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Hail! State Legislature drear, fond home of cant

Hazlehurst sends thee Greetings Scant!

Concealed weapons, transportation funding, re-redistricting, enterprise zones, education funding ... the legislative session has ended, and aren't we grateful? A very brief guide to their antics:

Concealed Weapons: Who cares? Let the geezers have guns (Colorado Springs), or keep the guns away from the geezers (Boulder). It doesn't seem to affect crime rates much either way. So all you weak-kneed liberals out there: Let the NRA crazies have their pistols! And as for you NRA crazies, just remember: If those weak-kneed liberals won't let you carry a concealed weapon, it's perfectly legal to carry one that isn't concealed. So, go ahead; don a Rambo-bare chest and crossed bandoleers, assault weapon slung across your back. And just to complete the picture, why not have the Second Amendment tattooed, in suitably flowing script, right where the bandoleers cross on your chest?

Everything Else: Money talks; bullshit walks. Not enough of the former, because of the irrevocable tax cut that the governor and the Legislature whooped through at the tail end of the late, lamented boom. Plenty of the latter, as the governor and the Legislature sought to blame the state's problems on the economy, or upon various constitutional amendments that forbid them either to raise taxes or reduce spending on public education. Of course, the Republicans blamed the Dems, and the Dems blamed the Republicans, and blah blah blah.

And speaking of political parties, do you think that the Democrats will actually win something in El Paso County come November? Let's see -- while I vastly admire the selfless grit of Dems who run in overwhelmingly Republican districts, there are only two Democrats who might pull it off -- Tony Marino and Mike Merrifield.

Mike, running in House District 18, would cruise home had the Republicans nominated a typical El Paso County Republican; i.e., a Dr. Lauralovin' right-wing gunny, full of smarmy religiosity and crackpot social theories.

Unfortunately for Mike, those treacherous GOPsters nominated former Manitou Springs Mayor Dan Stuart, a lawyer who currently serves on the Colorado Transportation Commission. Like Merrifield, Stuart is competent, experienced, and politically moderate -- Marcy Morrison redux. And like Marcy, he'll be tough to beat.

In Senate District 11, Tony Marino will face either Ed Jones or Tim Pleasant, depending upon the results of the August Republican primary. Pleasant's a fierce and cunning campaigner, while Jones is a laid-back schmoozer.

As the more conservative candidate, Tim should win the primary. But in November, a hard-nosed Democrat like Tony may be more attractive to voters in this somewhat progressive district. The usual Republican attacks won't work against Tony -- he's a small-business owner, an ex-Marine, and a former undercover narc. Don't think you can play the anti-business, anti-military, soft-on-crime cards this time, guys ...

But as so often happens in the Pikes Peak region, the most interesting races are in Republican primaries in overwhelmingly Republican districts. It's going to be delicious to watch Jim Bensberg and Wayne Williams, a couple of backroom political operatives who have never run for office, take on veteran politicians MaryAnne Tebedo and Bill Guman.

Williams is the former Republican county chairman, while Bensberg spent years working for U.S. Senator Wayne Allard. They're both products of the local Republican machine, perfect examples of the politics of entitlement.

Tebedo and Guman, on the other hand, are smart, irascible and independent -- qualities that do not endear them to the GOP hierarchy. Tebedo spent many years in the Legislature, while Guman served two terms on the City Council. The party hacks don't like 'em, and with good reason -- they win elections, and rarely toe the party line.

And both of them are relentless campaigners, in the Tim PleasantSallie ClarkCharles Wingate mold. They'll spend the next four months going door to door, and shaking every hand they can find. Somehow, I don't see Williams and Bensberg doing the same -- they may be more comfortable doing deals in smoke-filled rooms than hustling votes in Briargate.

Meanwhile, just 11 months to go 'til we elect a new mayor! Today's odds: Lionel Rivera, 5-1, Jim Null 6-1, Sallie Clark 3-1. Sallie's ahead only because Lionel and Jim, responding to the concerns of their pals in the business community, either endorsed or failed to condemn the Constitution Avenue Freeway.

Boys, boys! Read your Machiavelli! Steve Schuck and Rocky Scott have two votes -- the folks along Constitution have 10,000.

As Bill Clinton once said, politicians who don't know arithmetic are not politicians for very long. And come to think of it ... Bill Clinton, 2-1.

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