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Doug Dean fends off challenger, wins Speaker


State Rep. Doug Dean has fended off a challenge from a more moderate Rep. Steve Johnson, and, Colorado's new speaker of the House of Representatives promises he will be less partisan in his new job.

But lingering questions remain over the El Paso County representative's character, and his ability to be a moderate leader ("Next in Line," Nov. 9).

"Is Doug capable of changing his spots into stripes? I'm not sure he's capable of doing that," said Rep. Dan Grossman, a Denver Democrat and the newly elected House minority leader.

Several of Dean's colleagues have expressed concern about his reputation and colorful social life. When he initially was elected to the state House, Dean, a father of three, was married and his wife worked at Focus on the Family.

Dean has since divorced, and though he claims he rents a room from a friend in El Paso County to maintain his residency status, he lives year round, at the taxpayer's expense, in Denver.

Dean's current girlfriend, Gloria Sanak, is a lobbyist for Tap Pharmaceuticals, and the speaker said he has asked lawyers in the legislative legal services department for their opinion on whether she should continue lobbying while he is speaker, a position where he will be presiding over the House of Representatives.

Johnson said he is disappointed he was not able to get the support he needed to seize the speaker's seat from Dean. However, the Republican from Larimer County said he plans to concentrate on other issues, namely health-care legislation.

"There are different ways of being effective in the legislature," Johnson said.

And, Johnson said, Dean assured him that as speaker he would not seek revenge for challenging him.

"He said he would not be vindictive against me or my supporters, so the ball is in his court," Johnson said.

Last month, state Rep. Keith King said he was concerned about Dean's reputation as a womanizer, but that he had spoken privately to Dean about the matter and continues to support him.

However, Grossman said that even the perception of conflict of interest and any other improprieties are of concern.

"In our line of work, perception is reality. If people don't have confidence in our ability to be above-board we lose the battle," he said.

Grossman cited another episode he considered questionable. Two years ago, he said, he was stunned when Dean sponsored a bill to enact a statewide concealed weapons policy. But when he brought it to committee, he had the lobbyist from the National Rifle Association, Mary Anne Bradfield, present the details of the bill. "I had never seen that done before and thought it was inappropriate," Grossman said.

Last year, Dean accepted a $1,000 contribution from the NRA.

At least one former colleague, Rep. Marcy Morrison, credited Dean for his fairness while serving as House majority leader -- whose job it is to schedule when bills will be heard. However, since taking office six years ago, Dean has carved out an extremely partisan reputation.

Early last session, Dean and Rep. Ron Tupa, a Boulder Democrat, got into a nasty fight over campaign finance reform. In a Jan. 20 Rocky Mountain News article, reporter Lynn Bartels recounted a showdown between the two men, noting that Dean attacked Tupa, accusing him of claiming that Dean was bought and paid for by campaign donors. Dean accused Tupa of attacking him personally, and initially vowed to kill Tupa's bills, but later recanted the threat, the Rocky reported.

Also last year, Dean allegedly threatened to kill all of Democrat Rep. Bob Bacon's bills unless Bacon agreed to allow Dean to tag a photo radar rider on a completely unrelated bill. The heated situation was eventually soothed over by former Speaker Russ George, said Grossman.

In a recent interview, Dean conceded that in the past he has carved out a reputation for being extraordinarily partisan. But, he said, "I'm also smart enough to believe the speaker is less partisan and will have to leave those battles to [other Republicans]."

Dean said he learned a lot by observing the moderate Speaker George in action. And, he has learned from his own mistakes, he said.

"I have regretted that sometimes when I got my feathers ruffled I lashed out," he said. "I've been known to have a quick temper, but I've worked on that. In the past couple of years you've never seen me lash out at a Republican."

However, an April 8 Associated Press story detailed Dean's run-in with Republican Rep. Lola Spradley during a debate over a Dean-sponsored bill that would allow US West to raise basic phone rates after four years.

AP reporter Steven K. Paulson noted that when Spradly objected to a decision that would limit the testimony on Dean's bill, he took her aside and berated her.

"I didn't think it was good to have a person in leadership questioning the chairman," Dean was quoted as saying.

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