-limited John Suthers. Waller raised only $11,000 in the fourth quarter of 2013 compared to Don Quick’s $47,000.

Secretary of State candidate and incumbent El Paso County Clerk Wayne Williams also raised $11,000, but he’s in great shape — with no declared GOP opponent. And with party caucuses scheduled March 4, none are likely to surface. His Democratic opponent, Joe Neguse, is an attorney and member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents as a Democrat from the 2nd Congressional District, so the amiable yet aggressive Williams may have an edge in the general election.

What about Suthers? If Mayor Steve Bach decides not to run for a second term in 2015, Suthers appears certain to run — and he might even challenge Bach. In either case, that could doom potential candidacies of political stalwarts such as Amy Lathen, Sallie Clark, Jan Martin or Keith King. Absent Suthers, any of them might have a shot.

And while it’s unlikely that the November general election will bring any significant surprises (U.S. Sen. Owen Hill??!! Congressman Irv Halter??!!), the 2015 city election could bring big changes. Martin will be termed out, while Merv Bennett and Val Snider will be up for re-election. It’s possible that Mayor Bach (or Mayor Suthers) could face a veto-proof Council.

Imagine a Council with three Joel Miller clones replacing the current at-large members — for Suthers, that might be like sharing a cellblock with nine felons he had put in jail. And for Steve Bach … World War III.