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A funny thing happened

"There's something happenin' here

What it is ain't exactly clear ..." -- Buffalo Springfield

On Election Day, I was in Denver, hanging out at the Pinnacle Club with the C & D folks, ready for a crushing defeat. The polls that the campaign had commissioned looked bad -- so bad that no one would talk about 'em, much less release the results to the newspapers. C was going down, D was going down, the Democratic Party was going down, born-again moderate Governor Bill Owens was going down, and once again, the taxophobic know-nothings would rule Colorado.

But, as we all know, a funny thing happened on the way to defeat -- victory!

By about the same margin that voters approved the tax-limiting TABOR amendment in 1992, they voted to gut it in 2005. And they did so despite a campaign of lies and innuendo.

Even in El Paso County, opposition to Referendum C was lukewarm. Sure, it failed, but only by a couple percentage points. That wasn't nearly enough to offset its overwhelming margins of victory elsewhere in the state, especially in the Denver metro area.

Remember last year's election, when the Dems picked up a House seat and a Senate seat in Washington, and won control of both houses of the state Legislature? Forsaking by-the-book liberalism, the donksters promised moderation, competence and cooperation. They delivered, teaming with Gov. Owens and moderate Republicans to craft Referendum C. Its success not only offers Democrats a historic opportunity to become a credible governing party, but it also opens the door to moderate Republicans.

The resulting party last Tuesday was pretty amazing. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, Governor Bill, House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, Republican state senators Steve Johnson and Norma Anderson -- it was as if all the anger and bitterness that has characterized partisan politics melted away.

So will this era of good feeling endure? I think so. In fact, I think it represents a permanent re-shaping of state politics.

Of the 100 members of the Legislature, 72 of them supported C. That's an overwhelming majority, and one which, if it can hold together, could govern sensibly and intelligently. Absent partisan rancor, the business of government could be efficient and collegial, to everyone's benefit -- except the radical Republican minority.

Because -- make no mistake -- they're the big losers. The new GOPster/donkster coalition doesn't need 'em, doesn't like 'em, and will work together to stuff 'em in the garbage can of history.

And how will the business groups, who have until now so reliably supported the Republican right, react to this new reality? They're furious at the legislators who opposed Referendum C, which business saw as crucial to Colorado's economy. So, expect an agonizing reappraisal.

If the moderates of both parties govern successfully, campaign dollars will flow to them in 2006. And that may mean changes in the El Paso County legislative delegation.

Remember, every Republican in the delegation hopped into Douglas Bruce's back pocket and opposed C. And every one of 'em is part of the radical minority in the Legislature. They'll be invisible and ineffective, and the business community will have to go to our lone Democrat, Mike Merrifield, to get anything done.

This isn't good for Colorado Springs. Up at the Economic Development Corporation and the Chamber of Commerce, over at the Board of Realtors, and down at the Home Builders' Association, you can bet they're having some interesting conversations. Do you think they might be making quiet phone calls to moderates like Sallie Clark, Scott Hente, Jerry Heimlicher and Randy Purvis? Of course they are -- these folks are rich, not stupid!

And as for voters in the Pikes Peak region, we may not be rich, but we're not entirely stupid, either. Congratulations to Sandra Mann, John Gudvangen and Tami Hasling, our new D-11 board members. And give it up for Jeri Howells, former county commissioner and newly elected mayor of Fountain, who's a politician in the best sense of the word: decent, hardworking, unpretentious and honest.

As for Douglas Bruce:

"Stop, hey, what's that sound

Everybody look what's goin' down ..."

-- johnhazlehurst@earthlink.net

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