By Jerry Kopel
The next Colorado statewide election is 11 months away. Will any of the present candidates for governor be around? I base the following primary predictions on having run as a Democrat for office 13 times, winning 11 times and defeating three separate incumbents (one Democrat, two Republicans) in doing so.
Marc Holtzman:The Republican candidate with fire in the belly. I won races I was supposed to lose when I had "fire in the belly". Holtzman is obsessed 24 hours, seven days a week with winning. He is tackling one problem at a time, rather than looking ahead to the general election. That is smart.
He is no longer "Marc Who?" His first problem was visibility and his opposition to Referendum C and D and his appearances in the campaign ads and community debates gave him statewide visibility. Ref. C won, but so did Holtzman. I suspect he is nearly even with Congressman Bob Beauprez in visibility.
His next problem is the Republican caucus and state convention. He has a dedicated organization of right-wing Republicans who can carry him to top line at the state convention.
That doesn't guarantee a primary victory as other state and federal candidates have discovered. But there is a better chance of primary victory when combined with lots of campaign money. I predict Holtzman will pack the caucus with C and D opponents and get top line at the Republican state convention.
Then the primary battle, which actually began early in 2005, gets hotter. It's Claude Rains (Casablanca) vs. Bruce Willis. Think Holtzman is a bit feisty? Yes. Makes enemies? You bet. But a smart candidate can turn an enemies list to his advantage, especially if the 2006 state legislature doesn't satisfy supporters of Referendum C.
Bob Beauprez: Needs to avoid over-confidence. He came off the bottom line in a primary battle to become the Republican candidate for Congress in 2002. He has to hit hard and fast to overcome future fierce attacks by Holtzman.
History is against him. I have researched all gubernatorial races since Colorado became a state. No congressman has even gone immediately from Congress to governor in the past 129 years. Only one former congressman was ever next elected as governor of Colorado.
He was John F. Shafroth who was elected to Congress five times, three times as a Republican and twice as a Democrat, but did not serve the fifth term when his Republican opponent claimed Democrats committed "fraud." It turned out his Republican opponent's party also committed fraud . Shafroth remained a Democrat for the rest of his life and won the title "Honest John".
Unlike Beauprez he was six years out of Congress when he ran for governor. He served two terms (1909-1913) and then was elected U.S. Senator (1913-1919.)
The primary victor in 2006? I don't think Beauprez has fire in the belly. It's Holtzman by a razor-thin margin. And that is whom Democrats want to run against.
Bill Ritter: The only Democratic candidate as this column is written. He is untried as a candidate in real contested elections except for the contest he faced against Craig Silverman for Denver District Attorney.
Dr. Warren Hern (who has performed many abortions) has indicated his strong opposition to Ritter in copies of letters sent to Democratic leadership based on Ritter's position that "as governor, he would veto a bill banning abortion completely, but would sign a bill that outlawed abortion except for rape or incest or to save the life" of the pregnant woman.
Those letters will likely appear before the general public if Ritter is a candidate in the Democratic primary election and would certainly be made available to every delegate to the state convention.
Ritter was (as were all Colorado District Attorneys) opposed to the anti-forfeiture legislation of 2002 that provided protection for the property of persons who had not been convicted of a criminal offense. Except for Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut, the DAs have not given up on regaining forfeiture. If elected governor, would Ritter sign a bill repealing the protections now provided to innocent owners of property?
I have casually asked a number of persons whom I consider to be "yellow dog" politically active Democratic women. That means if the Democratic candidate is a yellow dog, they would still vote for him or her. These women will not vote for Ritter in a primary and if he is the candidate, they will skip the line for the governor's race or vote for a third party governor candidate.
If Ritter expects to pick up Republican leaning voters on the issue of abortion or law enforcement, why would they pick Ritter when they can vote for a Republican voicing support for the same issues?
As much as he tries, the abortion issue will remain the first question at a Ritter press conference, especially if the U.S. Supreme hints at reversing Roe vs. Wade, and will drown out the other issues he wants voters to consider.
I suspect that some Democrat from the state legislature will enter the race for governor regardless of non-candidacy statements previously made. Among the credible candidates are House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon, and Sen. Dan Grossman. Who will be the Democratic candidate? If any credible Democrat enters the primary race, he or she will defeat Ritter.
History is also against Beauprez, Holtzman and Ritter. Every governor for at least the past 53 years (except for John Love) has first served in the Colorado legislature.
Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.
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