Guest Columns

HILLMAN: WE CAN'T AFFORD ANOTHER 'BUSINESS-FRIENDLY' DEM

Being nice guy doesn’t qualify one to be guv

After all the Hickenhoopla dies down, Colorado voters may experience a sick feeling of déjà vu as the Denver mayor and Democrat candidate for governor claims that he’s “business friendly.”

We've been down this campaign trail before, just four years ago, when nice guy Bill Ritter bent over backward to ingratiate himself to every gullible business organization in the state. Only the most ardent Republicans refused to fall for the fallacy of a business-friendly Democrat, and business leaders and editorial boards across the state have been (deservedly) kicking themselves ever since.

Here we go again.

Like Ritter, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper comes across as likable. His knack for self-deprecating humor is particularly endearing.

Like Ritter, Hickenlooper seems like the kind of guy you’d welcome as a next-door neighbor. Neighborliness might indicate he has the skills to shovel snow off your sidewalk — as “Hickenscooper” has already demonstrated — but doesn’t equate to “this guy will make a great governor.”

Like Ritter, Hickenlooper aims to avoid any serious challenge from within his own party, and that doesn’t happen unless labor union bosses are convinced they have a candidate who will do their bidding.

The Denver Post reported that one of Hickenlooper’s early testing-the-waters phone calls was to Wally Stealey, retired lobbyist and labor union stalwart, who once complained that “labor had been terribly abused by Ritter.”

This is the same Ritter whom The Post — which, in 2006, lauded him as “the best choice for Colorado” — labeled “a toady to labor bosses” and “a bagman for unions and special interests” just one year later.

While “Hickenlabor” strives mightily to assure union bosses that he will be even better for them (which means worse for Colorado’s economy) than was Ritter, will so-called “business leaders” again be duped?

Will they dismiss the costly lessons learned during the past three years?

Will they believe that a candidate who can enthrall hard-core union leaders and hard-left environmentalists will, once elected, throw them under the bus to please the business community?

When Hickenlooper ran for mayor, he ran in a nonpartisan election decided by personal popularity, and he benefited from being “anybody but Don Mares.” But, as Ritter has learned, when Democrats control the Legislature, a Democrat governor who vetoes Democrat legislation — particularly legislation backed by organized labor — evokes the ire of his party's liberal base.

Remember that four years ago, The Post reported that candidate Bill Ritter “indicated he would be at least as business friendly as Republican Gov. Bill Owens.” To prove this, Ritter reviewed the 47 bills that Owens had vetoed in 2005 when sent to him by a decidedly business-hostile Democrat Legislature. Ritter claimed that he would have vetoed 38 of those bills.

Despite that tough talk, Ritter has vetoed eight, seven and four bills, respectively, in his first three years. Out of more than 1,400 bills passed, that’s a rubber-stamp rate of 98.7 percent. And still Big Labor feels “abused.”

Did the Democrat-controlled Legislature suddenly turn over a business-friendly leaf and cease to do the bidding of labor unions, trial lawyers and anti-capitalists? Hardly.

Quick-witted Republican State Chairman Dick Wadhams dubbed the new Democrat governor-in-waiting “Hickenritter” and argued, “There is not a dime’s worth of difference between (Ritter and Hickenlooper).”

Colorado voters deserve, Wadhams says, to know which Ritter policies Hickenlooper will overturn:

• Ritter’s property tax increase?

• Ritter’s vehicle fee increase?

• Ritter’s early release of violent criminals?

• Ritter’s executive order to unionize state workers?

• Ritter’s repeal of state spending limits?

• Ritter’s job-killing energy policy?

Hopefully, Colorado voters will insist on firm answers to these tough questions after enduring three — going on four — years of a Democrat monopoly at the state Capitol.

After all, voters bought the myth of a business-friendly Democrat, and that has cost more than $1 billion in higher taxes and fees — all without a public vote.

The old adage says, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Colorado can’t afford to be fooled twice.

Burlington wheat farmer Mark Hillman is the Republican National Committeeman for Colorado. He has served as Colorado Senate majority leader and state treasurer.