Columns » Public Eye

The reality of phantom politics


Anyone could see it coming, and now this "domino effect" is becoming reality in local politics.

As we predicted, state Sen. Ron May, R-Colorado Springs, has resigned a year before the end of his term. Covering that resignation, the city's daily newspaper blithely announced the beginning of a "domino effect" and indeed, state Rep. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, just happened that same day to file paperwork with the secretary of state's office to become a candidate for May's Senate seat.

(Seems a stretch to think that voters who approved the state's term-limits law in the early 1990s really wanted expiring officials to simply run for another office, but that's a different column.)

Anyway, now that Cadman's seat has opened up, El Paso County Commissioner Douglas Bruce is cleared to saunter, easy as you please, right into the state House of Representatives. And, easy as you please, Republican activist Amy Lathen gets to sashay into Bruce's $63,203-a-year, taxpayer-funded job.

No need to have those pesky taxpayers weighing in on such matters of import, right? Oh sure, come next November there will be a "vote" but that's really just window-dressing.

This latest maneuvering, assuming it all plays out as expected, represents nothing new. It's just the latest outrage in the paternalistic manner in which the all-powerful, omnipresent Grand Old Party treats citizens of El Paso County, at least those in Republican-dominated districts.

The strategy is vile and it is cynical, and the voting public should reject being manipulated by back-room deals to hash out who gets to "have" which public office.

But there is a wrench in the machine this time, and his name is Bruce. Plenty of insiders are grumbling and gnashing and Gawd-can-you-believe-it-ing over how the cranky, name-calling megalomaniac will embarrass the GOP and Colorado Springs if he gets to go to Denver as a state representative.

Yet apart from his, uh, leadership style, the no-tax-is-a-good-tax Bruce will hardly be different from, say, May or Cadman. At least Bruce does speak his mind unlike May, who spent 27 years as a public official and barely opened his mouth to deign to speak to, uh, actual people.

Think we're joking? Here's just one example. Seven years ago, Bruce ran against May when May was "domino-effecting" his way from the state House into the Senate. (May followed the venerable Ray Powers, whom Bruce had challenged unsuccessfully in 1996.)

The Bruce-May race was nasty. Bruce's motto was, "Ron may, but Bruce will," and, just as today, many local business leaders fretted loudly, wondering, "What if Bruce does?" Bruce, with help from his little red wagon, nearly did.

In the end, May was heroically assisted. Special-interest money, in the tens of thousands, poured into his campaign from oil and gas and insurance and developers and banking industries and the pro-gun lobby.

Then-Gov. Bill Owens came to town to stump for May. But and here was the rub the candidate himself was a virtual ghost. He refused repeated interview requests, and not just from Independent reporters. He did not issue press releases indicating why he was running or what he wanted to accomplish. He refused to answer a candidate survey to state positions on various issues, and he refused to attend the only two El Paso County primary candidate forums open to the public. And May, who claims to be a technology expert, did not have a campaign Web site, which, even in 2000, was standard practice.

Indeed, for the past seven years, May has continued shunning the spotlight, operating within the safe confines of the consummate "good ol' boys" club.

It certainly is appropriate that this phantom senator's last day in office is Oct. 31. If May's legacy is indeed the "domino effect," it will be accompanied by a nagging reminder that the way things are done in El Paso County isn't how they're supposed to work in a democracy. For an update on Bruce making his candidacy official and the process for filling all the openings, see Noted on page 19.

Add a comment

Clicky Quantcast