Folks who live near the Gulf of Mexico are well aware of red tides. During such phenomena, the Gulf’s crystalline blue waters turn a murky red, thanks to sudden algal blooms. Oxygen-deprived fish die and wash up on beaches, while humans may become severely ill from eating shellfish contaminated with red-tide toxins. Substitute “Democratic elected officials” for fish and humans, and something similar may be happening in Colorado.
Try to remember last November, when it appeared that Democrats literally had turned the state blue. President Obama once again swept to an easy victory, leaving Republicans dispirited, leaderless and, it seemed, politically irrelevant for years to come.
Polls showed that Democrats, led by the overwhelmingly popular Gov. John Hickenlooper, had captured Colorado’s moderate center.
The economy was recovering, so all the Donksters had to do was govern cautiously, avoid obvious pitfalls and look forward to re-electing Hickenlooper and Sen. Mark Udall in 2014, then Sen. Michael Bennet in 2016.
But you can always depend upon one thing in Colorado politics: Whenever one party controls the Governor’s Mansion, the Legislature and both U.S. Senate seats, it’ll screw up and overreach.
The Legislature started the party by taking up gun control. It’s never a good idea to legislate in the wake of tragedy, especially on a subject as emotionally fraught as firearms. And if you insist on doing it, you’d better have some bipartisan cover, and some buy-in from folks who may feel targeted, diminished and disrespected by your proposals.
Irritated by angry protesters at the State Capitol, Democratic legislators made the mistake of underestimating their opponents. So what if a few hundred crazies screamed at them?
The people were on their side … or were they?
[pullquote]Democratic legislators made the mistake of underestimating their opponents.[/pullquote]
Meanwhile, Gov. Hickenlooper managed the politically improbable feat of infuriating both left and right by dithering indecisively over the fate of convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap. Faced with the choice of allowing Dunlap’s execution to go forward or commuting his sentence to life imprisonment, Hick did neither, kicking the can down the road for a future governor to decide.
So now it’s 2013. Two Democratic state senators have been recalled, polls say that Hickenlooper is eminently beatable in 2014, and rivers of national Republican money may flow into the state. Red tide, here we come!
Can Republicans keep the momentum going? Can they find electable candidates to run against Hickenlooper and Udall next year? Or, having learned nothing from the Dan Maes and Ken Buck debacles in 2010, will they once again place their bets on unelectable ideologues of the right?
Former Congressman Tom Tancredo, state Sen. Greg Brophy and Secretary of State Scott Gessler are running for governor.
Can any of the three wean moderates away from the incumbent?
Probably not. Tancredo, whom Democrats contemptuously refer to as Tancrazy, is beloved of the Republican right but unlikely to win a statewide race. Brophy, who represents a rural northeastern district, is smart, engaging and slightly to the right of Tancredo. Gessler has won a statewide race but has made exploitable mistakes as secretary of state, pursuing a nakedly partisan agenda.
Three Republican elected officials are running for Udall’s seat. Two of them, state Sens. Owen Hill of Colorado Springs and Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs, are vanity candidates who have no chance of winning a statewide election.
Then there’s Buck, the Weld County district attorney who lost a winnable Senate race in 2010 to Bennet.
As Democrats go, Hickenlooper and Udall (as well as Bennet) are business-friendly moderates. None of the current crop of GOP candidates could be so described, yet that’s what you need to win a big statewide election in Colorado.
Roy Romer, Bill Owens, Hank Brown, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Ken Salazar — all non-ideological centrists.
That’s what Republicans need, and I have just the candidate.
As a small-business owner, she’s an articulate and effective voice for reasonable fiscal and economic policies. She’s served as a city councilor, as a county commissioner and is in line to become president of the National Association of Counties. She’s a non-confrontational conservative who works well with both sides and appeals to independents.
In a race with John Hickenlooper, she’d project strength, competence and leadership.
As far as I know, she’s not interested in running for statewide office. Too bad, because if she did, she’d win.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Republican party, isn’t it time for Colorado Springs to be represented in the governor’s office? I offer for your consideration …