Jerry Kopel

Rep. Bryan Sullivant won his Republican primary over Scott Davies by 115 votes, but has he won the battle and lost the war? It is NOT unusual for captains in the Democrat or Republican parties to engage in intramural warfare with their party's legislators. But normally the rest of the world doesn't know about it.

Jack Davey, vice chairman of the 62nd House District GOP, sent a letter blasting Jefferson County Republican Chairman John Brockmeyer for allegedly backing Sullivant's primary opponent, to every newspaper including the Statesman that could possibly have had an interest. Peter Blake made sure his Rocky Mountain News readers in HD 62 got the full story in a Sunday editorial page column.

Sullivant needs Jefferson County Republican votes to retain his House seat for a second term. In the primary, Jefferson County Republicans cast 2,036 of the 4,015 total votes, with 1,427 (70 per cent) going to Sullivant's opponent. And Sullivant's primary ad in the July 24th Clear Creek Courant wasn't exactly aimed to win friends in Jefferson County. Part of it stated:

"In his first term, Bryan Sullivant was named House Freshman Legislator of the Year and won more statewide awards for legislative excellence than the rest of the House Freshman class combined. That's not good enough for Jefferson County's ultra Right!!!"

"They are running a single-issue, ultra right candidate from Jefferson County who couldn't care less about Clear Creek County. They are dead serious and there's a lot of them."

Sullivant then quotes the Summit County Journal "Most of the votes in District 62 come from Jefferson County, so it's crucial that Sullivant win every possible vote from Clear Creek County residents."

The ad continues: "The Journal has it right again!!! The ultras from Jefferson County can silence your Clear Creek vote at the capitol UNLESS Clear Creek County Republicans and unaffiliated voters turn out in force for Bryan Sullivant at the August 13 primary."

Sullivant followed his primary victory with a letter to the Clear Creek Courant in which he thanked supporters, stating "A vast majority of our citizens saw through the deceptive tactics of out-of-state special interest groups and the Denver powerbrokers...." Actually, Clear Creek Republican voters only gave a 69 vote margin to Sullivant, 326 to 257. The county includes Georgetown and Idaho Springs.

His letter continues: "Hopefully, we will not see a repeat performance this November when yet another metro-Denver resident attempts to take this House seat out of the mountains."

Sullivant now faces Democrat Ron Jenkins in the general election, and based on Sullivant's comments, Jenkins must be just a mile high instead of a mile and a half high. Having won, Sullivant would have been wiser not to make his general election an "us (mountains) vs. them (the plains)". Sullivant won his seat in 1994, beating four term Democrat incumbent Sam Williams, ONLY because of Jefferson County.

In the four county district, Williams won Clear Creek, Gilpin and Summit County, 5,413 to 4,713. Sullivant's margin of victory came from Jefferson County, 5,355 to 3,989.

I speak somewhat from experience in the 1970's, having won four times and losing once in a Denver House district that included Windsor Gardens, then the home of the largest majority Republican precincts in the state of Colorado.

My Republican opponents always started the election with at least a several thousand vote majority, thanks to Windsor Gardens. But I never complained in print, since that would only have been useful to an opponent to drive his or her votes even higher.

Denver Post columnist Chuck Green has often told legislators "don't do anything you wouldn't want to see in tomorrow's paper." Has Sullivant given Jenkins a flip side "us vs. them" issue to use in his campaign? Will the "ultra-right" Jefferson Republicans sit this one out?

Will other Jefferson County voters be angry over Sullivant's remarks about the House seat belonging to the mountains? We will find out in November.

* * *

Was this a case of the half-baked going off half-cocked against the half-dressed? I'm referring to the recent decision of the Regional Transportation Board to forbid the shirtless and the shoeless from using RTD vehicles. A Denver Post editorial opposed the decision and, of course, a Rocky Mountain News editorial followed, supporting the RTD directors.

Neither newspaper mentioned the obvious. The controversy occurred during the summer heat. The decision goes into effect when the shoeless and shirtless would also have to be witless to board a bus half-naked. The decision was made in order to keep the issue out of the RTD elections in November.

As a former legislator, I'm quite familier with "dress codes". Whenever the House resolves itself into the committee of the whole, the chairperson pounds the gavel to bring the committee to order and then says "the coat rule is relaxed", meaning males may remove coats from their bodies.

Of course there is no "coat rule" in the House Book of Rules, and I remember back in the 60's, when House members knew we were near the end of the legislative session: Former Rep. Ben Klein, now of the RTD, and author of the shoeless-shirtless ban, would wear an infamous and blinding red sweater, and defy the coat rule.

Some dress codes lend themselves to legends. Pierre Wolf, who had the famous Quorum for many years, would often boast that he refused service to Marlon Brando, who came to lunch at the Quorum attired in a t-shirt. This was back in the days when a slim Brando was probably performing at Elitch Gardens. If Brando tried the same stunt today, it would be in a tent-shirt, not a t-shirt.


Jerry Kopel writes a column for the Statesman based on 22 years past experience as a state legislator.

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