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Circling like vultures 

click to enlarge Everybody wants Congressman Joel Hefleys job - especially the conservative white male contingent of El - Paso County.  Below, John Wesley Anderson, Wayne - Williams and Ted Haggard.
  • Everybody wants Congressman Joel Hefleys job especially the conservative white male contingent of El Paso County. Below, John Wesley Anderson, Wayne Williams and Ted Haggard.

OK, boys and girls. It's August, and our esteemed U.S. Rep. Joel Hefley is on a well-deserved family vacation, visiting his sister in Oklahoma and, presumably, doing a little fishing. And what is everybody else -- or let's amend that: everybody who needs to get a life, yours truly included -- doing? Talking about Joel Hefley.

Yes, it's time for the biannual Hefley vigil. Come next year, will the senior Republican congressman from Colorado Springs run for an 11th term? Or will he take his final bow after 20 years? Has the former chairman of the House Ethics Committee grown so angry and disillusioned with his party, after powerful House Speaker Tom DeLay swatted him aside earlier this year, that he wants to walk away? Or is Hefley stubborn enough to keep swinging and possibly get the last laugh by becoming the chairman of the Armed Services Committee? And who currently is on the inevitably all-male, overwhelmingly white list of potential replacements?

The rumors of Hefley's demise have been swirling for months. And let's be honest: We've been playing this game for a long time -- 12 years to be precise, ever since the former supporter of congressional term limits realized that such a concept is outrageously impractical in our nation's capital, where seniority translates to power, which translates to effective representation.

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All of the vultures hovering about this go-round know that the congressman traditionally doesn't announce his intentions until the first of the year. But former El Paso County Sheriff John Wesley Anderson, for one, is getting antsy. This week Anderson announced he is all but running, Hefley or not.

"Our decision was to make a very decisive, very bold statement: We're looking very seriously at this race," said Anderson. "Everyone [else] has said, 'If Hefley runs, I'm sitting out.' I'm not saying this."

Translation: Anderson hopes that come January, Hefley will announce his retirement, and he will have the organization and money in place to be the immediate front-runner. If Hefley decides to go it for another term, Anderson either can bow out gracefully, saying his "exploratory committee" has decided the time is not right for him, or he can aim both barrels at the incumbent and hope the best man (further translation: him) wins.

Don't get him wrong. Anderson says he respects Hefley, and thinks he's done a good job. But, the former sheriff, who served El Paso County for eight years, says that after Hefley's 20 years in Congress, "it's time for a change." Plus, Anderson's sick of waiting for Hefley to "get off the fence." He also hopes that the congressman respects his decision to potentially oppose him.

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Anderson's big issues are 2nd Amendment rights (gimme my guns), individual freedoms (this is America) and homeland security (gotta be a patriot).

Here's hoping that Anderson isn't holding his breath in anticipation of a possible standoff with the incumbent. Last time a serious Republican challenged Hefley in a primary, in 1996, it got ugly. Then-challenger Mark Hughes suffered a humiliating defeat and since has moved to Florida.

Earlier mentioned was the plethora of other men chomping for the job. New Life megachurch Pastor Ted Haggard recently indicated he's more than willing to get called to Washington. ber-conservative state Senator Doug Lamborn also is on everyone's short list, as is Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel "Democrats are Weak, They Can't Stand the Cold" Rivera.

County Commissioner Wayne Williams would do it, but only for God and Country. And let's not discount Jeff Crank, who works for the Chamber of Commerce (and does a mean Kermit the Frog imitation). Crank never has held elected office, but he did once work for Hefley, and reportedly has the GOP vacancy committee stacked in his favor in case Hefley were to, um, resign unexpectedly, mid-term. And -- this is a nice touch -- he named his son Joel.

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This week, a few of them responded to Anderson's announcement with words like "disrespectful," "unsavory," distasteful," "indecent," even "amused."

"I'm not running for Congress because Joel is our congressman and he's a fine one," said Lamborn. "He continues to do a lot for our community. I would think that people would have the decency to wait for him to announce [whether he's running again] before they start their campaign."

Besides all that, "[Anderson] doesn't strike me as conservative enough to represent this district in Congress."

Said Williams: "I certainly would not run against [Hefley], and I would encourage Mr. Anderson to reconsider. If Joel Hefley is running for re-election, I'm not interested in running. If Joel is interested in retiring, I would certainly be interested in that option."

Said Crank: "I like the name Joel. I told [Hefley] that if his name was Maurice then my son would not have been named that ... I'm not a candidate at this point. If Joel were to retire, I'd have some interest in the seat. If he asked me to run his campaign [for re-election], I'd do it."

Hot and bothered yet? OK, yawn away. It's August. Time to go fish.

-- degette@csindy.com

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