For political junkies, 2006 should be fun. Biggest questions: Can the Dems retain control of both houses of the state Legislature? With Bill Owens leaving the governor's office, can the Republicans find an electable replacement? And, locally, will the Dems make a serious effort to unseat incumbent state Senator Ed Jones?
My predictions: Colorado Democrats will not only retain, but expand their legislative majorities. The GOPsters, both locally and statewide, still are allowing themselves to be defined by the extreme right. If, in next year's legislative session, the Republicans spend time on intelligent design, gay marriage and politically correct holiday greetings, that'll play well to their base -- and right into the hands of their opponents. Dems need only continue to portray themselves as the moderate, sensible, businesslike (and business-friendly!) lawmakers who care about basic government services, such as roads, schools, health care, etc.
As for the ever-amiable, recently de-toupeed Jones, he's probably safe -- unless incumbent legislator Michael Merrifield gives up his House seat to take a shot at him. In that case, it's a wild scenario. The Republicans will spend millions to beat off Mike's challenge, and will try to capture his House seat as well. It's gotta be tempting for Merrifield to go after the Senate seat -- it'd give him a break from perpetual campaigning.
On the other hand, although early polls are said to give Mike the edge over Ed, it'll be a tough race. My guess: The two stay where they are, depriving us of great political theater.
Over in the 7th CD, popular GOP Congressman Bob Beauprez is running for governor, creating an anomaly in today's political landscape: an open seat that either party can win. Rick O'Donnell is the all-but-certain Republican nominee; he'll face either Peggy Lamm or Ed Perlmutter in November. O'Donnell's a run-of-the mill right-wing Republican -- he's got no shot against either Perlmutter or Lamm, who are both smart, articulate, moderate and attractive. But my money's on Lamm. (Full disclosure: In this case, I mean it literally, since I made a contribution to her campaign.)
And what about the Big Kahuna? Can the Dems elect a governor? Maybe. If former Denver DA Bill Ritter is the party's nominee, he'll be up against either Marc Holtzman or Bob Beauprez. They're all capable guys without much statewide name recognition, so external factors will drive the race -- as in the economy, the performance of the Democrat-controlled Legislature in 2006, and whether George W. still is in the voters' doghouse.
I think Ritter has a slight edge, but if Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper gives in to the pleas of his fellow Dems and enters the race, he'll take it in a landslide. A few years ago, Hickenlooper was just a smart, goofy guy who owned a bunch of restaurants. Now he's arguably the best big-city mayor in America.
So what will we look like, with absolute Democratic control of state government, a Democratic senator, and four Democrats among our seven House representatives? Simple: We'll be a blue state.
Closer to home, will Focus work to put an anti-gay initiative on the November ballot? Of course it will -- Focus loves a fight, and what else is it going to spend its money on? Good works?
Will the D-11 school board continue to squabble? Yes.
And what about the Southern Delivery System? Will we be able to force Pueblo's insufficiently servile politicians and community leaders to bow down to the Mighty Oz, and give us the goddamn water??!! Sure --Pueblo folks just love their northern neighbors!
Otherwise, we'll have to recycle our wastewater -- so gross. We'll need a new vision statement. No more nonsense about pure, sparkling water from pristine mountain streams. How 'bout: "Flush it today, drink it tomorrow"?
And what about last year's predictions? Accurate, every one of 'em ... except no, I didn't win a Pulitzer, and no, I didn't move up to big money, and no, I didn't hook up with Nicole Kidman. But forget Nicole --sometimes unexpected reality beats unrealizable fantasy.
Finally, the riskiest prediction of all: The Broncos will win the Super Bowl! And I'll be there. Too bad it's in Detroit.