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Blustery Beedy attempts to seize board majority



In the four years since County Commissioner Betty Beedy has held elected office, El Paso County's government has resembled a cult-like drama with sometimes threatening undertones.

But as county Republican and Democratic party activists gear up for next week's caucuses -- which will select the candidates that all voters will choose from in the primary and general elections later this year -- the question is not so much whether Beedy will secure a reelection stronghold.

Instead, some Republicans are toying with the notion that Beedy will be able to manipulate a majority onto the board on which she now serves.

Over the past four years, Beedy has taken sometimes shocking positions on mundane and major issues alike.

She lashed out at Martin Luther King, Jr., calling the slain civil rights hero a philanderer who was not worthy of having a stretch of Highway 24 named after him.

She accused single mothers who dare to date of being sluts.

Her outrageous posturing landed her on national television, where she suggested that only white people are "normal."

She has accused the Department of Social Services of stealing babies away from their families.

Last year she egged on a group of hostile activists opposed to zoning her district, eastern El Paso County, and appeared to approve when they presented one of her elected colleagues with a Soviet flag during an obscenity-filled public debate.

Recruiting clones

After she lost her anti-zoning argument, Beedy, refused to endorse the county government's 2000 budget. She has consistently stood in opposition to the positions held by her fellow Republican commissioners Jeri Howells, Chuck Brown and Ed Jones.

Commissioner Duncan Bremer, who represents the northern portion of the county, has generally taken Beedy's side, often resulting in 3 votes to 2 votes on both major and minor issues facing the county government.

This year, Beedy, Brown and Howells are all up for reelection and Beedy has reportedly been busy recruiting like-minded Republicans to challenge her enemies.

Beedy has so far unsuccessfully lobbied several possible candidates to run against Howells, said the two-term Republican. Several people, Howells said, personally notified her, informing her of Beedy's recruitment efforts.

Brown, who is seeking his third term as a commissioner in District 1, has not been so lucky.

Brown's Republican opponent, Rich Brenner, is a Beedy clone, the commissioner said, who he suspected was recruited to challenge him for the seat. Brown's district encompasses the southwestern and central-western portion of the county.

Neither Beedy nor Brenner returned calls seeking comment as of press time. However, Brenner has publicly stated that if he is elected, he would support rolling back the zoning laws that were enacted amid the contentious debate last year. Brown said that when Brenner attends board meetings, he heads directly for Beedy's office after they adjourn.

While Brenner, a computer software designer who grew up in Colorado Springs, has avoided publicity as attention has focused on the more high-profile race in Beedy's district, some Republican activists believe Brown may have a hard road ahead.

As with many Republicans who consider themselves moderates, sources say Brown has not hustled support among the makeup of increasingly conservative activists.

Notably, Brown has opted to petition onto the ballot this year, rather than seeking the nomination through the traditional caucus process. Brown puts a positive spin on his decision, claiming he is seeking more grassroots support than through the caucus system,

But the commissioner's decision is reminiscent of state Rep. Marcy Morrison, a moderate Republican who opted to petition onto the ballot two years ago rather than risk being shut out of the process and losing her seat.

Dysfunctional board

If Beedy's efforts -- to secure a majority Board of County Commissioners -- are successful, the ramifications could be disastrous, Howells said.

Both Howells and Brown believe that issues at hand -- including keeping law enforcement updated and increasing demands for improved drainage and other infrastructure as a result of growth -- have taken a backseat during the stalemate. And this has led to an increasingly dysfunctional board

"I do think the public needs to be concerned about where the majority may be for the next four years," Howells said. If Beedy is reelected, Howells believes things could get even worse.

"The style of one commissioner does have an effect on the entire board and the entire county government," Howells said. "If that style is reinforced by [Beedy getting reelected] then it will make that individual that much more willing to distort facts to their own personal benefit."

But Beedy is an astute campaigner. Four years ago she jumped on the pro-Patriot Movement bandwagon and it propelled her right into office. She rents billboards wishing her constituents a Merry Christmas, and welcoming people to "Betty Beedy country." She has continued her efforts to rile people up in opposition to the zoning laws that were passed last year.

Between 70 to 80 percent of the population of her district lives in metropolitan Colorado Springs, but many of her staunchest supporters are rural activists.

But not all of her constituents appreciate her all-or-nothing approach. Loren Whittemore, Beedy's predecessor on the Board of County Commissioners, said her refusal to compromise has had a distinctly negative impact.

Killing each other

Last weekend, as Beedy announced her plans to seek another term during a burger fry at the ranch owned by Senate President Ray Powers, candidates were scrambling to secure enough support to unseat her.

At least four Republican candidates have stepped forward, claiming they are best qualified to unseat the incumbent. Some political observers, including Whittemore, are worried that the crowded field will merely dilute support that could otherwise be consolidated into one strong Beedy opponent.

A similar scenario occurred four years ago, when Beedy first won the seat. Then, Beedy trounced all but one of five Republican opponents and went on to squash the Democrat candidate in the general election.

This year, Catherine Rodriguez, a Democrat who launched an unsuccessful recall against Beedy after the commissioner's single mother remarks, will take on the winning Republican in November.

"Betty is vulnerable, but there are so many [Republicans] running that the common statement is that they'll kill each other and [Beedy] will win," Whittemore said.

"The others should sit down and talk about who has the best shot at it, and then throw their support behind the candidate who has the best shot at beating Beedy."

"Pretenders to the throne"

Despite conventional wisdom -- that too many candidates usually ensures an incumbent will win -- all of the candidates believe they are the strongest.

The challengers include dentist Tom Huffman, Air Force retiree Jim Brewer, government consultant Catherine "Kit" Roupe and rancher Bob Cordova. Brewer could not be reached as of press time, but the others have not been shy about taking broad swings at the incumbent.

"Beedy's biggest liability is that she's overly combative," said Tom Huffman's campaign manager, Bob Gardner. "She's more interested in striking a pose than effectively representing her constituency."

With an organized campaign, Huffman is the strongest contender for the seat, said Gardner, the former chairman of the county GOP.

Not true, said Cordova, an El Paso County native who said Beedy is a liberal compared to him. Cordova is running despite the fact that he was recently bucked off a horse and suffered five broken ribs and a broken collarbone. He insists he is the man for the job.

"I've donated 10,000 hours to the county and state and national [Republican Party] over the years and, shoot, I can't find anything else to do," Cordova said. He called the others, including Beedy, mere "pretenders to the throne."

Roupe, meanwhile, has cast herself as the voice of the mainstream.

"I'm running because we haven't had effective representation for the past four years," she said. "I disagree in the manner in which [Beedy's] represented the district. She's taken on issues and lost in every case."

Specifically, Roupe accused Beedy of forsaking solutions for the sake of putting herself in the spotlight.

"People like her because she's got guts, but I was a single mother for seven years and I certainly took exception to what she said," Roupe said. "She chose her words poorly and she failed on a personal level."

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