Crusader Ralph Nader
Ralph Nader's crusades are for real. He has fought for reforming campaign finance, ending corporate welfare, enforcing anti-trust regulations, improving adequate health insurance for all and ensuring that multi-lateral trade agreements protect American jobs, human rights and our environment. In addition, Nader pledges to end the foolish war on drugs whereby more and more of our tax dollars are spent imprisoning non-violent offenders.
Moreover, Nader's four decades of civic activism have shown that this Harvard educated lawyer who has sued every single federal agency is, in fact, incorruptible.
As much as we like Nader, we are plain scared of what George W. Bush would do to our environment, public schools, health care, federal courts and the rights of regular workers and consumers. The practical priority of keeping Shrub from becoming the most powerful man on earth by electing Al Gore must be balanced with the need to send Washington a message that the issues Nader articulates are central concerns of a growing number of Americans.
We've decided to follow Texas journalist Molly Ivins' advice to vote with your heart where you can, but vote with your head where you must. In Colorado, polls currently show Bush slightly ahead. But if the race is close in Colorado, polls show that Gore will likely win by large margins in other states and take the presidency. So vote your conscience.
Senate District 12
Libertarian Patrick Lilly
Patrick Lilly is a die-hard supporter of civil rights, free speech and free thought. He is an eloquent, independent and colorful intellectual who, if El Paso County voters send him to Denver, would be a statesman, not a pawn of special interests. Lilly, a longtime El Paso County resident, is a frequent letter-to-the-editor writer who follows local, statewide and national trends with zeal.
In expatriate fashion, he claims he lives in "Occupied Cheyenne Caon," a reference to what he believes was an illegal annexation of the Broadmoor area by Colorado Springs in 1983. But make no mistake. Lilly is no kook, although he does need to lighten up on his pro-gun stance (as does his Republican opponent) and his position that government is unnecessary.
While serving in the state House, Lilly's opponent, Andy McElhany, has carved out a reputation for being Mr. GOP Nice Guy. But McElhany consistently votes for the interests of big business and ultra-conservative causes, often ignoring the needs of the people he represents. He needs a wake-up call.
House District 17
Democrat Ed Raye
Ed Raye is the clear choice in House District 17. Long active in community affairs, Raye is intimately knowledgeable about the critical issues facing his district. His experience working with our community's troubled youth at the local nonprofit Chins-Up gives him valuable insights into practical ways to improve education, combat crime and make sure vulnerable senior citizens are not being preyed upon.
Raye's opponent, Mark Cloer, initially ran a civic-minded campaign. However, in recent weeks, Cloer has ducked debating Raye after it became clear that he lacks even basic knowledge about critical issues. For example, last week Cloer was clueless about one of the most pressing citizens' initiatives on the ballot -- Amendment 23 (see page 5) -- which is particularly alarming because he is a substitute teacher who claims education issues as integral to his candidacy.
The south-central Colorado Springs district, by far the most racially and culturally diverse district in El Paso County, deserves to have Raye -- an eloquent, experienced and fair-minded representative -- fighting for them in the state Capitol.
House District 19
Republican Richard Decker
In his first two years in the state House, Republican Rep. Richard Decker bravely stood up for what he believed was right. Decker, a retired teacher, withstood substantial heat and political pressure when he was the only freshman Republican who voted his conscience against Gov. Bill Owens' pseudo-Education Reform package. Then Decker voted against deregulating Qwest, formerly U.S. West Communications, and the powerful telecommunications lobby unsuccessfully tried to unseat him in the August Republican primary.
Decker's opponent, Democrat Don Davidson, has spoken articulately on the issues facing the mostly rural Fountain Valley and eastern El Paso County district. But we believe voters should reward Decker's tenacity and reelect him to a second term.
House District 21
Democrat Laurie Picus
We congratulate Keith King for, unlike most of his Republican counterparts, actually showing up to present his positions at public forums.
However, in the two years that King has served House District 21 in southwest Colorado Springs, he has not distinguished himself as a statesman. Instead, he has become the parrot of the special interest, big-business lobby, going along with whatever proposal they happen to be selling.
The former member of the Cheyenne School District Board of Education has unfortunately ignored the pressing education needs that also come with the job. King admittedly pays scant attention to social issues, including health care, affordable housing and standing up for the underdog, opting instead to take special-interest money from big insurance companies and then voting the way they want him to.
With the retirement this year of Republican Rep. Marcy Morrison, El Paso County needs a strong advocate for health care in its legislative delegation. Picus, a licensed social worker who helped found the Pikes Peak Hospice and a past president of the local chapter of the American Cancer Society, has the qualifications for the job.
Picus advocates common sense gun-safety laws -- her opponent does not. She is also a strong proponent of a woman's right to choose, a strong contrast from King, who is ardently anti-choice when it comes to abortion. Her moderate views better reflect the district.
House District 22
Democrat Michael Merrifield
Voters in House District 22 should be outraged by the wretched way that Dave Schultheis has treated popular outgoing Republican state Rep. Marcy Morrison. In the past two years, Schultheis has grievously distorted Morrison's record and insulted her personally.
In House District 22 -- which includes much of the West Side, Manitou Springs and north-central Colorado Springs -- voters should also be angered by Schultheis' decision to duck almost every public debate. His refusal to be accountable to the very people he claims he wants to serve is insulting.
By contrast, Michael Merrifield, a former Manitou Springs city councilman, has run an energetic and high profile campaign. A public school teacher for 28 years, Merrifield has been in the trenches and has sound ideas on meaningful education reform. He adamantly believes that the state Legislature should tackle the growth and sprawl issues with a moderate and measured approach, while preserving private property rights.
If he were elected, Merrifield would continue Republican Rep. Morrison's legacy of ethical and moderate representation and would be accessible to all constituents.
Colorado Board of Education
Democrat Jared Polis
The state Board of Education is in dire need of reform, and Jared Polis is the man for the job.
Polis, an Internet entrepreneur, is facing incumbent Ben Alexander, a former state Senator. While he was serving in the state Capitol, Alexander served as the chairman of the Senate education committee during the mid-1990s, a period of time when the state Legislature refused to fully fund schools. Now, as a member of the Board of Education, Alexander does not even support Amendment 23, which would help replace those lost public education dollars. With all due respect, Alexander just doesn't get it.
By contrast, Polis supports Amendment 23 and believes the state Board of Education should actually be a strong advocate of public education. He -- and Colorado's students -- deserves your vote.