Faux poker game at Capitol brings down the house

Cross-dressing Republicans; a country-themed dig at the Senate; and a catfight that has been a long time coming — all this and more in a typical day at the state Capitol. And despite a few production difficulties and some off-key singing, the House minority pulled off their annual theatrical payback on the majority.

“Hummers” is the traditional series of songs and skits that offer some levity in an effort to poke fun at the majority party. This year, House Republicans piled it on, hopeful that in the interim they will be able to take back the majority.

The theme this year was “House of Cards,” playing off of the hit Netflix political drama starring Kevin Spacey. As it did last year, the show began with a slide show of doppelgangers — pictures of lawmakers side-by-side with their look-a-likes.

Some of the brilliant comparisons included Rep. Jared Wright, R-Grand Junction, pictured next to Rep. Dan Nordberg, R-Colorado Springs, who many around the Capitol agree look very similar.

Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, is simply lovely as he depicts Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, in this year’s rendition of the Hummers.

Other slides that caused a roar of laughter included Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, pictured next to Playboy founder Hugh Hefner; Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, compared to Homer Simpson; Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, looking like Steve Urkel from the sitcom “Family Matters”; Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, compared to Dr. Evil from “Austin Powers”; Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulpher Springs, portrayed as Yosemite Sam; Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, shown next to Barbie; Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, as Super Mario; Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, compared to a dominatrix; House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst of Boulder portrayed as the nerd Velma Dinkley in “Scooby-Doo”; Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, shown next to the cartoon Glenn Quagmire from “Family Guy”; Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver, compared to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Rep. Spencer Swalm, R-Centennial, portrayed as Mr. Fred Rogers; and Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, shown as the Muppet Beaker.

A large bipartisan group of state representatives serenades the House in one of the skits: Left-right, Reps. Dave Young, Bob Gardner, Cherilyn Peniston, Kathleen Conti, Cheri Gerou, Kevin Priola, James D. Wilson, House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, Millie Hamner, Dianne Primavera, and Diane Mitsch Bush.

But the show is what everyone came to see. Before it officially started, however, the House offered a less-than-flattering tribute to the Senate to the music of Waylon Jennings’ “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.”

House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, is projected as a creature that has usurped the Lincoln Monument in a House of Cards satirization.

“Serving ain’t easy no matter what you’ve been told. The Senate is crazy and just can’t be controlled. Thirty-five should work harder — but that’s just not their way. Sit in their big chairs contented happy to swing and swivel away,” the song went.

Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, is flanked by Rep. Dan Nordberg, R-Colorado Springs, left, and his lookalike, Rep. Jared Wright, R-Fruita, right.

“Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be senators…” continued the chorus. “Don’t let ‘em be lazy and run just two times. Let ‘em get real jobs and work for their dimes. Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be senators. They’ll never stop making our lives just a mess. Even when they are wrong they’ll never confess.”

Colorado State Representatives Polly Lawrence, R-Littleton, Kathleen Conti, R-Littleton, and Perry Buck, R-Windsor, sing “I’m Gonna Drink Until the Morning,” a spoof on Rep. Crisanta Duran’s bill which would have allowed the bars to stay open past 2 a.m.

When it came time for the play to begin, everyone had eyes on Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, who penned most of the acts. Many Capitol insiders expected the show to focus on Duran. The two Joint Budget Committee members had several heated and sometimes personal public fights over the course of the legislative session.

The real House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst and her Republican portrayer, Rep. Lois Landgraf, pose with a case of Tab, a trademark of the Democratic legislator.

But the “catfight” was not the focus of the play. Instead, it was a poker game. Sitting around a fictional poker table — a play on House Speaker Mark Ferrandino’s weekly game — the speaker was played by Priola.

Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, holds a voodoo doll presented to her in jest by State Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver. The two were political foes during the session and often clashed.
Photos by Jody Hope Strogoff and John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman

“I am the Speaker of the House for the state of Colorado. I am the FIRST gay Speaker of the House for the State of Colorado. I am the FIRST male Speaker of the House for the State of Colorado with a husband,” Priola said, acting as Ferrandino.

“It may look like I have the perfect life, but actually I have many problems and many burdens to bear…. Speaking of those burdens, some of them will be joining me tonight at my weekly Tuesday night poker game in my office at the Capitol…” he continued.

Joining the card game was Hullinghorst, played by Rep. Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain, who looked a lot like Velma from “Scooby-Doo,” as was referenced in the earlier slide show.

