Jerry Kopel

The elections are behind us. Get ready for the next purge!

Only 21 of the 27 state legislators who were term limited are gone. Five House members went to the Senate, and one senator went to the House. But another seven legislators who were not term limited had sought other positions or won or lost elections.

There were six Republicans, Ben Alexander, Barry Arrington, Mike Coffman, Charles Duke, Martha Kreutz, Larry Schwarz, plus one Democrat, Mark Udall, who served in the 1997 and/or 1998 legislature who are gone (Udall won his congressional race). Now we need to look at the next batch. The 1999 and 2000 year sessions will be the last for 20 more legislators, unless of course some of them switch houses and start the eight year term limit count again.

In the House, seven Republicans and three Democrats will bid adieu, which should help Democrats trying to pick up open seats. The seven Republicans forced to leave are: Deborah Allen, Russ George, Bill Kaufman, Ron May, Marcy Morrison, Penn Pfiffner, and Jack Taylor. The three Democrats are Ken Gordon, Bob Hagedorn, and MaryAnne Keller. That's 80 years of experience down the drain.

In the Senate, six Republicans and four Democrats will be shown the door, another potential chance for Democrats to gain from open seats. Beside each name, I have listed the number of years they will have served when their terms expire at the end of year 2000.

The Republicans are Tom Blickensderfer, 10 years, Elsie Lacy, 8 years, Ray Powers, 22 years, Mary Ann Tebedo, 19 years, Dave Wattenberg, 18 years, and Dottie Wham, 16 years. The Democrats are Mike Feeley, 8 years, Bob Martinez, 20 years, Gloria Tanner, 16 years, and Frank Weddig, 6 years.

Weddig was appointed in 1994 to fill a vacancy and served in 1995 and 1996. That counts as a full term under the state constitution, Article 5, Section 3 (2): "Any person appointed or elected to fill a vacancy in the general assembly who serves at least one-half of a term of office shall be considered to have served a term in that office..."

So 143 years of experience goes down the drain from the Senate and 80 years from the House for a total of 223 years. Of course, some of the House and Senate members will run for the "other" house and win, which will reduce the experience drain.

Term limit supporters claim it is necessary to limit terms so that legislators don't overstay. To see if people leave on their own, or because of election defeats or death, I went to the 1991 roster to discover which legislators were no longer around even though they could have technically stayed through 1998 (some were defeated trying to be re-elected). There were 20 Senators in that group.

Twelve were Republicans: Bonnie Allison, Michael Bird, Terry Considine, Jack Fenlon, David Leeds, Harold McCormick, Al Meikeljohn, Bill Owens, Jim Roberts, Bob Schaffer, Ted Strickland, and Claire Traylor. The eight Democrats were Sam Cassidy, Dennis Gallagher, Regis Groff, Jana Mendez, Robert Pastore, Ray Peterson, Don Sandoval, and Larry Trujillo.

Over in the House there were 38 Representatives in 1991 who didn't bother, or weren't able to stick around to 1998, 19 Republicans and 19 Democrats. Two of them, John Irwin and R. Moellenberg died while in office. Some, such as Bob Eisenach, Pat Miller, and Sam Williams lost re-election bids. And some ran for different offices.

Other Republicans were Steve Acquafresca, Steve Arvechoug, Marleen Fish, Faye Fleming, Tim Foster, Pat Grant, Bill Jerke, Michelle Lawrence, Bill Martin, Scott Mcinnis, Betty Neale, Tom Ratterree, Jeff Shoemaker, Pat Sullivan, Betty Swenson, and Dan Williams.

The other Democrats were Guillermo DeHerrera, Renny Fagan, Daphne Greenwood, Phil Hernandez, Tony Hernandez, Stan Johnson, Matt Jones, Peggy Kerns, Pat Killian, Wayne Knox, Jerry Kopel, Don Mares, Dan Prinster, Tom Redder, Steve Ruddick, Wilma Webb, and Ruth Wright.

There were also many legislators who entered the General Assembly by 1993 and before 1997 who are no longer present. There were three in the Senate all Democrats: Lloyd Casey, Linda Powers, and Paul Weissman. There were 13 in the House, two Republicans, Drew Clark and Eric Prinzler, and 11 Democrats: Don Armstrong, Celina Benavidez, Mary Blue, Diana DeGette, Doug Friednash, Peggy Lamm, Glenda Lyle, Mildred Mattingly, Jim Pierson, Bob Shoemaker, and Bernie Strom.

So between 1991, when term limits began, through 1996, BEFORE term limits were triggered, 74 legislators left voluntarily or were defeated, plus seven who left in 1998 who were not term limited. Broken down, that is 55 in the House and 26 in the Senate, a total of 81, all WITHOUT term limits forcing them out.

The loss of experience, at least in the House, is going to be tremendous. Of the 65 House members, only TWO, Don Ament and Brad Young, were in the legislature as recently as 1991. How does that lack of experience hurt?

Often in a House committee, when the pros and cons of a bill would be discussed, some experienced House member of that committee could comment "We had this same bill before us 10 years ago, and one of the problems which resulted in its defeat was....." That is no longer possible. You can't run to the Senate to find someone who was around in 1989 if you don't KNOW there was a problem in 1989.

Lobbyists are not subject to term limits. Plenty of them were around in 1989 and they'll be more than happy to provide a "spin".

When did I decide it was time to leave? In my last door-to-door campaign, as in previous ones, I carried note pads which I left when no one was home. I would write "sorry to have missed you" on each note pad. On one such trip, I glanced down at what I had written...almost automatically: "Sorry to have met you."

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

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Copyright 2015 Jerry Kopel & David Kopel