Second banana hopefuls make their pitches

By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

A trivia question stumper might be asking the name of Colorado’s Lieutenant Governor — better yet, the names of the candidates. Just ask Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper’s running mate, Joe Garcia, about his name ID.

“I’m Joe Garcia. None of you know me,” Garcia told several hundred supporters one night a week and a half ago at the campaign’s “In the Loop Concert,” a fundraiser at the Wynkoop Brewery in Denver.

Democratic candidate Mayor John Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. pick, CSU-Pueblo President Joe Garcia, at the “In the Loop Concert” rally on Oct. 18.
Photo by Leslie Jorgensen/The Colorado Statesman

“Just like most of the lieutenant governors, I’m pretty invisible, but I want to change that,” he said. “And John is going to give me the opportunity, as he tells me, to be more involved in governing this state and supporting him. That’s a side I will really enjoy.”

One of those opportunities will be helping colleges and universities transition through the economic downturn that resulted in major cuts in state funding for higher education. Garcia has been campaigning on college campuses around the state and meeting privately with higher education presidents and administrators.

In order to run on the Democratic gubernatorial ticket, Garcia took a leave absence on Sept. 15 from Colorado State University-Pueblo where he has served as president since 2003. Previously, he was president of Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs for five years.

“I’ve seen the difference that education makes for young people and for the communities,” he said. “We need to support education and opportunity for every young person in this state.”

A graduate of the University of Colorado and Harvard Law School, Garcia’s career spans from working as the government affairs manager for Colorado Springs Utilities to executive director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies before becoming a higher education administrator.

Although Garcia has experience in government and education, he’s a newcomer to politics.

After Hickenlooper selected Garcia as his running mate, the Democratic duo was scheduled to make joint appearances in rural communities around the state. The idea, Garcia said, was that it would give him time to learn the political ropes from Hickenlooper.

“On the first morning, I got a call that John was sick,” said Garcia, who wound up appearing by himself in Alamosa and a string of towns in rural Colorado. “I hit the ground running.”

Last week, he pitched Denver Mayor Hickenlooper as the right man for the job in these challenging times at the campaign rally at the brewery in LoDo. Garcia stressed that the Democratic candidate for governor has visited every county in the state, some two or three times, and will represent all Coloradans.

If Hickenlooper campaigns on his business skills, Garcia underscores his education expertise. Neither wants to be labeled, a politician.

“John is not your typical politician. John is not particularly smooth,” said Garcia. “And I’m not a typical politician either. As most people say, politicians talk like they want to sell you a car. I’m not a particularly smooth talker and to a lot of people I look like the kind of guy who’s going to steal your car.”

If the Democratic gubernatorial ticket wins election, Garcia said he plans to live in the Denver metro area during the week and spend weekends in Pueblo with his wife Claire, a Colorado College professor, and son Jose, a student at CSU-Pueblo.

ACP Lt. Gov. candidate Pat Miller
When American Constitution Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo selected former state Rep. Pat Miller as his running mate in late August, she hoped — but didn’t imagine — the campaign would spark a brushfire of support. According to recent voter surveys, the ACP ticket is anywhere between four points and ten points of catching the Democratic duo of Hickenlooper and Garcia.

Former state Rep. Pat Miller and former Congressman Tom Tancredo are the American Constitution Party candidates for lieutenant governor and governor.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Tancredo and Miller, who both switched from the Republican Party to the ACP, have swept past GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes and his running mate Tambor Williams, according to recent polls.

When Tancredo asked Miller to join the ACP ticket, she said, “I thought, oh this will be fun. No stress. Just get in the car and see the countryside.”

With Tancredo trending upward, Miller is on the campaign trail that zig zags across the state to appear at functions for the ACP gubernatorial candidate and with him. Her role is to promote Tancredo — and needle the opponents.

“I just talked to a former Dan Maes supporter who said Dan Maes has turned off all of his cell phones!” Miller told more than 1,300 people, mostly Republicans, at a Tancredo fundraiser recently at the Stampede Country Dance Hall in Aurora.

The crowd’s roar of applause and hollers drowned out her disclaimer that the assertion hadn’t been validated. On the spot, an intrigued Tancredo supporter popped open his cell phone and punched the number to the Maes campaign headquarters. That phone line worked and the young man left a message inviting Maes to contribute some of his “unreported” funds to the ACP gubernatorial candidate. It was clearly a spoof on the Maes campaign’s problem-plagued campaign finance accounting and reports.

“I was raised on a farm in Illinois. There are two states — Illinois and Chicago. Here in Colorado, we have Denver and then all the rest of the state,” declared Miller, who implied that Democratic candidate Denver Mayor Hickenlooper will ignore voters outside of the metro area.

Miller’s campaign zingers are a huge hit with Tancredo’s supporters. The two candidates agree on most issues — pro-gun rights, pro-life, pro-charter and home schools and anti-illegal immigration.

Miller and her husband Lynn, who live in Erie, have been friends with Tancredo and his wife Jackie for more than 25 years. Jackie Tancredo has served as treasurer for Miller’s Republican congressional campaigns in 1994 and 1996 against Democrat David Skaggs in the 2nd District.