“Where did I put my new case of Tab, I know I brought it into the Capitol… Maybe I should check [Assistant House Majority Leader Dan] Pabon’s office — he’s always getting the munchies after his self-sacrificing research with Rep. Singer. Honestly, I was never that much of a fan of those little red gold fish Gummi-Bears — what do they see in them?” said the Hullinghorst character, poking fun at her addiction to the outdated soft drink and the work Pabon and Singer did regulating recreational marijuana.

Pabon, portrayed by Wright — who did a spot-on job, wearing a black wig and a marijuana T-shirt — responded, continuing along the pot theme, “Have you ever noticed the pattern on the coat of the king of clubs… it’s so intricate and pretty. Man! I like that coat, I’m gonna get me one of those coats. If I can just get the votes in the caucus. Of course we need to get through the election, but I think I’d look good in that coat… with a gavel — I’d need a gavel. Are you guys hungry…. I’m kind of hungry — I think I have some brownies in my desk…”

The Ferrandino character later in the game cracks the chamber up with a reference to his being the first openly gay House speaker, who is term-limited this year.

“Go Fish! You know the more I’m in this job; the more I am looking forward to the end of this year,” said Priola, as Ferrandino. “Fortunately for you all, I have higher-ed to take my frustrations out on — I mean to leave a legacy. Pabon, Do you have any sixes?”

The Pabon character responds, “Go Fish! Mr. Speaker, Do you have any Queens?”

Ferrandino: “Not any more…. I’m a happily married man.”

The fictional speaker then spoke of a dream he had involving Abraham Lincoln offering praise for Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, who is term-limited. Gardner is known at the Capitol for “bobbing,” delivering a long-winded yet cohesive speech from the well.

The Abraham Lincoln address went like this: “Four years and four years before, the village of Broadmoor brought forth to this House a new legislator, Bob Gardner…

“We have come here to dedicate a portion of this chamber as a sign of respect and sadness to the great Bob Gardner knowing his time in this chamber is nil. But, in a larger sense, we cannot mourn his term limitation without acknowledging his brave and powerful history…

“It is for us the remaining, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work and “bobs” thus performed in this well. We are highly resolved that this Bob shall not have “bobbed” in vain and shall be practiced and practiced and practiced until another shall rise to the occasion and glory in their ability and imitation of Bob,” the address continued.

To which Gardner took to the well and began one last “bob.”

“My fellow Coloradans…” he began with a drawn-out inflection in his tone. “Must we take forever in the cause of freedom? Will the scourge of anti-fracking legislation take us into a special session? Are the lessons of gun legislation forgotten by the liberal majority? Will they spend until the very bread be taken from our children’s mouths? We cannot say…”

Legislative Month Two

As the play transitioned to the second month of the legislative session, the focus fell on education spending, which plagued the legislature for most of the remainder of their 120 days at the Gold Dome.

Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, depicted Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, the chairwoman of the House Education Committee.

“I’ve been meeting with that awful Rep. Murray and I’m worried… I think she really cares about K-12. What am I going to do?” asked the Hamner character

The Ferrandino role responded, “Well, why don’t you just smile, wait till she offers an amendment and undercut her position… it’s never failed you before…” Murray then performed the “Millie Rap.”

“My name is Millie. My hair’s a little silly. On conceptual amendments I can be a little chilly. Hey, Millie. Hey, Millie…

“A billion dollars here and a billion dollars there. It really doesn’t matter because I got great hair. Hey, Millie. Hey, Millie…”

The Ferrandino character then made reference to how the media has taken a liking to Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida. Wilson is a bit of a cowboy at the Capitol, with a drawn-out Western drawl.

Wilson began singing a country tune, “Oh, Majority,” while representatives in the background held signs that said “minority.”

“Everybody told me I should up and run, servin’ in the House could be lot’s of fun; it did not take this redneck long to see, oh — min-or-ity!

“I got elected to the House and then I found, if you’re in the minority you’re gonna get kicked around; just when you wondered if your bill was meant to be, oh — State Affairs committee!”

The next scene had Duran walking into Ferrandino’s office to talk about her legislation this year that would have extended the hours for bars to stay open. Duran had a tough time with the bill, losing it to confusion over amendments after she couldn’t bring stakeholders together in agreement.

“What do you think your chances are of getting your bar bill passed? I’m concerned about the press,” the ficticious Ferrandino asked.

Silence from Duran.

Ferrandino: “Rep. Duran… Did you hear me?”

Silence from Duran.

Ferrandino: “Rep. Duran!”

Played by Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, who dressed in drag for the part, Duran responded, “What? Sorry, I’ve been polling my Twitter followers to see how they feel about my bar bill. Imagine — with all the bars in my district and all the young partiers — I’ll be so popular!

