On Monday night, the Colorado Springs media and several hundred activists flocked to downtown's Methodist Church to monitor the first of only two public candidate forums that will be held before the Aug. 8 primary.
(The second one is scheduled this Saturday morning at the Embassy Suites hotel. See Get Involved, page 8, for details.)
All the local TV stations were on hand to cover the Citizens Project-sponsored gathering, as was the Indy, which helped sponsor the event. The G covered it too.
But Republicans Ron May, Dave Schultheis, David Stence and Michael Hudgins apparently had more important things to do that night than show up to tell the citizens of the Pikes Peak region why we should elect them to represent us in the state Senate, the state House of Representatives and the El Paso County Board of Commissioners.
Other than the Doug Bruce/Ron May Colorado Senate race the local races have largely been uneventful. That makes pols worry that the Aug. 8 primary will bring out only a handful of the most fanatical of voters.
So plaudits to the majority of Republican and Democratic candidates who showed up and seem to be taking things seriously. It was good practice stuff for when likely Democratic and Republican candidates continue the show-down to the November general election. Here's some stuff to chew on:
Bruce, known for his nastiness, got his Democratic opponent Daniel Tafoya to shake hands and agree that the two would sit down and sign a "clean ethics campaign" treaty requiring both to share each others' campaign pieces before they are disseminated to the public.
The audience was left wondering who was the Republican and who was the Democrat when Ortega came out in favor of tax cuts for big businesses (it helps bring 'em to town) and Bruce came out against subsidized growth (they should pay their own way).
The forum generated plenty of questions about growth, education and guns. And all of the candidates had their most appealing prepackaged soundbites prepared.
But there was a good and actually applicable impromptu question asked regarding whether county commissioner candidates would support a local program to ensure that cops aren't pulling people over for "driving while black." The national phenomenon of people getting harassed by cops because of their skin color has been well-documented, and police agencies across the country are being urged to keep a record of the ethnic heritage of the people they pull over in order to ensure no one is unfairly targeted.
Asked whether they would support the local proposal, county commissioner candidates Jeri Howells, Fred Hardee, Chuck Brown and Tom Huffman without hesitation said yes.
Rich Brenner said that such record-gathering could be oppressive and would potentially have a negative effect on the very people who are being targeted by racial profiling.
Betty Beedy said she hasn't given the problem a lot of thought.
Beedy and her opponent Huffman got downright hostile, with Beedy accusing Huffman of breaking the law by posting his campaign signs in public rights-of-way.
Huffman, who was celebrating his birthday as well as his wedding anniversary on Monday, was seated immediately to the right of his opponent, and got a good laugh out of the audience when he noted, "Jeez, here I am to the right of Betty. Isn't that scary?"
Huffman then went on to take issue with Beedy's taxpaid trip to a national convention in Kauai, Hawaii in 1998, which she famously claimed helped benefit her knowledge of rural eastern El Paso County because of the similarities between the two rural areas.
Beedy defended herself for the trip, saying she drove all night to a Nevada airport to save taxpayers money for the flight to Hawaii.
"She talks the talk, but walks the Waikiki," Huffman chortled over Beedy's claims of being a small-government proponent.
Former chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party Wayne Williams wryly commented, "I think you could really feel the love between them."
It's always fun sitting next to Williams at a political event. The always-affable and never-nasty Williams not only provided helpful insight and humorous commentary, but also contributed the best insider political tip of the evening.
Williams, a lawyer, said he is seriously considering a run to replace Doug Dean in House District 18 when Dean -- who is currently lobbying hard to become Colorado's next Speaker of the House -- will be term-limited out in 2002.
And when a highly-connected and ambitious Republican like Williams says the words "strongly considering," it's as good as a go.