Time for dirty tricks or not 

As we strip off July from the calendar and move into August, that can only mean one thing on the local political scene.

It's time for the gloves to come off. And for the real nastiness to begin, as we enter the final days before the Republican primary on Aug. 12.

This is the election's stretch run, practically guaranteed to bring out the worst in some people and campaigns.

This is when those who are feeling threatened strike back. And this is when those who are victimized must decide how to respond, before it's too late.

Many of you remember two years ago, when six GOP candidates sought their party's nomination for the 5th District congressional seat to replace the retiring Rep. Joel Hefley. In that race, Jeff Crank was the favorite ... until a well-timed smear campaign effectively cut him off at the knees, and Doug Lamborn slithered through to victory. Lamborn claimed no knowledge or role in the attack on Crank but the Christian Coalition of Colorado, which wrongly accused Crank of supporting gay rights and tax increases, was headed by Mark Hotaling, brother of Lamborn's campaign manager, Jon Hotaling.

Most likely, we won't see anything that repulsive in the final two weeks. After all, we're hearing that Lamborn's campaign folks are feeling quite smug these days, even spreading the word to fellow supporters that they're expecting the congressman to get more than 50 percent of the vote against challengers Crank and Bentley Rayburn. And if you're feeling safe, that's not the time to be wasting more effort and money blind-siding your opponents.

Yet, there have been shenanigans in the visible local races. Let's run down five antics (there are more) that don't pass the smell test.

Middle names: State Rep. Douglas Bruce has blown a gasket over the fact that his popular challenger, Mark Waller, doesn't go by his legal first name, Donald. Bruce has been bellowing that Waller is doing that to confuse voters, and he has others writing letters parroting the same thought. Yet Waller has gone by Mark his entire life. In fact, you can find countless other people who go by their middle name, especially when named after a parent. (I know, because that group would include me.)

Endorsements: District Attorney John Newsome listed endorsers on his Web site, and two fellow Colorado DAs said they hadn't endorsed him (they've since been removed). Rep. Bruce put a list of endorsements on his site, and it turned out most were letters supporting his 2004 candidacy for county commission. When called on it, Bruce did rephrase how those letters were characterized but not until then.

Interviews: Before the Independent released our views, rumors came out that we would endorse Crank (we didn't, choosing only a recommendation), and those rumors said the fact he agreed to an interview with us showed how he's really liberal. In fact, Rayburn came to our offices for an interview the same day as Crank, and Lamborn eventually gave us a phone interview. Does that make them all liberals? Do we really have that much influence on them?

Watch your back: Crank walked a precinct in state House District 17, where Kit Roupe and Sheila Hicks are battling for the GOP nomination. Then a pro-life group blasted Crank online, accusing him of backing Roupe and calling her pro-choice, saying that must mean Crank was pro-choice. For the record, Crank wasn't campaigning with Roupe and hasn't endorsed anyone.

Fact-checking: Dan May accused Newsome of not raising salaries for assistant DAs the past four years. In fact, assistant DAs have received merit raises. Newsome has countered charges about his integrity by suggesting May was kicked off a recent murder case for ethical reasons, but May has refuted that charge thoroughly and convincingly. Also, Newsome continues to say the investigation into his side trip to a Southern Cal-Notre Dame football game is an "obviously political complaint." Yet, Gov. Bill Ritter, not May, is now pushing the investigation into Newsome's conduct.

If this is as bad as it gets, the Republican primary of 2008 won't go down among the dirtiest ever. But that doesn't make it clean, either.

And we still have plenty of time for more subterfuge.



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