Jerry Kopel

Another friend dead of a heart attack. This time it was John Mrozek, age 66, former Denver public works manager and former head of the Denver Area Labor Federation. When you turn 68, as I did last Sunday, you open the newspaper each day with dread as to who is next.

I never thought of John except with good vibes. Here was a man who, unlike his boss, Mayor Federico Pena, knew that the way to a constituent's heart and vote was through what was going on at the constituent's house, street, and neighborhood, and not in imagining a great city.

If you want to win, going door-to-door in legislative elections is as essential as is asking the potential voter "how can I be of help?" Mine was the question, John Mrozek was the answer.

It could be the alley that was a mess (as in Capitol Hill garbage collections). Or it could be a crumbling driveway where the driveway met the street, or the corner sewer was stopped up, or the vacant house next door had overgrown weeds.

I would send a letter to John Mrozek outlining the problem, with a copy to the constituent and a copy to Pena. Even if it was a traffic engineering problem such as a needed stop sign, or a park problem such as overgrown shrubs blocking traffic visibility, I would still include John in the notice.

John's workers would resolve the concerns and I and the mayor got the credit and the solid and sustaining constituent vote.

Republican statisticians were perplexed at the amount of cross-over vote I received from their party members in the mid and late eighties. One once told me it was the heaviest in the state. Now you know the secret. It had nothing to do with state issues and everything to do with this type of local problem solving.

Mrozek, thank goodness, ALWAYS came through. So here is my toast to a man who understood how someone gets elected. Whether or not Pena recognized what was happening, a lot of his votes in the 1987 election came about because of the individual attention paid to constituents by Mrozek and me.

While on the subject of Pena, the initial boosterism displayed by the transportation secretary after the ValueJet aircrash left many who knew him amazed.

Pena, as an attorney, and a successful politician KNOWS enough not to go out on a limb extolling ValueJet's adherence to safety requirements UNLESS he was ordered to do so, by you know who.

Those comments may have seriously undermined his credibility. Hearst national columnist, Marrianne Means, who often appears in the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News, sometimes on the same day, didn't make it there on this issue. (I read her column on a vacation in Maui.) She talks first about Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) contradictory goals of airline safety standards versus airline promotion.

"Transportation Secretary Federico Pena seemed to reflect that dilemma by flying to the crash scene, where he irresponsibly pulled political rank to upstage the National Transportation Safety Board, the on-site authority and a well-regarded independent agency over which he has no authority. Against all evidence to the contrary, he simultaneously sought to reassure the public of FAA diligence (the FAA is in his department) and ValueJet's wonderful safety record.

"This is the sort of self-serving, insincere baloney that gives good government a bad name. Pena didn't belong there and said stupid things. He would be a fine candidate for elimination in a second Clinton Cabinet, should there be one."

Miss Means might have had a major story if she had traced Pena's remarks backwards to discover if they were ordered from within the White House. Pena is no dummy, but he does follow orders.

* * *

Just one spring and summer ago, beginning with TV sweeps week, we were all treated to Whine Wants To Know Paula Woodward in her red wig and other disguises illegally registering to vote after being given the "ok" by Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter and Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton for fifteen false registrations by Channel 9 Woodward and associates.

Miss Woodward insisted that "something" had to be done to stop Colorado election officials from allowing people to register without identification. Joining her bandwagon were Rep. Debbie Allen (R) and Rep. Bill Jerke (R) who prepared election law amendments requiring anyone seeking to register in person to present "either a Colorado driver's license or personal identification card issued by the Dept. of Revenue...that contains a photograph of that person..."

That and similar amendments got nowhere due to calm and persuasive reasoning provided by county clerks and Secretary of State Vikki Buckley who testified the proposals violated federal laws including the National Voting Registration Act of 1993.

Miss Woodward told her viewers she would stick with the issue and get it before the legislature in 1996. Well, HB 1061 by the same Rep. Allen was the bill to amend Colorado election laws. The fifty-page cleanup and revision bill started in the House Jan.10th, was signed into law June 3rd and takes effect July Ist.

Guess what? There is nada, nothing, zilch, from the sweeps show and "suggested" amendments of 1995 in HB 1061. Channel 9 never showed the loss of their suggestions at a legislative committee in 1995 (they were there with cameras) or anything about this bill in 1996, which was their big opportunity to change the law. I wonder why.


