The other guy 

Waller keeps distance from Bruce in House District 15 race

click to enlarge Mark Wallers goal: de-Bruce the House. - ANTHONY LANE

Like many political candidates, Mark Waller has glossy pamphlets listing his endorsements, summarizing his views and showing pictures of himself in carefully selected environments.

But unlike most aspirants to elected office, Waller displays unusual caution parting with his pamphlet, which shows him in military uniform two years ago when he prosecuted crimes against coalition forces in Iraq as an Air Force reservist.

Following a Monday afternoon interview at his downtown Colorado Springs law office, the 39-year-old pauses, reaching for a copy of the mailer he put out earlier for display.

"Is there a sticker ...?" he starts asking.

Yes, he had modified the pamphlet minutes earlier with a sticker noting that pictures of him in military uniform "[do] not imply endorsement by the Air Force or Department of Defense."

"With my opponent," Waller explains, "every little thing you do is scrutinized."

Waller's opponent in the GOP race for the State House District 15 nomination is incumbent Douglas Bruce, the anti-tax crusader whose first months in the Legislature brought high-profile gaffes and scandals.

The stickers represent a hiccup in Waller's push to take the seat. According to a DOD directive issued in February, reservists can run for some elected offices, but must include the above disclaimer on any campaign literature showing them in uniform or mentioning their rank.

How Waller's original omission of this disclaimer came to light is unclear. Speaking Tuesday, Bruce said he had no part highlighting the policy, though he considers it "poor taste" to politicize military service.

That aside, it turns out to have been a good start to the week for Waller. Relaxing in his tidy office, Waller says he's just met with Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera and received his endorsement.

("I really think he is trying to be a legislator for the right reasons," Rivera says in a later phone conversation.)

Rivera's name adds to a long list of endorsements from legislators, county officials and other leaders. It's hard to know if their support will sway voters in the Aug. 12 primary, but their opposition to an incumbent seems to point to high levels of Bruce fatigue.

Bruce was picked last fall to fill a sudden vacancy in District 15. He attracted disproportionate attention during the 2008 legislative session after he was, among other things, censured for kicking a news photographer, kicked off the State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee, and criticized for calling guest workers "illiterate peasants."

Especially against the backdrop of Bruce's bombast, Waller appears mild-mannered. The only sign of partisanship in his office is an elephant on his business-card holder, and Waller explains that was mainly a bit of fun from the days he worked as a prosecutor in Pueblo for a Democratic district attorney. (He went into private practice last year.)

He's also less well-known than his competitor, which led to some surprise in delegates voting to give Waller the top line on primary ballots. But Waller claims to have raised $30,000 Bruce is self-financed and says he's no slouch in terms of Republican priorities. He wants the government to stay away when it comes to guns or homeschooling, he calls himself "pro-life," and he supports school choice.

He's also a family guy, married with two kids, and he says one thing he offers is the ability to get along.

"Legislating is a team sport," he says. "You have to work with other people."



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