City Councilman Tom Gallagher stands in his dark suit on the sunny steps of City Hall and takes a long drag off a cigarette.
"I've been put in a weird place," he says.
Gallagher's the top Republican candidate to challenge Mike Merrifield for the State House District 18 seat in November. But Gallagher didn't make himself a candidate; the Republicans did it for him. And though he'd said he'd run if no other Republican would, Gallagher has reservations. He's made it clear in the past that he wants to spend more time with his wife and children.
"I've got a pretty full plate," he says.
Within a week, he'll announce whether he'll run for the seat.
At the GOP county assembly in early March, Gallagher got 70 percent of the vote. Interestingly, at the assembly, another Republican actually did jump into the ring.
Katherine Szot, who has never held political office, received 30 percent of delegate votes, just enough to put her on the ballot. That means Gallagher and Szot could face each other in an August primary. Because the GOP thinks District 18 will be a competitive House seat in 2008, it doesn't want a primary battle. Gallagher himself has vocally opposed a primary.
El Paso County Republican spokesman Kyle Fisk says party leaders are meeting with both candidates and seeking a solution. Gallagher is serving his second term on Council and is known for his ability to get votes, but Fisk says the Republicans think they can win D-18 with or without him.
Incidentally, none of this has intimidated Merrifield, running for his fourth and final term.
If Gallagher does step aside, how might Szot campaign to defeat a popular incumbent?
Behind some colorful claims, it appears.
Szot says one of her top issues is education. She believes the way laws are changing, homeschooling parents eventually will be forced to invite homosexuals into their homes to teach "gender neutrality." She also believes children are choosing suicide due to "death education" and "encrypted drawing." She cites the Columbine High School tragedy as an example.
"[In the '80s] they [Columbine teachers] were teaching death classes," she says. "And in these classes, the kids would go to morgues and touch dead bodies and stuff, and then they would have to go back and write their own obituaries. They would have to tell the class why they wanted to commit suicide."
Similar claims have been made online, but never confirmed.
In another interesting, and unreported twist, Szot says she investigated the school further and uncovered evidence that high school boys were having sexual relationships with local cops. Szot says her evidence proves that Columbine happened due to a corrupt system and not "just a couple of kids that decided to go wacko."
Szot also will talk about taxes and stormwater fees. She says the fees are keeping people from seeking needed medical care, adding, "People with families should not have to pay any tax at all."
Szot, a mother of six, says she lived in Michigan until the mid-'90s, when she moved to Colorado Springs following an ugly divorce from an abusive husband, loss of custody of her three youngest children, and violent fallout after she busted a drug ring involving politicians and judges, with the help of gang informants. Widowed from a third marriage, she works as a paralegal.