Public Eye 

Let City Hall eat Prozac! He may be a scourge to local pols, but our own columnist John Hazlehurst has taken first place in the national Association of Alternative Newsweeklies for his biting, bullseye-hitting weekly political commentaries.

Competing with other mid-size alternative weeklies from around the country, Hazlehurst was awarded first place for his weekly "Outsider" column during last week's annual convention in Phoenix. An impressive panel of judges -- including Washington Post political columnist Al Kamen, Weekly Standard reporter Matthew Rees and Jonathan Alter of Newsweek -- had this to say about the former Colorado Springs City Councilman's local political insight:

"John Hazlehurst's work combines a keen eye for the petty gamesmanship of local powers-that-be with a witty style that makes his commentary a pleasure to read."

Give 'em hell, John...

* * * * * * * *

The love-my-gun hecklers were out in force at last weekend's Republican Party convention in Denver, waving pro-pistol signs and doing their best to interrupt Colorado Gov. Bill Owens as he delivered the keynote speech.

Hello? Has anyone noticed that these agitators sure have practiced shooting plenty of beer cans off walls, but apparently never bothered with learning their manners? Their jeers made the Republican governor seem downright liberal, just because he says he wants to keep guns out of the hands of children and criminals.

But that was just the shooting gallery.

The big coup of the day was the behind-the-scenes maneuvering by anti-abortion firebrands to secure delegation seats at the national convention in Philadelphia later this summer. Colorado will send a total of 40 delegates to the national convention and, to truly walk the elephant talk, Republicans apparently now have to be so ardent in their opposition to abortion that it becomes the only reason to live and breathe. They practically have to get it tattooed on their foreheads.

"It's not good enough to be pro-life anymore -- you almost have to sweat blood and prove it," said one self-avowed pro-life Republican activist who also cares about other issues, like the economy.

The most obvious tactic that anti-abortion fanatics adopted was to hand out flyers identifying candidates who they claimed were truly on the right side. Another was to identify those Republicans who have declined to sign a pledge vowing not to vote if George W. Bush does not choose an outspoken anti-abortion vice presidential running mate.

Notably, Gov. Owens did not make that list of identified pro-lifers, nor did the Chairman of Colorado's Republican Party Bob Beauprez. Both ended up getting elected to the Colorado delegation anyway, but didn't get as many votes as the very flamboyant Kendal Unrue, a Douglas County activist and Joe Nunez, who is the father-in-law of Steve Curtis. You remember Curtis; he's the former state GOP chairman who publicly trashed his party, promoted infighting and nearly bankrupted the organization before his messy departure last year.

Anyway, on Saturday the governor himself couldn't rally enough votes to get his choice of delegates elected to the "Platform Committee," which determines the Republican Party's statement of beliefs that will be adopted during the convention.

Owens, along with Beauprez, wanted fellow Republicans Cheri Ofner and Bob Martinez elected to the platform committee. Instead they got creamed by so-called "true pro-lifers" Mark Paschall and Marilyn Musgrave, who are both ultra-conservative state representatives. And the governor looked none-too-happy that his choices were effectively rolled.

So what does this have to do with anything, you wonder? Well, if the Colorado model is being replayed elsewhere (and we have every reason to think this army is agitating elsewhere), we can expect fireworks at the August national convention.

Remember four years ago, when Republicans adopted a platform -- which still holds -- that supports laws making abortion the equivalent of murder? Then-presidential candidate Bob Dole was forced to take the ridiculous position that he hadn't even read his own party's statement of beliefs -- or risk having to say whether he agreed with the abortion-is-murder position.

And, if the GOP convention is packed to the gills with ultra pro-lifers, they could force Bush to pick an ardent anti-abortion running mate or risk having them walk out of the convention in an embarrassing show of solidarity. For example, if Bush were to -- horrors! -- select New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman, the anti-abortion zealots would want his head.

And who thought fireworks would be outlawed this summer?

"It's almost like you had the Germans and the Nazis in World War II -- if you were a Nazi just being German was not good enough," said one longtime Republican activist, who insisted on not having his named used. "I'm not sure that's a good way to phrase it..."

However it's worded, it sounds like war.

-- degette@csindy.com


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