Columns » Public Eye

Male pattern badness on the Hill


At the risk of sounding like a gasp feminist or something, what is it about men and power that sometimes:

a. Bars them from being able to suck it up and say "I'm sorry?"

b. Dissuades them from keeping their pecker in their pants?

You rarely hear stories about a female politician who, for example, breaks into her boyfriend's house with a screwdriver, waits in the dark for him to come home, and then, wielding said screwdriver, chases him down the street in the wee hours of the night.

You hardly ever hear a female elected official tell another official man or woman that she will shove her fist up their ass.

You don't often see a woman pol kick a photographer and then refuse to apologize.

Yes, all of these incidents have happened in recent years involving male Republican lawmakers from, you guessed it, Colorado Springs. They are, in order, former House Speaker Doug Dean; former state Rep. (now Sen.) Bill Cadman; and newly appointed Rep. Douglas Bruce (who replaced Cadman).

Last week, Colorado got hit with another example of male pattern badness in the form of Michael Garcia. The House assistant majority leader, a Democrat from Aurora, saw his rapidly ascending political star snuffed out, literally overnight, after a female lobbyist complained that he had exposed himself and made a lewd comment to her at a bar in Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Within a day of the news hitting, Garcia, 34, resigned. He issued a statement, through his lawyers, claiming that what had happened was "consensual," though "inappropriate" given his position.

And how the tongues went wagging. One unnamed female lobbyist (not the one at the bar) told this columnist she wasn't at all surprised by the claim.

"[Garcia's] notorious for hitting on lobbyists," the woman said. "Everybody knows he's a flirt, but this has a fishy smell."

Fishy, as in politically fishy.

The lobbyist who reported seeing the male member did not file criminal charges with the police, making it a he said-she said scenario. And, Garcia, while positioning himself as a sort of conservative Democrat, happens to be the same guy who sponsored last year's controversial bill to make it easier for unions to negotiate all-union shops, which was vetoed by Gov. Bill Ritter.

Garcia, who was the youngest member of the Legislature when he was first elected at age 26 in 2000, was also devoted to tackling a huge issue in Colorado a massive backlog in services available to adults with developmental disabilities. Garcia was also hot on the topic of lowering the minimum-age requirement to run for legislative office from 25 to 21, with the idea that younger people's perspectives are important.

Now, others will have to take up those causes. And Garcia will have to pick up, brush off and move on hopefully with his pants zipped. After all, it's one thing to flirt, another thing entirely to whip it out behind the pool table.

If it's any consolation, the other male lawmakers cited in this column have moved past their high-profile transgressions very nicely indeed. Dean heads Colorado's Public Utilities Commission. Cadman, as noted, is now a state senator. And Bruce though he made history with his first-ever censure has not been booted from the Legislature for the kick heard 'round the Dome.

To be honest, Dean, while an elected official, did more than wield a screwdriver at his girlfriend. Whether you agree with his positions or not, he helped increase funding for charter schools in Colorado, and he pushed for a tax to build a new stadium for the Denver Broncos. Cadman, for his part, has vowed to "reel in" the state government's ability to condemn private property, which he claims injures oil and gas developers.

But when these male politicians say and do these other, uh, things, it follows them around for just as long, or longer, than the good they've done. And frankly, these peccadilloes give all leaders of the male persuasion a bad name.

Fair or not, that's the way it is.

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