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The black hole of leadership



The National Journal has charted the future of Colorado politics and, despite the fact that Colorado Springs is a bastion of conservatism in an increasingly conservative state, we apparently are experiencing a local black hole of leadership.

In a March 27 briefing, the Washington DC-based publication identified only one Republican nova from El Paso County: Newly elected county commissioner Wayne Williams, whose ambition to one day run for Congress was detailed in this space last week.

Honestly, we cannot believe the magazine was able to find only one political leader from El Paso County who is destined for greatness. What about, for example, Williams' colleague, county commissioner Tom Huffman, who easily survived a recall effort but now is threatening to quit and move away? Huffman has, after all, displayed an impressive command of the English language, particularly with his creative hurled insults at his Republican colleague Jeri Howells.

And what about newly-elected mayor Lionel Rivera, whose first act of leadership was to potentially generate a national backlash against Colorado Springs the likes we haven't seen since 1992's Amendment 2?

And what about former county GOP Chairman Chuck Broerman, who broke the law last year by fraudulently obtaining prime parking spots, pretending to be working on a "construction project" so he could advertise his favorite candidates in front of the county's prime election location downtown? After all, the state party has since rewarded Broerman for his lawbreaking when they electing him vice chairman of the state Grand Old Party in January.

Broerman, of course, replaced Larry Liston, the locally-grown former state GOP vice chairman who violated his party's own bylaws when he played favorites during last year's Republican primary and almost got into a fistfight with another Republican when he was caught stealing his enemy's campaign material.

And what about City Councilman Charles Wingate, who physically broke up the above-described impending fisticuffs? Wingate's own colorful political career has included investigations for everything from City-sponsored internet porn-cruising to taxpaid pizza-buying extravaganzas, to allegations of pawning his city-owned laptop computer several times and accusations of stealing personal property from his own council colleagues.

For goodness sakes, Wingate has potential.

Why the National Journal didn't recognize the impressive attributes of all of these men is beyond us. So who did they pick as rising stars? Colorado's Assistant Senate Majority Leader Mark Hillman, a wheat farmer from southeastern Colorado, who's respected and well-spoken, and, according to the magazine could be a perfect fit for Congress or statewide office.

Property rights preservationist and state Rep. Shawn Mitchell has been tagged as an "articulate conservative," a father of seven and likely new Colorado Attorney General.

Lt. Governor Jane Norton is not only smart, but she's good looking and conservative, according to the magazine.

Rounding out the Republicans is Gov. Bill Owens' 32-year old protege and policy director Rick O'Donnell, who is being touted for state treasurer and future congressman. State Rep. Gregg Rippy, who accepted hefty cash contributions from developers then coincidentally sponsored developer-friendly legislation this year, is another alleged congressman in the making. Colorado's Director of Natural Resources Greg Walcher is also being touted for Congress, even though he has ruffled feathers within his own camp.

As for the Democrats, the magazine cited seven rising stars and, you guessed, none of them come from El Paso County.

State Rep. Mike Garcia, at 28 the youngest member of the Legislature, is a possible future congressman. Sen. Peter Groff (which the magazine spelled as "Graff") "could run for whatever he wanted." State Sen. Dan Grossman, from Denver, is "very young, clearly ambitious and could run for governor or Attorney General sooner rather than later."

State Board of Education member Jared Polis (mangled by the magazine as Jerrod Pois -- ouch) was noted for his net worth -- estimated at $800 million; Denver DA Bill Ritter is bright, ambitious and pro-life. State Rep. Andrew Romanoff is "Harvard educated, very bright, and waited his turn for his seat."

State Sen. Ron Tupa rounds out the Democratic rising stars. Tupa, from Boulder, was cited as a guy who could well succeed Mark Udall in Congress.

This week, he expressed surprise with his elevated status as a nationally designated rising star. "I think the pundits just needed a name so they just picked my name from a dartboard," said Tupa, who indicated he not only fully supports Udall and had not seen the National Review briefing. "Will you send me a copy? I can show it to my parents."


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