Along with the many pleasant descriptions of Gov. Roy Romer that have attached to his being, it is now time for another noun: Ingrate.

Romer addressed the Democratic convention in Pueblo June 8th, and although it wasn't necessary for his commentary, he added: "We do not need to have an ex-Democrat leading an independent party to the detriment of Bill Clinton...Don't get enamored with third-parties."

When asked earlier that week by the press about a presidential bid by former Governor Dick Lamm, Romer was quick to point out he was supporting Bill Clinton. The reverse was not always true.

During the early flutterings leading to the gubernatorial election of 1986, a potential primary opponent for Romer surfaced in the person of Denver attorney Hal Haddon. During one gathering of Democrat legislators and insiders, we were handed some written material from a Haddon supporter and we learned that the writer had attended school with Haddon and thought he was definitely worthy of being elected governor of Colorado. The letter came from Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton.

The reason for the noun "ingrate" is because if then-Governor Lamm had not picked Romer from obscurity in 1975 to name him Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture, Romer today would be behind the counter of one of his many farm equipment stores selling John Deere tractors, at least in areas where there is no drought.

Romer had dropped from the political scene after a devastating loss to Gordon Allott for the U.S. Senate in 1966, and he was pretty much a footnote. Many of us with some political influence had another candidate in mind for agriculture commissioner, Jim Thomas, former state senator from Lamar and presently a lobbyist for the Independent Bankers of Colorado. We were not successful.

Lamm then provided Romer with a political independence he had not earned through the votes of Colorado citizens. Sam Brown, elected state treasurer in 1974, decided he would rather direct the peace corps when President Carter was elected in 1976, and Brown resigned as state treasurer in 1977.

Governor Lamm, who constitutionally picks the replacement, first asked Rep. Morgan Smith to fill the position, but Smith planned to run for congress in 1978 and turned him down. (Bad choice. Smith was trounced in the congressional election by Jim Johnson.) Lamm then picked Romer for the vacancy, and the rest is history.

If Lamm does become the Reform Party presidential candidate, the electoral votes in Colorado aren't going to matter much, but if Lamm won a plurality in California, a state that likes mavericks, it could toss the election for president into the House of Representatives.

Determining the outcome is the 12th Amendment, which replaces Article 2, Section 1, subsection (3) of the U.S. Constitution. If a person does not receive a majority of the electoral votes cast, the House shall choose and each state shall have one vote, regardless of the number of electoral votes.

The choice is from among those persons "having the highest numbers, not exceeding three, on the list of those for president..." Lamm would be on the ballot along with Clinton and Dole.

Once it is determined there is no majority among the electoral votes and the names of the three top candidates are known, the 12th Amendment states "the house of representatives shall choose IMMEDIATELY (emphasis added) by ballot (again, one vote per state) the president."

The electors meet in December. Once the vote is transmitted to congress, the constitution REQUIRES an immediate vote in the

House, which House in January, 1995, was composed of a Republican congressional majority in 26 states. Democrats control the delegations in 20 states. Three states are tied between Democrats and Republicans and Vermont has an independent.

If the Democrats can slow down the action until after the new House and Senate take office in January, 1997, that may give Democrats a better chance.

Meanwhile, the Senate has the duty, where there is no majority of electoral votes cast for vice-president, to choose the vice-president from among the top two vote getters for that office, which would be Gore or the Republican vice-presidential candidate.

"And if the house of representatives shall not choose a president....before the fourth day of March next following (editor's note: The presidential inaugural used to be in March rather than Jan.20th.) then the vice-president shall act as president..."

The Senate has to cast 51 votes for the vice-presidential choice. So one possible outcome of a third party electoral victory in an important state such as California would be Gore or the Republican vice-presidential candidate becoming president.

Romer's swipe at Lamm wasn't necessary and it may backfire in Colorado. The key to a Democratic presidential victory isn't Colorado, it's California, and Romer should have let the Democrats there do the dirty work.

Home  Full archive  Biographies  Colorado history  Colorado legislature  Colorado politics   Colo. & U.S. Constitutions  Ballot issues  Consumer issues  Criminal law  Gambling  Sunrise/sunset (prof. licensing)


Copyright 2015 Jerry Kopel & David Kopel