john-hazlehurstIn 1992, Colorado voters approved the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights amendment to the state constitution, a Doug Bruce-authored tax and revenue limitation measure.

Sloppily written, disingenuously promoted and irrational in practice, it has been at worst a disaster, at best an irritant. In some jurisdictions, its provisions have hollowed out local and state revenue, leading to a kind of municipal triage. You want adequate funding for parks, street maintenance and public safety? Choose one — that’s all you can afford.

In the same year, voters also approved Amendment 2 by a 53-47 margin. The measure was a gay-bashing disgrace, one that both demonized gay people and specifically denied them equal protection under the law.

Four years later, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned it. In his opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that “… the amendment seems inexplicable by anything but animus toward the class that it affects; it lacks a rational relationship to legitimate state interests.”

In retrospect, 1992 marked Colorado’s political low point. In subsequent years, our nattering nabobs of negativity were slowly vanquished by the proud Pollyannas of positivism.

Today, Colorado is blessed with moderate, sensible leadership. Cory Gardner, Michael Bennet, Mike Coffman, Jared Polis, Diana DeGette and Scott Tipton represent us well. Doug Lamborn and Ken Buck may sometimes venture a little too far to the right for my taste, but their electoral bases would likely punish any deviation from conservative orthodoxy. John Hickenlooper is a cheerfully indecisive governor, understanding that the state is doing well and that his job is simple: Don’t screw things up.

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Here in Colorado Springs, we’ve emerged blinking in the sun from a dark and dysfunctional time. Mayor John Suthers has been our Cesar Millan, figuratively wading into a snarling pack of curs (city council and the voters) and giving them exercise, discipline and (once they behave) affection.

We’ve listened to our stern pack leader, given him votes and new taxes and now we’re getting paved streets. The economy is strong; the tone is optimistic — but there are a couple of storm clouds building on the horizon. Let’s call them Hurricane Donald and Tropical Storm Darryl.

Trump and Glenn seem like strange outliers in today’s Colorado, culture warriors from another era. Can either win a statewide majority?

The polls and the pundits say no, but I’m not so sure.

It took Doug Bruce three attempts to pass the TABOR amendment. He’d been beaten back twice before by slick, well-funded campaigns supported by the traditional political establishment and the business community. Some opponents had called for Gov. Roy Romer and the legislature enact a moderate tax limitation measure, thereby defanging TABOR, but Romer refused.

Meanwhile, all the polls predicted that Amendment 2 would go down in flames — so much for the Colorado Springs crazies who had written it.

The polls were wrong. Post-election analyses seemed to show that some voters had lied to pollsters when interviewed, reluctant to express support for measures that “serious” folks of both parties had condemned.

If Trump reads from the teleprompter, keeps his mouth shut otherwise and trounces Hillary in the debates, can he win in Colorado? Sure. He’s already getting a little bounce in national polls, and he may soon be in a de facto tie here, if you allow for an “Amendment 2” factor. That factor might be in play across the nation, putting The Donald in the White House.

And what about Glenn? He has a great personal story — African-American boy grows up in a difficult home environment, excels at school, gets in the Air Force Academy, serves his country, gets a law degree, is elected to city council and to the county commission. But will his far-right political views, thinly funded campaign and lack of statewide name recognition be insurmountable handicaps? It’ll be tough.

Michael Bennet is a competent, superbly qualified, faintly elitist guy who has done a great job in the Senate. He’s no Hillary — he’s not a person whom Republicans have spent a quarter of a century demonizing. For Bennet (and, by extension Hillary) to lose Colorado, three things need to happen.

• A credible Hillary mega-scandal;

• A newly sensible Trump around whom renegade Repubs can coalesce; and

• A ton of money invested in Glenn’s campaign

Bennet and Glenn will debate at the Club 20 Fall Conference in Grand Junction this Saturday evening. If Glenn does well, his faltering campaign will get some momentum.

And don’t underestimate Glenn — just ask all the Republican big shots he crushed in the primary.


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