“Everyone will know when I come in a bar that I’m the one that made it happen! I will be so
IM POR TANT,” McNulty continued as Duran, poking fun at Duran’s Latina pride by pronouncing it importánt, with a hard A.

Reps. Kathleen Conti, R-Littleton, Polly Lawrence, R-Littleton, and Perry Buck, R-Windsor, then took to the well to sing “I’m Gonna Drink Until The Morning,” to the tune of “Get Me To The Church On Time” from the musical Oklahoma.

“I’m gonna drink until the morning. Ding-dong the school bells they will ring. I’ll drive the carpool — get kids to preschool. But get me to the bar tonight…

“I gets to drink until the morning. Screw those who thinks it’s such a crime. I get to drive drunk — kids ride in my trunk. But get me to the bar tonight…”

Month Three

As the third month of the legislative session approached in the play, House Democrats were again at Ferrandino’s poker game.

Ferrandino, played by Priola, asks, “Would someone nudge [Rep. Mike] McLaughlin and wake him up! McLaughlin — why are you always sleeping?”

McLaughlin, portrayed by Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, responded, “Sorry, Mr. Speaker. It takes so much energy to figure out how I should vote to save my seat… I have to vote my district…”

The play then turned to water conservation, as Republicans had loathed a bill by Democrats that would phase-in low-flow toilets.

Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, played Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood, for this part of the production.

“Well, Mr. Speaker, I’d like to talk a little about this water conservation bill. From an IT aspect, I think we may have a winner here. If we can adapt the right platform, architect the solution and make certain the flushing ratio matches up with the data. We will have to carefully monitor the bowel movements — but I think we can get there.

“I’m wondering if we shouldn’t move up our plan to implant chips in the voters of Colorado,” the Tyler character said. “That would secure the voting habits and control the food input and output…”

Shortly after, a slide of a catfight appeared on the screens. It was the moment in the play many were expecting, a spoof on Duran and Gerou.

Duran, played by McNulty, appears furious: “Mr. Speaker, I can’t stand it any more. I am too IM POR TANT to be treated this way. Make her stop. Honestly, the only time I can stand Rep. Gerou is when she is quoting Shakespeare in the well late at night… THAT was fun!

“But, she shows me NO respect! Why do I have to learn the rules of committee? I am the most IM POR TANT part of the committee. I am the FIRST LATINA chair of the Joint Budget Committee.”

The fictiocious Ferrandino responds, “Crisanta — I give up… you are BOTH out of control!”

McNulty, playing Duran, then burst into song. The cross-dressing performance landed all over the chamber as McNulty hopped on desks to sing his portrayal of Duran.

“Please release me, let me go. I just want to punch Gerou,” he sang. “In Approps, she would not let me win. Release me; I want to punch her again…

“Please release me, can’t you see? I want to spend bucks — aren’t they free? To cut fiscal notes just brings me pain, release me, and let me spend again…”

The House minority then made fun of the battle that is expected over who will replace Ferrandino as speaker of the House since Ferrandino is term-limited and won’t return next year. Duran, Pabon and Hullinghorst are rumored to be seeking the coveted leadership position.

“Well, there are people that want to be speaker real bad, and it’s turned into quite a fight…” Wilson began singing. “Now it’s Du-Ran, Dapper Dan and Little Dickey Lee. Three colleagues locked into a dogfight…”

The grand conclusion to the play was a tribute to Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, who is also term-limited. Stephens previously served in House majority leadership before Republicans lost control of the House.

She sang — quite well — her own tribute to the tune of “My Way” by Frank Sinatra.

“And now, the end is near, and so I face the final gavel (thank god),” she sang. “My friends, I’d say it’s clear, I’ll state my case, before I travel… And more, much more than this, I did it my way…”

Stephens then poked fun at her own measure that created a state-based health benefits insurance exchange. Many conservatives criticized her for it.

“… to have health care, the way it should (they just don’t get it)” Stephens sang. “Surrender us to the feds (dumbasses),” she continued.

Following the play, Duran and Gerou shared a hug on the floor and Duran presented Gerou with a gift. Gerou is not returning next year to the legislature. Duran offered her a voodoo doll so that Gerou can continue to inflict pain on Duran even when she’s not there. The entire chamber got a good laugh.

“I wish I could say I’m gonna miss ya…” joked Duran. “But I don’t want you to be stressed out in the future. You can stab it… you can do whatever you want.”


See the May 9 print edition for full photo coverage.

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