With an unsolved rabbit entrail mystery, praises of Harry Potter and a candidate who's mad as hell, you'd think the race to replace El Paso County's only moderate Republican would have grabbed the attention of the masses.
But things have been eerily quiet in the House District 22 primary race between Republicans Kent Olvey and Dave Schultheis. The winner in the Aug. 8 primary will face Democrat Mike Merrifield in the November general election.
State Rep. Marcy Morrison held the seat that comprises much of the Westside and Manitou Springs, and stretches north to Garden of the Gods and the Rockrimmon and Mountain Shadows neighborhoods.
This year, amid Schultheis' continued attacks on her character and record, Morrison has endorsed Olvey in the primary.
And, like Morrison before him, Olvey has found himself in a frustrating race -- where his rigidly right opponent has remained virtually invisible. Two years ago, Schultheis did not show up at candidates' debates; it is unknown whether he will attend either of the two upcoming debates this year.
"We're working hard, and they are sort of stealthing," said Olvey, a doctor who served a term on the District 11 school board.
Shultheis did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on his candidacy.
But Olvey said he expects Schultheis will do to him what he did to Morrison two years ago when 10 days before the primary he and his supporters sent out a flurry of misleading flyers, lambasting her positions and track record.
Though Morrison is term limited from running again, Schultheis has continued his attack against the popular four-term legislator. At the Republican county assembly in May, he pummeled her during his floor speech, accusing her of voting like a Democrat 70 percent of the time.
"I was obviously not a pleased person when he got off the stage," Morrison said. "I went over and said 'shame on you. As a religious man you profess to be, I think it's shameful you lie about my record.' I can tell you that 85 to 90 percent of the time I was pretty much a good Republican trooper."
Morrison said Schultheis agreed to send her his "proof" of her Democratic record, but never did.
Guns and growth and Coca-Cola
Olvey said his opponent's silence has made it difficult for him to gauge where Schultheis might attack. There is a Web site -- www.daveschultheis.org -- but rather than state his positions, Schultheis lists other resources, mostly those of conservative organizations around the country. (Olvey's Web site, www.kentolvey.org, is still under construction.)
However, Schultheis does have an article posted from the liberal Nation magazine, an article that details District 11's Coke deal that included a campaign to encourage children to drink Coca-Cola products at school. That reference is a clear hit at Olvey, who served on the District 11 school board at the time.
Olvey is bracing for a nasty last-minute onslaught by lining up his major issues: health care, education, guns, abortion, growth and Harry Potter.
"[Shultheis'] Web site states that everyone deserves the best health care they can afford -- I think everyone should have best health care period," Olvey said.
Olvey is conservative, but accuses Schultheis of being off the chart. Schultheis opposes abortion in any circumstance; Olvey believes that abortion should be legal only for women who are victims of rape, incest or when their lives are at risk.
Olvey supports vouchers, but wants them to be on a "level playing field," where private schools would have to be accountable for the public's money. Schultheis, he said, "doesn't want private schools to have to follow state and federal laws."
Olvey supports gun safety and safe storage laws, but opposes any restrictions on growth or sprawl.
"That's un-American," he said of restricting sprawl.
Olvey's reference to Harry Potter is in response to what he perceives is a belief by Schultheis and Christian conservative groups -- including Focus on the Family -- that the children's book series is unhealthy because it references witches, goblins and wizards.
"Harry Potter's the best children's book to come out in a long time -- it's great stuff," Olvey said. "Good always wins over evil."
Zero tolerance for lemon drops
Olvey's hardline positions while serving on the D-11 school board are unforgettable.
For example, in 1997 Olvey angered parents, students and gay and lesbian activists when he weighed in on an article that was published in the Palmer High School student newspaper about the difficulties of being a gay teenager. Student newspapers, he said, should reflect the "Judeo-Christian heterosexual standards of the community."
And, in 1998 Olvey was strident in his defense of District 11's zero tolerance policy when the school district suspended a 6-year-old boy for bringing organic lemon drop candy to school and sharing them with his friends. Fearing they were drugs, the elementary school principal called paramedics and suspended the boy. Amid public outcry, the district called a press conference, where Olvey held up what he called a "real" sugar candy lemon drop and compared it to the organic variety, which he angrily said looked like a pill.
"Kent and I certainly don't agree on everything -- he's a more conservative Republican -- but in the areas where I have left a mark, I think he will be a good follow-up," Morrison said. "This is a man who at least understands some of the issues," she said.
Shultheis, on the other hand, has stated his opposition to virtually all government programs -- which Morrison believes is not only unrealistic but discompassionate.
"Shultheis believes in self-responsibility and as little government as possible," said Morrison. "Those are good slogans but ask someone on Medicaid who can't get health care, or a child who needs special schooling or therapy and even people who talk about less government, and almost all of us will say we are touched by government -- sometimes in a very critical fashion."
Schultheis, a real estate developer, moved to town around the same time that Focus on the Family relocated to the Springs in 1992. In a 1998 interview with the Independent, Schultheis said Focus president James Dobson, who lives in District 22, is a friend but said he hadn't encouraged Schultheis to run for the seat.
Both Schultheis and Dobson are also active members in the Council for National Policy, an extremely powerful group that meets in secret and sets the agenda for conservative political issues at the state and federal levels. CNP's more famous members include Ollie North, Phyllis Schlafly and Jerry Falwell.
"They are the most patriotic people I know," Schultheis said in the 1998 interview.
Another CNP member who lives in District 22 is David Noeble, the founder and president of Summit Ministries in Manitou Springs. The nonprofit Christian youth camp -- which has close ties to the John Birch Society -- is designed to eradicate all secular thought from the minds of kids.
The ministry showed its support of Schultheis' candidacy in 1998 by displaying yard signs on its property, a violation of Internal Revenue Service regulations that prohibit nonprofit entities from supporting political candidates.
This year, in a Jan. 27 letter -- which his opponents quickly dubbed the "Rabbit Letter" -- Schultheis reported he was the victim of decapitated rabbit attacks because of his Christian beliefs.
"Since I announced my candidacy last Sept. 25, my wife and I have been the subject of extreme intolerance for our conservative views," he wrote. "On several occasions, we have been vandalized by perpetrators who have left decapitated rabbits and entrails on the front porch of our home.
"We see this as a form of extreme intolerance for people who hold our Judeo-Christian values. This harassment and intimidation has only strengthened our resolve to stand firm against the increased intolerance towards people of faith."
Schultheis didn't explain the connection between headless rabbit vandalism and anti-Christian sentiments. But he made it clear he suspected the "extremely liberal wing of the Republican Party" is attempting to thwart him.
Merrifield, the Democrat and former Manitou Springs City councilman who will challenge whoever wins the Republican primary, said he has also been surprised by how quiet the race has been.
However, he said, he is serious about his own campaign. And he is seriously tired of lawmakers who are trying to out-conservative each other and, in the process, sell Colorado down the river.
"I've stood back, especially over the past four years, and seen the state legislature go off on their own tangents and kowtow to developers against the will of Coloradans who want intelligent, smart, planned growth" Merrifield said. "And I've watched in frustration as the education reform package was shoved down the throats of legislators that isn't real reform at all.
"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore. I cannot stand back and see the state going the direction it's going any longer."