Dissection of a dead end 

City Sage

Suppose that the Colorado Republican Party were a company owned by shareholders. If each active GOP voter in Colorado were allocated one share in that company, El Paso County would hold the controlling shares.

We'd have 142,575 shares out of a total of 938,939. Arapahoe County would have 101,325, followed by Jefferson County with 111,878.

But power in a political party should be distributed somewhat differently. In El Paso County, Republicans outnumber Democrats by a 2-1 margin, while the parties are essentially tied in the other two counties. Democrats rule in Denver (167,148 to 54,050) and Boulder (77,873 to 35,761).

That's why statewide elections are determined by results from these three counties. Turn out the Republican vote in Colorado Springs, keep down the Democratic vote in Denver and Boulder — GOPsters win. Reverse the equation, and the Donksters prevail.

Denver-Boulder Democrats have long understood how to win statewide. Of the scores of Dems chosen to serve in the U.S. Senate or to be the state's chief executive, more than 70 percent have come from the Denver metro area.

Just since 1972, Denver-area Dems Tim Wirth, Gary Hart, Michael Bennet and Mark Udall have gone to the Senate, while Dick Lamm, Bill Ritter and John Hickenlooper have occupied the governor's mansion.

Colorado Springs businessman Oliver Shoup served as governor from 1919 to 1923. John Love, a Colorado Springs attorney without political experience, beat Democratic incumbent Steve McNichols in 1962.

That's it for Colorado Springs: two governors, no senators.

It's a dismal record, unlikely to improve in the November election. Of the seven Republicans seeking the nomination for governor, not one is from the Springs. State Sen. Owen Hill just dropped out of the race for U.S. Senate, leaving U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner to carry the GOP flag.

So once again, El Paso County Repubs will trudge dutifully to the polls and vote for someone whose heart is elsewhere. In Gardner's case, that would be Yuma (pop. 3,551), a windswept town on the plains whose residents voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 and for secession from Colorado in 2013. Yuma also is home to gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Greg Brophy, self-billed as a Prius-driving, gun-toting, bike-riding conservative farmer.

What's the matter with us? "Maybe it's because the people we elect [to local office] are so conservative that they can't get traction in a statewide election," opines one Republican official.

Granted, that dynamic is at play in liberal Denver as well. ("Dead-end Doug" Lamborn and "Dead-end Diana" DeGette can stay forever in their safe congressional seats, but they'd be toast statewide.) But Denver does offer far more opportunity for moderate pols than does Colorado Springs.

The Democratic bench in Denver is wide and deep, with multiple paths to power. Our Republican bench is narrow and constricted, clogged with those who would like to make a career of petty office.

Term-limited Assessor Mark Lowderman and former Commissioner Duncan Bremer both want to become county treasurer. Such maneuvering makes it tough for newcomers to gain political visibility and experience.

"It was a different business community when John Love was elected," says longtime Colorado Springs businessman (and former University of Colorado Regent) Jerry Rutledge. "The banks were all locally owned, Holly Sugar was locally owned, and the boards and officers of those companies had a long-term stake in the community. Love's law firm was the most powerful in town."

Love served both as president of the Young Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce — a melding of business and politics that's now difficult to imagine. And Love, once elected, didn't follow the Republican playbook. He signed legislation that legalized abortion in Colorado and made possession of small amounts of marijuana a misdemeanor rather than a felony. Elected to three terms, he was Colorado's most popular Republican governor.

So where are the smart, moderate, ambitious young Colorado Springs Republicans who could follow in Love's footsteps? I don't know, but I can guess.

They moved to Denver and switched parties.


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