Guest Columns

HUDSON: HICKENLOOPER NEEDN’T WORRY ABOUT THESE FOUR

The Republican junior varsity candidates for governor appear to be revolving

The Colorado Statesman

The Denver Post conducted the second Republican gubernatorial debate of the 2014 campaign this week. Absent were alpha dogs Tom Tancredo and Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Two new candidates have joined the field since last year, businessman Jason Clark, and Steve House, Adams County Republican chair. At the December debate at a local television station, not a single candidate was willing to fully embrace the theory of evolution through natural selection. Nonetheless, these B team candidates proved that their positions have been evolving during the interim. Gessler and Tancredo, both of whom have proven prone to near fatal bouts of foot in mouth disease, plan to duck any further debates. For the moment, the fact that each has raised more money than their four competitors combined makes this appear a shrewd strategy.

However, should either frontrunner trip over his tongue, at least one member of the remaining pack seems likely to become a frontrunner. Mike Kopp, Greg Brophy, Clark and House all were inclined to claim that money won’t be all that important in a primary, that when the dazzling light from their leadership skills escapes the shadows in which they are currently obscured, grassroots Republicans will flock to their campaigns. Each aspirant assured the audience that he could easily run the state of Colorado more competently than the incumbent without raising an additional dime in taxes. Kopp touted his “blueprint for a leaner government” — available for inspection on his website. His competitors promised to resolve any budget issues by uncovering that reliable Republican target of “waste, fraud and abuse” and turning these found dollars to better purposes.

The debate kicked off with several rounds of Yes/No questions. Surprisingly, when asked whether they would sign a bill (not quite the same thing as vetoing one) as governor to repeal civil unions, three said they would not. Likewise, when asked about a bill to repeal in-state tuition rates for students who arrived in Colorado without papers, but who have since graduated from our public schools, again three out of four said no. Only a repeal of the requirement for universal background checks prior to any gun sale received a unanimous affirmative vote. Arguably, at least in recent polls, this was the most popular component of the radical left wing agenda enacted by Democratic majorities during last year’s legislative session. (Recently Rachel Maddow has been flogging the murder statistics in Missouri, which have jumped by 25 percent since the state legislature cancelled all background checks.)

Clark expressed an overweening self-regard that turned off Republicans who can normally abide even the pomposity of Donald Trump. OK, so you went to West Point. And, you are single and independently wealthy. Bully for you! You’re also sufficiently double-jointed to pat yourself on the back with both hands. Wow! With any luck you might double the one half of one percent you captured in the U.S. Senate race. Kopp and House appear level headed and competent, but would be severely threatened in a personality contest with an attractive turnip. Only Brophy transmits the energy required to catapult himself into the first tier of the primary race should an opening develop, although it might be advisable to quit waving a gun clip as a debate prop. That may well frighten the soccer moms.

Last Sunday afternoon I chatted with a Denver cop at the Trader Joe’s opening. He asked me what was wrong with Colorado Republicans that they were going to give him Tancredo and Buck to vote against — again. I told him there was always a chance Republicans would snap out of their suicidal addiction to the fringes of opinion — no promises, of course. Bob Beauprez is rumored to be rustling in the bushes looking at the governor’s race that he lost once before, although his op/ed column in the Denver Post merely repeated the usual conservative bromides about the failings of Democrats.

It was encouraging to see several Republican candidates abandon the knee jerk bashing of gays and Hispanics, but Colorado voters are unlikely to patiently wait for an evolutionary transformation of the Republican Party. Why not a revolutionary candidate — one with an agenda that provides a contrasting vision of the state’s destiny? A candidate who can describe a future that thrills and excites voters on behalf of their kids because there will be opportunity and employment for them right here at home, a candidate who appears genuinely concerned with improving the quality of life for every single one of our residents, regardless of their education or personal wealth. Competent management is certainly a good thing, but we enjoy that now. John Hickenlooper is nothing if not a guy who won’t let the barn burn to the ground.

Miller Hudson is a public affairs consultant and columnist for The Colorado Statesman<.em>.