Jerry Kopel


Looking for a front row seat at a donnybrook? Well, it won't be at the state legislative session that begins Jan. 9th.

It's true that two of the three Democratic candidates for governor in 2002 are members of the state senate, but neither Senate President Stan Matsunaka nor Sen. Bob Hagedorn are stupid. Any public rancor over legislation will only benefit businessman Rollie Health, the third Democrat in the race.

The last time two Democrats serving in the same legislative house ran for governor was 1974. They were House Minority Leader Tom Farley and Assistant Minority Leader Dick Lamm. I was there, a few seats from them in the front row on the Democratic side of the House, and they showed admirable restraint. No barbs, no darts, nothing the opposition Republicans could use as fodder in the November elections.

There are some similarities between those two House members and the two Senators. Pueblo attorney Farley had a temper and a biting tongue when necessary, and he was at home in what passed for a political machine. But he lacked charisma.

Denver attorney Lamm was the outsider, riding a wave of popularity based on his role in the 1972 voter opposition to having the Olympic Winter Games in Colorado. The same voters favored Lamm's support of land use control.

Farley tried to present himself as a Harry Truman clone. He told reporters "I don't attract widespread passionate support and I don't attract widespread passionate opposition." On the other hand, Lamm did both.

What hurt Farley badly was an "expose" in the Rocky Mountain News before the primary about client land deals which eventually became Pueblo West. A 1969 bill passed the legislature which eased any development problems for Pueblo West. While Farley did not carry the measure, the article made sure readers understood Farley's wealth, clientle list, and money earned in various land deals. Lamm won the primary 60 to 40 percent.

Matsunaka is the only attorney in the three-way race, and will likely face the same scrutiny that Farley endured. Hagedorn has undergone treatment for alcohol addiction which he made as clear as possible at the time it happened. Voters continued to re-elect him. Heath has major wealth and a lot of time to visit around the state and line up support. At the moment, he is the stealth candidate, while Matsunaka gets press on growth and education issues, and Hagedorn on anti-terrorism, health and environmental legislation.

To get on the ballot through the Democratic state assembly, each candidate needs to receive 30 percent of the delegate vote. Only two will make it, but the third candidate can still be on the ballot if he gets at least ten percent of the vote, and petitions on to the August 13th primary ballot. In fact, a candidate can avoid the state assembly altogether and get on the ballot solely by petition.

The petition route is an ace-in-the-hole for any of the three men. A candidate needs 1,500 valid signatures from registered Democrats in each of the seven congressional districts. But a wise candidate will seek at least 14,000 names, 2,000 from each district. The petition drive can start as early as April 1st, eight days before the Democratic caucuses of April 9th. Petitions have to be turned in to the secretary of state by June 4th.

Getting 14,000 signatures isn't that hard. If you start April 1st, it amounts to 31 to 32 signatures in each of the seven districts per day.

Fighting between Democrat candidates will get nastier the closer we get to the August 13th primary, but not TOO nasty, as the winning candidate will need the help of those he defeats. The last time Colorado voted out an elected governor was 1962, when Republican John Love defeated Democrat Steve McNichols.

This year, candidates are going to be asked early and often who they would pick to be lieutenant governor. The winning candidate for governor, after the primary, must pick his running mate by August 20th. My guess is that the Democrat chosen will be a woman.

(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House and ran in 13 elections.)

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