Letters to the Editor
'Politically calculating,' Penry or Coffman?
As one of the 25 state senators who supported House Bill 1317, I was saddened by U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman’s recent guest column characterizing gubernatorial candidate Josh Penry’s support of HB 1317 as being made “simply on the basis of a political calculation, without any regard for the men and women in uniform who serve this nation in defense of our freedom.”
Such a statement is not only an undignified political cheap shot, but also a slap in the face to the residents of southeastern Colorado who, more than 20 years ago, were the victims of our federal government’s use of eminent domain to condemn their private property.
HB 1317 was designed as an additional tool to check the federal government from once again using condemnation to acquire hundreds of thousands of additional acres in southeast Colorado to expand the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site. It complements federal legislation drafted by then-Rep. Marilyn Musgrave and publicly supported by then-Rep. Tom Tancredo to do the same. I would hope that Coffman does not think Tancredo, Musgrave and the 25 state senators who supported HB 1317 did so “simply based on political calculation.”
I grew up in Colorado Springs, and I graduated from Air Academy High School. I spent two years in Air Force ROTC at Colorado State University. My father was an Air Force fighter pilot who flew 172 missions in Vietnam. My mother and sister still live in Colorado Springs. I assure you that I am not anti-military — but I am most certainly pro-liberty and pro-private-property rights.
I am also pro-free speech and pro-religious freedom. So I, like most conservatives in the 6th Congressional District, was dumbfounded to learn that Coffman was one of 17 Republicans to vote in favor of a federal “hate crimes” law (HR 1913, Roll Call No. 223, 111th Congress, First Session). I mention this vote only to call attention to the fact that Coffman later voted against the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — purportedly because the “hate crimes” legislation that he previously supported had been attached to the NDAA bill at the last moment. His justification for voting “no” on the final conference was because this provision would “have chilling effects on religious freedoms and free speech.” How convenient.
Coffman’s vote against the NDAA was a vote against funds for pay raises, body armor and many of the weapons systems that are critical to the well-being of our men and women in uniform. Obviously, Coffman is not “anti military,” but one could easily conclude that he was simply seizing an opportunity to cast a “do over” vote on a hate crimes bill whose passage angered his conservative political base. Could it be that it was actually Coffman himself whose vote was cast on the “basis of a political calculation, without any regard for the men and women in uniform who serve this nation in defense of our freedom?”
Whatever the case, the citizens of Colorado should be thankful there are courageous leaders like state Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, who so willingly put their political futures at risk defending the rights of all citizens from the oft overreaching powers of government. Penry is an incredible leader and will be a great governor of Colorado.