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Public Eye



In that plain-speaking style we just couldn't get enough of for 12 years, Former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer came on home last week to deliver his first speech in Colorado since he left office three years ago.

The Democratic Romer initially told reporters he had no plans to criticize the current Republican administration, noting the old rancher's advice of refraining from telling the neighbors how to raise their cattle when you're invited over to their spread for supper.

But in his speech to a group of educators in Denver, Romer, now the superintendent of one of the country's largest school districts in Los Angeles, couldn't help getting a jab in at his successor, Bill Owens, who has installed a statewide standardized public school test program.

"It's not fair, in my judgment, to measure a school in inner-city Denver with a school in Cherry Creek," an affluent suburb, Romer noted of the unfairness of the tests. "You ought to judge them on the progress they make."

Gov. Owens, meanwhile, has borrowed a tact that Romer would have surely embraced if he were still Colorado's figurehead.

Ever since Christmas, Owens' friendly mug has appeared in television ads throughout the state, touting Colorful Colorado as a terrific place to vacation -- and stimulate the economy! Suave and smiling, the guv appears with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop and is wearing what one wag described as a "barn jacket straight from the pages of the Sundance catalog."

Now, Democrats may huff and puff about Owens appearing so strategically in a taxpayer-funded TV commercial just as he's gearing up for his re-election campaign. But it's a sure bet that if the Great Romer were still in charge, he'd be more than happy to appear on TV -- in all his famous battered bomber jacket glory -- to earnestly tell us to vacation in Colorado.

The election may be 10 months away, but the politician wanna-bes are starting to come out of the woodwork.

And things are looking good -- at least for Republicans -- in the two county commish races up for grabs, where current commissioners Duncan Bremer and Ed Jones are both term-limited in November. Notably, the Democrats so far don't have a dog in either race.

On Dec. 6 in this column, we detailed a likely race in District 1 between former City Councilman Bill Guman and former local Republican Party chairman Wayne Williams.

But last week our attention was diverted to District 5, when the matriarch of the formidable local Tebedo family threw down the gauntlet. MaryAnne Tebedo, who spent 19 years in the state Legislature, is challenging Jim Bensberg, who works in Sen. Wayne Allard's Colorado Springs office and has spent the past few years schmoozing fat-cat Republicans.

Now Tebedo was too polite to name names, but during her announcement she contrasted her experience with that of the greenhorn Bensberg, noting she is one candidate who doesn't have to be "groomed" by the powers that be.

Despite Bensberg's chumminess, Tebedo is, for many, the sentimental favorite in this race. After all, her son Kevin Tebedo (looking dapper at Mom's candidacy kickoff) was the co-founder of Colorado for Family Values, sponsor of 1992's Amendment 2, which restricted gays and lesbians from seeking protected status. (The amendment was later tossed by the U.S. Supreme Court and Kevin briefly dabbled in the anti-government movement of the mid-1990s before establishing a respected roofing business.)

The then-state senator's daughter, Linda Tebedo, was also a militia mama of sorts and has spent time in jail for refusing to have license plates on her car or a state-issued driver's license.

But the state senator herself is no shrinking violet when it comes to grabbing the headlines. While in the Legislature, Tebedo sponsored bills to prohibit public schools from programs that endorse the responsible use of alcohol and made it a crime for psychotherapists to sexually assault their clients. But it was her sometimes fun, sometimes offensive gaffes that really gave her fame. One year, Tebedo noted with authority that tee-nage pregnancies drop off dramatically after age 25. Another year, she claimed that black girls are promiscuous because of the culture in which they are raised. Another year, she defended carrying concealed weapons, noting that, for women, carrying a gun out in the open "just isn't fashionable."

In her press release announcing her candidacy for county commissioner, Tebedo did not disappoint. While in the Legislature, she noted, she headed important committees, including the Senate, State, Military and Veteran's Affairs Committee. "[It] was known to be the toughest committee in which to pass new laws restricting the rights of the people, " Tebedo's release claimed.

What? A politician who actually admits pride in restricting the rights of the people?

Nah. Tebedo tells us that was just a typo.


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