Hammered repeatedly by critics and targeted by an unsuccessful attempt to recall him, El Paso County Commissioner Tom Huffman pledged earlier this year that he wouldn't seek re-election and hinted he might not even serve out his term.
For months now, Huffman has lived part time in Phoenix, where his wife has moved. The couple has sold their house in Colorado Springs, though Huffman rents an apartment in his commissioner district, District 2, which covers the eastern parts of Colorado Springs and El Paso County.
Still, while he continues to insist he won't run for re-election next year, the first-term commissioner now says he'll be around awhile -- probably until his term expires in January 2005.
"It looks like, right now, that I'll be able to finish out my term," Huffman said last week.
Doesn't like Bruce
Part of the reason Huffman wants to complete his term, he says, is the prospect that local anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce might be appointed to replace him should Huffman leave office early. Though he has not filed any candidacy papers, Bruce has announced he wants Huffman's seat.
Huffman has made it clear that he personally dislikes Bruce, and Bruce was strongly critical of Huffman's votes last year to borrow money to expand the county jail and the county courthouse after voters rejected a ballot measure to borrow money for the jail project. Those votes also resulted in an effort to recall Huffman and fellow commissioner Chuck Brown, though organizers ultimately failed to get enough signatures to proceed with their plans.
If Huffman were to leave prematurely, a Republican Party vacancy committee would appoint his replacement. That committee might be inclined to back Bruce, Huffman believes.
But if Bruce has to wait and compete for the popular vote in the November 2004 election, the chance of him winning office would be reduced, Huffman reasons.
"A great motivator" for deciding to serve out his term "is the thought of having Doug Bruce represent that district," Huffman said.
Bruce, however, says he'll run no matter what -- "even if [Huffman] flip-flops again and says, 'I'm running for a second term.'"
Sallie Clark to run
In either scenario, Bruce is likely to face competition for Huffman's seat from as many as three fellow Republicans. Bernie Herpin, president of the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition, also plans to run in District 2 next year, while Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Margaret Radford says she's considering joining the race. In addition, R. George Ross, a veteran, retired businessman and local GOP activist -- has filed candidacy papers.
Candidates are also beginning to line up for two other district seats that are up for grabs. So far, all who have filed candidacy papers are Republicans.
Sallie Clark, a former member of the Springs City Council who twice ran for mayor, plans to seek the District 3 seat now held by Brown, who is barred from seeking re-election due to term limits.
Also seeking the seat is Michael Kazmierski, a former base commander at Fort Carson and an executive with the Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Corporation.
District 3 covers the western part of the Springs and the county.
In District 4, which covers the southern part of the city along with portions of the county directly south of it, businessman and Republican activist Dennis Hisey hopes to replace Commissioner Jeri Howells, who is also term-limited next year. Hisey previously ran against Howells in 1996.
-- Terje Langeland