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Merrifield free of cancer

State Rep. Michael Merrifield, D-Manitou Springs, got some great news Tuesday, as doctors confirmed he is cancer-free after a six-week chemotherapy program to treat neck and throat cancer discovered in a tumor early this year.

Merrifield underwent the chemo treatments during the Legislature's 2007 regular session, missing very few meetings or debates.

"The doctors said he looked great, with no sign of the tumor or cancer," says Katie Reinisch, communications director for the House Majority Office. "We are definitely celebrating his rapid return to health." RR

Pion expansion opponents blast Udal

Ranchers, conservationists and others are infuriated that U.S. Rep. Mark Udall inserted Fort Carsons expansion plans in the 2008 national defense-spending bill. Udall, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate, stated in a release that he is seeking to place limits on the Armys ability to use eminent domain, or government taking of land, to expand Pion Canyon Maneuver Site in southeast Colorado.

The Pion Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition accused Udall of double-speak, arguing the bill could actually provide funds for the plan. Fort Carson wants to expand its 235,000-acre training site by some 418,000 acres. The Army has yet to specify which acres it wants, and has not ruled out the use of eminent domain. The region is rife with ranches, sensitive species, grasslands and dinosaur bones.

Last week, Gov. Bill Ritter signed a bill into law telling the Army it cant use eminent domain to expand in the region. Fourteen county commissions have passed resolutions questioning the plan since it surfaced about a year ago. MdY

Focus arrest tally rises

Since February, six people have been arrested at Focus on the Family as part of an ongoing campaign to convince James Dobson to change his views on gay and lesbian parents.

Colorado Springs police arrested Amanda Harris, 22, of Conway, Ark., and Kourt Osborn, 21, of Kanab, Utah, on May 11 after the two protested inside Focus headquarters.

They were arrested about five minutes after making their statement, says Paige Schilt, a spokeswoman for Soulforce, which sponsored the civil disobedience action.

Soulforce advocates for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people. Schilt says Harris and Osbom acted Friday because Focus was holding a summit to discuss care for orphans and opposes the idea that gays and lesbians could be fit parents. MdY

Schaffer facing Udall

The potential for a Republican primary in Colorado's 2008 U.S. Senate race diminished rapidly this week, as John Suthers and Bentley Rayburn said they won't challenge Bob Schaffer in a primary.

Schaffer, a former U.S. representative, announced his intent to run for the GOP nomination to replace Wayne Allard in 2008. While U.S. Rep. Mark Udall of Eldorado Springs is the only Democrat with serious interest, the Republican field had been considered open. Many were hyping Suthers, the state attorney general and a Colorado Springs native, as a possible candidate.

"The attorney general wants to win the seat for the Republican Party, and if Bob Schaffer is the candidate for Senate, then [Suthers] is supporting Bob Schaffer," says Nate Strauch, Suthers' communications director.

This is expected to be one of the most expensive and closely watched Senate races in the country.

Rayburn, a retired Air Force major general who finished a surprising third in the primary to replace U.S. Rep. Joel Hefley, has not ruled out another run next year, against freshman Rep. Doug Lamborn. CD

Police to face suit over arrest

The American Civil Liberties Union will file a suit on behalf of Delvikio Faulkner, a man struck several times in the head with a flashlight by a Colorado Springs police officer.

"I don't want people to go through the same thing I did," Faulkner, 26, said recently via phone from Buena Vista Correctional Complex, where he is serving time on charges that include theft.

He said the ACLU of Colorado sent him a letter informing him they will take his case, but hasn't yet filed suit.

On July 2, 2005, former Officer K.D. Hardy hit Faulkner with his flashlight after Faulkner, who provided police a false name during a traffic stop, tried to spin away.

The department opened an internal affairs probe that found Hardy used excessive force, but no "final disposition" was issued, according to a Feb. 1, 2006 note on the file. That file also referenced Hardy's "termination in another investigation."

Faulkner incurred ambulance and hospital expenses of roughly $2,500 connected to medical treatment after the incident. Police did not pay the bill, and he cannot afford it, he said.

"Collection agents are looking for me," he said. MdY

Assessor dubs new letterhead 'pretty cool'

"One of the few things" Mark Lowderman wanted to change when he became El Paso County assessor in January was his official letterhead "just to sort of put my name on the place."

Now, actually, the name on the place is "Steve," a moniker Lowderman has given to a full-color eagle peering patriotically, if not slightly menacingly, from his office's correspondence.

When told the eagle logo looks like something from Republican-spoof cable news analysis show The Colbert Report, Lowderman, a Republican, laughs and confirms the eagle's name actually is in "honor" of comedian Stephen Colbert.

"Stephen's so formal. It's an homage," Lowderman says. "We think it's pretty cool, but then again, we're just a bunch of stuffy government types."

Connie Ross, a business enterprise manager for the office, came up with the design and several others using clip art at no cost to the county, Lowderman adds. MdY

Compiled by Cara DeGette, Ralph Routon, Michael de Yoanna and Naomi Zeveloff.

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