Editorials

No rest for the wicked (or for politicos)

The Colorado Statesman

Now that the major parties’ state assemblies and conventions have come and gone, a shade of normalcy has finally transcended over our office this last week of April.

Moving up the election calendar this year resulted in earlier precinct caucuses and, subsequently, county assemblies that were held mostly in March and the biennial state assemblies in mid-April instead of their traditional late May dates. All well and good in Political Land, I suppose — we can now look forward to an extended general election campaign with the Colorado primary election moved up six weeks to June — but for a weekly newspaper the scrunched-up timetable exacted a slight toll.

Our April 13 issue — three sections and a record 104 pages if you count the special 16-page insert which went to Republican delegates — was our largest ever. Not that we’re complaining, but making sure that double upside down Republican and Democratic “flip” issue was paginated correctly is always a worry. One time, back in the 1980s, a full page ad for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ken Kramer mistakenly got printed in the Democratic section of the issue. Oh well, the conservative Kramer was merely trying to make inroads with Democratic delegates that year, was our excuse...

We don’t have a Senate or gubernatorial race this year in the state, but the political world is no less frenetic. The presidential contest has kept Colorado in the spotlight as we have once again attained that “battlefield” status. That has resulted in a bunch of campaign stops by Republican hopefuls prior to Super Tuesday, and with the President’s appearance in Boulder this week, we are surely a state “in play” as the politicos call it.

We’ll continue to report on Colorado’s pivotal role as a swing state, but we’re already refocusing, in part, on the very important legislative races here in the state. That’s where we see the biggest possibility for change. Control of the state Legislature has gone from Republican to Democrat to currently a split governance, with Democrats in control of the Senate and Republicans, by a one vote margin, ruling the House. That could change as the state parties try to wrest control from each other.

Ernest Luning, our senior political reporter and very astute legislative race tracker, has his latest installment of the Top 12 Races in this week’s issue. He has been closely monitoring developments on the campaign trail and his keen analysis will keep you in the know. His series runs monthly in The Statesman and we encourage you to follow the legislative races through the November election.

Meanwhile the very slight lull after the hyped-up state assemblies provides some catch-up time for us at the newspaper. We’ve received a lot of positive feedback about our political coverage, but also some comments from a couple not-so-happy campers which we’d like to address.

First, following a story in our April 13 edition, Rep. Ken Summers, R-Lakewood, asked us to print this clarification to the article titled, “Republican lawmakers face musical chairs.” He wrote, “Rep. Summers decided to run for the Senate seat because following reapportionment, he felt a stronger affinity with the Senate district boundary lines since the majority of his existing House district is in the boundaries of the new Senate district. He has also lived and worked in the northern part of the new district as well as in Ken Caryl Ranch to the south. Even though the district has a large Hispanic population, Rep. Summers feels, in spite of his sponsorship of this year’s voter ID bill and opposition to the current ASSET bill, that he can relate to these voters because they are people who value, faith, family and economic opportunity.”

We also heard from state Rep. Roger Wilson about a similar story (“Democratic lawmakers face musical chairs”) in the same edition in which Statesman reporter Peter Marcus wrote about the Glenwood Springs Democrat preparing to leave the Legislature after only one term. It isn’t due to his own personal choosing — rather, Wilson’s Glenwood Springs House District 61 has now become part of a much more conservative district due to reapportionment, and Wilson decided not to seek election in HD 57. He is instead supporting Democratic colleague Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, for the seat.

Wilson had no problem with the story, but objected to the photo we ran to accompany the piece. Actually it wasn’t Wilson who complained to us, that unenviable chore was dumped on Dean Toda, the House Democrats’ amicable communications director who relayed Wilson’s displeasure to us by phone.

The photo in question pictured Wilson, arms crossed and a look of apprehension on his face, sliding down an evacuation device at a United Airlines training facility in Denver. The candid photo was taken at a legislative function which we covered last year. Admittedly it kind of made Wilson’s hair resemblant of the wild white mane of Albert Einstein, but it was a true photo from our archives and we thought it was more attention-getting than his standard mugshot. Apparently so, as Toda noted, it got the attention of Wilson who asked him to register his unhappiness with us newspaper folk. Duly noted.

Next comes a single complaint from a Democrat from the Eastern Plains who asked us why we were running articles about “people’s feet” in our political newspaper. For the record, the Style Matters feature in our April 13 issue was not so much about toes and such, but a fun look (we thought) at the souls of the political parties. Okay, the powerful people whose fashionable shoes make a statement along with their political personas. Except for that one confused reader, all of the feedback we received about our three models — Kelly Brough, Maria Garcia Berry and Jessica Peck — was highly positive and complimentary.

Finally, we recently published a commentary piece by Miller Hudson in which he criticized the proposed changes to the state personnel system. In response, we ran a column last week from Kathy Nesbitt, the state department’s executive director, in which she pretty much debunked Hudson’s reasoning. That, in turn, riled up Miller, who sent in a response this week to Nesbitt’ s response to his original piece.

“Kathy Nesbitt’s appeal for an “effective, efficient and elegant” (civil) service relies on specious reasoning that substitutes a ‘race to the bottom’ for state workers in place of acting as a model employer that treats its help the way we would like to be treated. She argues that because many of our private employers treat workers badly, the state of Colorado should do the same. And, since when do we “dis” test results? That’s the excuse offered by children who haven’t done their homework. When lives are at stake, I’m not interested in the demeanor of my pilot. The best-qualified candidate is a Captain Sullenberger, who can land my plane when the engines fail. What Nesbitt calls flexibility is nothing more than a scheme to deny career employees access to the top 300 jobs in state government. The Talent Agenda is a conscious fraud designed to install crony patronage in the place of a merit based civil service.”

Nesbitt gets the last word, if she wants it, next week.

And about that story we teased on the front page on Eric Weissmann’s court victory for ballot status in the CD 2 Republican primary, we apologize for having to delay our coverage. We had planned to run our story here, but I had too much on my mind this week and overran my allotted space. We’ll be covering the action in CD 2 next week, stay tuned.

Jody@coloradostatesman.com