She recalled that her pro-gun positions were portrayed as extreme in TV ads featuring guys with Uzis and automatic rifles popping out of the woods. The ads were paid for by Skaggs or his proponents.

In 1989, Miller, who then lived in Arvada, was elected to the state House and served one term.

She is vice president of Colorado Citizens for Life and former executive director of Citizens for Responsible Government, both pro-life organizations. Miller has written three books including “Emily and The Gold Rush,” a historical-romantic novel, “Blessed Beyond Measure” and “Dream a Little Dream.”

Miller is a licensed pilot and president of the Erie Airpark Homeowners Association. The unique community allows homeowners, like the Millers, to have hangars in their backyards and taxi their private planes to the nearby Erie Airport.

“I’ve been in uphill battles, but this is a mountain. A lot of people feel very distant — even discouraged — by this race. But I’m hoping we can offer hope for them,” Miller told The Colorado Statesman the night before Tancredo introduced his running mate to Colorado.

Now, the mountains look more like rolling hills to Miller.

“I think we can win this!” exclaimed Miller.

GOP Lt. Gov. nominee Tambor Williams
GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes introduced attorney and former state Rep. Tambor Williams as his running mate in August at a press conference at his campaign headquarters and hailed her government expertise. Maes called Williams a centrist — detractors declared that she’s too moderate.

Republican nominee for governor Dan Maes picked former state Rep. Tambor Williams as his running mate in August after he won the primary.
Photo by Marianne Goodland/The Colorado Statesman

Maes countered that his views and policies will be the guiding force of the campaign — not Williams’ perspectives.

“I see her being an adviser and a go-to person on procedural issues, legislative issues; and I also see her as a bridge to that traditional Republican audience that has an enormous amount of respect for her,” Maes told reporters and supporters at the press conference.

Williams, who lives in Greeley, brings a combination of legislative and government administrative experience. The Republican was elected to the Colorado House in 1996, and served until 2004, when she was appointed director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies by Gov. Bill Owens.

The following year Williams supported Referendums C and D. Colorado voters approved only Referendum C that suspended portions of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Maes has been an ardent defender to TABOR — and critic of those who supported Referendum C. Williams said that both referendums should have passed to ensure the Legislature had invested in a fund to improve transportation infrastructure.

Williams is pro-life with exceptions of rape, incest and endangerment to the mother’s life. She voted for the bill requiring parental notification of minors seeking abortions, supported continued funding of Planned Parenthood and rejected a bill to ban partial-birth abortions because the language, she said, was unconstitutional.

She and her husband Jim Eckersley are active in the Northern Colorado NRA Chapter. During her legislative tenure, Williams’ votes on gun issues received mixed reviews — the National Rifle Association lauded her; the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners blasted her.

Supporters of the other gubernatorial candidates mentioned that they have not seen Williams on the campaign trail. The Republican lieutenant governor candidate did not return calls requesting an interview.

Libertarian Lt. Gov. contender Ken Wyble
When Libertarian candidate for governor Jaimes Brown tapped Ken Wyble to be his running mate, it was a surprise.

“I didn’t have much time to think it about it — it just happened out of the blue,” said Wyble, marketing consultant for the South Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

“We’ve done a couple of campaign forums, but the 10 percent rule makes it hard for third party candidates to qualify for events,” said Wyble, who affiliated with the Libertarian Party in 2006.

He said the Libertarian gubernatorial ticket has been campaigning at open houses primarily in the Denver metro area and the party’s weekly luncheons at Granny Ma’s in Greenwood Village.

Aside from supporting Brown’s candidacy and promoting Libertarian values, Wyble has speculated about ways to improve the role of lieutenant governor.

“The lieutenant governors are people you never get to learn about. In Gov. Bill Ritter’s administration, Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien has worked on a lot of his blue ribbon commissions, but you don’t hear much about her.”

Wyble said he views the second-in-command position as “an ambassador for the governor who works with the legislature and organizations such as the chamber of commerce groups.”

He said that he would also use the position to scrutinize the state budget to identify cost savings and run state government more like a business.

Wyble earned a BA degree in graphic arts and design at Platt College in Aurora. That’s a creative curve from his original major of business and economics when he spent his freshman year at the University of Florence in Italy.

“My credits didn’t transfer to the United States. But, I played soccer and learned how to cook very, very well,” said Wyble. “I got fluent in Italian really fast!”

Wyble lives in Aurora with his wife Sarah and two children, 7-year-old Jonathan and 4-year-old Averil.

Trivia & Myth busters
And here’s a bit of trivia about the position of lieutenant governor. Toss out the myth that once lieutenant governors end their terms, they never win a higher office. Colorado has a treasure trove of these office holders who were elected to Congress.

At least three lieutenant governors have ascended during their terms to the office of governor. The most recent was John D. Vanderhoof, a Republican from Glenwood Springs, who replaced Gov. John Love who resigned to become the first director of the Office of Energy Policy in 1973. Vanderhoof finished the term and than ran unsuccessfully for governor. His running mate was the former state Senate President Ted Strickland, who lost his GOP gubernatorial bid in 1986 to Democratic Gov. Roy Romer.

Leslie@coloradostatesman.com