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The good news is, abortion has climbed into the back seat of local Republican politics.

The bad news is, guns are now driving the big old Cadillac of El Paso County's GOP.

Four years ago, anti-abortion activists, waving their gruesome posters depicting bloody fetuses, took over Abe Lincoln's party in El Paso County. But, judging from last Saturday's Republican County Assembly, gun rights is the issue du jour.

Remember how we used to watch the candidates get all teary as they earnestly rattled off their intense opposition to abortion, as though they sat around the dinner table with their family nightly, obsessing about the travesty? Well now we get to listen to those same pols tell heartwarming stories about the time Granddaddy gave them their first hunting rifle.

Welcome to Campaign 2000, otherwise known as Betty Beedy Central. As expected, the controversial county commissioner has successfully recruited candidates to run against her nemeses, incumbents Jeri Howells and Chuck Brown.

Brown will face Beedy-pick Rich Brenner in the August primary. And political newcomer, tomato-grower and Fountain restaurateur Michael Hudgins is the late bloomer whose been tapped to run against Howells. Beedy herself was foiled in her effort to keep at least one Republican challenger off the primary ballot. She will face a showdown with Tom Huffman in the August primary since the dentist barely squeaked onto the ballot.

But perhaps the most fun race to emerge from last Saturday's assembly will be the showdown between anti-tax activist and landlord Douglas Bruce and computer expert and longtime state Rep. Ron May.

Once proud to be the bane of every politician, the burr in the backside of bureaucrats great and small, Bruce now wants to be just like them -- he wants to be a state senator.

This is the same man who, when former Gov. Roy Romer called him the biggest threat to representative democracy in the history of Colorado, was so pleased that he had business cards printed up that read "Douglas Bruce, Terrorist."

Bruce and May want to replace powerful Senate President Ray Powers in District 10, which encompasses much of eastern Colorado Springs. And in a move last weekend that simply shocked many of El Paso County's Republican power brokers, Bruce beat May for the coveted top line on the August primary ballot by 51 to 49 percent.

The Dougster, who was trounced when he tried to go up against his enemy Powers four years ago, may have a shot at public office this go 'round. Here's why:

First, his campaign motto is catchy: "Ron may, but Bruce will." That suggests Bruce has come a long way from his past life BC (Before Colorado) -- when he ran as a Democrat for the California State Assembly in the early 1980s. Then, his motto was the rather stilted, "Specifics, not safe generalities."

Second, Ron May has not exactly been known for rubbing elbows with the little people (ie: constituents) in recent years. Plus, he has the reputation of being even crankier than Doug Bruce.

Perhaps -- given Bruce's newly stated passion for handguns and May's reputation as a hothead -- the two gentlemen would agree to an old-fashioned duel for the seat rather than go through the motions of an angry campaign. We're sure Ray and his lovely wife, the venerable Dorothy Powers, would be glad to host the event at their famous barn in eastern Colorado Springs.

Despite a legal challenge by Colorado Springs gun guy Bernie Herpin, SAFE Colorado has decided to go ahead and begin collecting signatures this week in an effort to get an initiative on November's ballot to close the gun show loophole. The first and second citizens to lend their signatures to the petition were, respectively, Republican Gov. Bill Owens and Democratic Attorney General Ken Salazar.

We can hardly wait for the conspiracy theories to commence.

Now that former James Dobson pal Gary Bauer is out of the presidential race, he's spending his free time giving interviews to hippies.

That's right, the American public this week was treated to a refreshing side of Bauer, courtesy of David Letterman. On Monday, the late-night talk show host sent independent filmmaker Mike Borschardt to the nation's capitol to interview Bauer, the former head of the Family Research Council whom some pundits (not-very-nicely) likened to a ventriloquist doll dressed as an undertaker during the campaign.

In the interview, Bauer admitted his favorite movie was Searching for Private Ryan (he didn't mind when the title was corrected for him) and said he dropped his bid for president because it cost $30,000 a day. During one deep exchange, Bauer guessed that Borschardt's favorite rock star is Nugent. He didn't waver when the filmmaker also listed Black Sabbath as one of his favorites.

"They're not very popular at my church," Bauer said of the band.

-- degette@csindy.com

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