You're in a room with Gazette publisher Steve Pope, editor Jeff Thomas, editorial page boss and Soldier of Fortune groupie Wayne Laugesen, business writer Wayne Heilman and metro columnist Barry Noreen. You should:
A. Keep your hand on the can of bear spray.
B. Try not to ask questions containing the phrase "circulation figures."
C. Avoid any direct eye contact with Laugesen.
D. Tell Pope and Thomas you liked both pages of yesterday's Gazette, just to see if they understand sarcasm.
The correct answer, of course, is: E. Leap out of your chair and run.
Michael Merrifield, the Democratic candidate for El Paso County commissioner in District 5, flunked the test. He was in that room. And he stayed.
"I'm not sure why they asked me to the meeting," Merrifield says. "And I'm not sure why I went."
The gathering was part of the new policy of the Gazette's Mensa-like editorial board, which opens its meetings by reciting the board's proud motto: "From every mountainside, let freedom ri... oooh, the pizza's here!"
The point is, for the first time in decades, the Gazette has endorsed political candidates. This is like watching Mayor Lionel Rivera with a Rubik's Cube. Or Doug Bruce offering his thoughts on what it means to be a human being.
From the Gazette: "Board members believe unanimously The Gazette must take a stand in some political races in order to more effectively provide positive leadership for our readers."
Note to Gazette readers: Don't worry. You'll still get the four free crayons for the highly anticipated Color the Turkey edition.
So the Gazette editorial board, which falls somewhere between Sarah Palin and North Korea's Kim Jong-il, summoned Democrat Merrifield to the conference room for a beating. I mean, interview.
Then the paper endorsed Republican Peggy Littleton for commissioner. Littleton has brilliant, cutting-edge ideas such as this one: Government should stop wasteful spending. From the Gazette's four-sentence announcement: "Littleton advocated public policies that were more logical and more likely to keep county government out of our lives."
And Merrifield, who has spent eight years in the state Legislature? Well, he has specific ideas to combine city and county law enforcement and fire departments, innovative thoughts about maintaining roads and parks, and, instead of Bruce-like rantings about abolishing taxes, Merrifield says voters should have a choice about funding the services they want. What a moron.
"I debated with my staff on whether to go, and there was some thought that it would be a waste of time," Merrifield says. "Frankly, I think the Independent endorsement is more important. It reaches, uh, different people."
For example, Indy readers believe deteriorating local services will ultimately lead our once-thriving community into an irreversibly diminished quality of life, whereas Gazette readers think NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson is a jerk.
Another Gazette endorsement pushed Republican Doug Lamborn for a third term in Congress, because being a "stalwart on bread and butter Republican issues" slightly outweighs the widely held belief that Lamborn hates Mexicans and that it appears he was hatched from an egg and raised by ducks.
In its only surprise, the Gazette gave the nod to John Hickenlooper for governor, perhaps because Republican Dan Maes and third-party candidate Tom Tancrazy seem about as smart as golf balls.
Returning to its roots, the Gazette endorsed Republican Ken "She Was Asking for It" Buck for U.S. senator. Buck is the Weld County prosecutor who says a woman should not be allowed to have an abortion even if she's been raped by her own father. Buck also refused to prosecute a case in which a woman said she was raped by an ex-boyfriend, telling her it could be viewed as "buyer's remorse."
From the Gazette: "'I expected a nut,' said one member of the Gazette's editorial board, expressing surprise at Buck's superb ability to present his moderate agenda."
Nope, definitely no nut in that room.