Governor’s race becoming more lively 
in compressed 2014 election schedule

Plenty of happenings in the race for governor this week. Let’s roll the tape.

The Republican primary for governor has, until this week, been docile in the extreme. Tom Tancredo, who is ahead in early polling thanks to a significant accrued name-identification advantage, has publicly called on his rivals to make the GOP nomination an amicable love-fest — no arguing, no fighting, no name-calling, no debates.

Wait, no debates? Tancredo is worried about hurt feelings?

You got it. Colorado’s long-running provocateur-in-chief thinks that debates would be divisive and weaken the eventual GOP nominee.

Just when you thought politics had become stale, Tancredo has remade himself as peacemaker.

In truth, Tanc’s no-go approach to GOP primary debates is more likely a function of him not wanting to give his opponents, none of them particularly well-known at this early stage, a platform to erode his early lead. Remember, primaries in Colorado have been moved up this year, leaving a much shorter runway for lesser-known candidates to overtake the early favorite, Tancredo.

How would a political newcomer overtake the early leader in only a couple months? Why debates, of course.

That’s why Tancredo’s “why can’t we all get along” routine is more strategy than statesmanship. He knows that, unless something is done to shake up the primary, he wins.

Whatever Tancredo’s true rationale, this week it became clear that the other Republican candidates aren’t going to give him the nomination in a cake walk. State Sen. Greg Brophy, a farmer and conservative from Wray, punched Tancredo right where it hurts most: Brophy slammed Tancredo on his past support for gun control.

Eli Stokols from Fox31 Denver first reported the salvo.

“Fighting to gain traction in the GOP’s gubernatorial primary field, state Sen. Greg Brophy is taking aim at the current front-runner, Tom Tancredo, over the former congressman’s record on gun control.

“Brophy attacked Tancredo Monday over a 1999 vote by the former congressman, who supported legislation to restrict the sale, transfer, importation and possession of assault rifles and magazines with higher than a 10-round capacity, a measure that is, at least generally, comparable to the ban approved by Colorado Democrats last year that outlaws magazines of more than 15 rounds.”

“To a lot of people, this is the seminal issue,” Brophy told FOX31, “Tancredo’s record on gun control is actually worse than John Hickenlooper’s.”

Tancredo responded in The Denver Post Thursday, calling Brophy a “dead man walking.” If Brophy is a dead man, then so, too, is Tancredo the peacemaker.

So much for the no-debate strategy, I guess.

And frankly, that’s how it should be. While Republicans should endeavor to keep the debate somewhere in the same area code as civilized, all of the would-be governors should wage a vigorous defense of their records, convey their vision for the state and make the case why they are better than the others.

This week, that is finally beginning to happen.

There were also developments this week from the man that will be waiting for the Republican nominee in the fall. After giving his own ironic “why can’t we all get along” admonition as part of his State of the State address last week, Gov. John Hickenlooper went the furthest he has gone yet in taking personal responsibility for the left-wing mess that he and his Democratic legislative cohorts made in 2013.

Hick gave a full-on, front-page mea culpa in The New York Times for his handling of the gun control saga:

“‘There were a lot of mistakes,’ (Hickenlooper) said of how he sold the gun measures to his state. ‘We just didn’t do a very good job of communicating the benefits. And I think we were ahead of parts of the state. We didn’t do a good enough job of reaching out to rural Colorado.’

“Mr. Hickenlooper, who is facing a potentially difficult re-election this November, is not alone in recalibrating in the face of suggestions that he and other elected officials might have overreached.”

Mistakes, overreach — as I noted in a column a couple weeks back, copping to the failures of the last year and committing not to repeat them is a necessary condition of Hick recovering from his 2013 hangover. His apology in The New York Times was a beginning.

The big question now: Is the damage too deep for 50-plus-1-percent of Coloradans to care?

Josh Penry is the former minority leader of the Colorado Senate. He is a graduate of Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.


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