In the realm of state and local politics, can anyone argue that it's best to describe 2009 as a jumbled, deficit-driven, often-exasperating mess?
Could we ever forget that times were tough, fuses were short and tensions were constant? Remember how Gov. Bill Ritter defied logic, angering many Democratic loyalists, in naming Denver Public Schools Superintendent Michael Bennet to replace Ken Salazar as U.S. senator? Remember the state Legislature battling the downward spiral of revenue projections? Closer to home, from the U.S. Olympic Committee retention deal's chaos to City Council's repeated, catastrophic smackdowns at the hands of incensed voters, could we have had more controversy and mistrust?
Ever read a column filled with only questions? Why not now, as 2009 thankfully slips into the past? Wouldn't we rather look to the year ahead, bringing all kinds of fresh political drama? But since our city, county and state face so much uncertainty, could there be a better way to frame this peek at 2010 than a barrage of questions that don't have easy answers? Since they're everywhere, why hesitate in sharing a working list for the new year?
How will the U.S. Senate race unfold? Will the power of appointed incumbency and tons of cash be enough for Bennet to hold off Andrew Romanoff in the Democratic primary? Can Romanoff find issues to build enough momentum in caucuses (March), county assemblies (May) and the state convention to overcome his monetary deficit? Will Bennet's stands on health care reform help or hurt? Beyond the summer, does Republican Jane (I am not Gale) Norton have a chance against the Bennet-Romanoff survivor?
On the House side, will the growing possibility of Democrats losing some seats affect the party's 5-2 edge among Colorado's seven seats? Is it possible Rep. John Salazar, despite his enhanced power on the House Appropriations Committee, might be in trouble against Glenwood Springs DA Martin Beeson, a Republican, in that far-flung district? In our District 5, will anyone bother to challenge Doug Lamborn, ever again?
Moving to the state Capitol, after looking so invulnerable just a year ago, could Ritter actually become a one-term-and-out bust? Will his Republican opponent, Scott McInnis, make it through the campaign without losing his well-known temper in a costly rage? Will the national GOP identify this governor race as one worth pouring money into, which wasn't the case last time with Bob Beauprez? And will McInnis pick our own Sallie Clark as his running mate? How soon will we know?
Could Ritter's status have a negative effect on Cary Kennedy, running for another term as state treasurer with the chance at higher office someday?
In the Legislature, with Democrat Michael Merrifield term-limited out of the House, will that district's philosophical balance enable attorney Pete Lee to keep that seat in the Dems' hands? Will City Councilor Tom Gallagher decide to run against Lee, as persistent rumors suggest?
Meanwhile, can Rep. Dennis Apuan win a second House term in District 17, despite being the target of so many vicious attacks from Republicans? Or will the GOP's contested primary make it easier for Apuan in November?
Locally, can Merrifield ride his high recognition factor into a county commissioner post, breaking through that Republican stronghold? Who will be his Republican opponent after that crazy primary? Does Ed Jones have a chance? Will Mayor Lionel Rivera jump in as many expect? Or how about Peggy Littleton, after serving on the state Board of Education?
Wouldn't we have enjoyed the just-aborted county treasurer race between outgoing Commissioner Jim Bensberg (who withdrew Tuesday) and Clerk and Recorder Bob Balink? And to replace Balink, can crafty Democrat Tom Mowle, the county's public trustee, pull a surprise? First, though, what will happen in that GOP primary between two more term-limited officials, Treasurer Sandra Damron and Commissioner Wayne Williams?
With City Councilor Darryl Glenn all but assured of no serious opposition in replacing Williams as commissioner, and with Rivera also a distinct possibility, what might that mean for Council with its next election just a few months later, in April 2011? Who might replace Glenn?
And regardless, how soon will the horserace take shape for mayor? Will it include Larry Small? Jan Martin? Tom Gallagher? Randy Purvis? Tim Leigh? Doug Bruce? Sean Paige? Or, who knows ... Richard Skorman?
See what I mean about 2010?