People who deserve support, and 
those who don’t, in upcoming year

In 2014, I will be rooting for George Rivera, the newly elected state senator from Pueblo, who was swept into office during 2013’s historic recall.

Rivera’s rise was an unlikely story: That a community as reliably Democratic as Pueblo would evict an influential Democratic senator and replace her with a soft-spoken former law enforcement officer who ran on the down-home platform of listening to his constituents is about as close as one gets to “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” anymore.

I love me some George Rivera.

The recalls were among the most important political stories in the nation in 2013. The big question in 2014 will be: Can Rivera hold the overwhelmingly Democratic seat? It is a steep climb, but I’ll be rooting for him all the way.

Another question: What is the opposite of “Mr. Smith goes to Washington”?

Answer: Ken Salazar.

In 2014, I won’t be rooting for Ken.

Salazar announced this week that he would be running a liberal attack committee funded by one of the nation’s most avowedly extreme climate change doomsayers — a fellow who also happens to be worth a few hundred million dollars and isn’t shy about spending big bucks to elect Democrats.

Remember when Salazar was the aw-shucks Colorado senator from the San Luis Valley, trying to bring people together? That’s history.

As Interior Secretary, Salazar became a shrill and divisive voice. His transition into the new role of liberal attack dog should be seamless. There will be no rooting for Salazar in my household.

I will, however, be rooting for one of Salazar’s former Democratic colleagues, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, as she tries to make it easier for female armed service members who have been raped or sexually assaulted to seek and win justice.

Sexual assault in the military has reached epidemic proportions. Last year alone, there were 26,000 assaults, and only a negligible subset was successfully prosecuted. The truth is, many more incidents of assault go totally unreported because of the perception, warranted, that the fix is in for the good ol’ boys.

Gillibrand’s bid to give prosecutors new tools to investigate and win prosecutions in cases of rape deserves more than a cheer — it deserves to be the law of the land.

In 2014, I will be rooting for Amy Stephens, the state representative from Colorado Springs who’s exactly the kind of fresh-faced, sharp-minded conservative Republicans should rally behind in the race for U.S. Senate.

Recall that Stephens was a chief architect of the 2010 campaign that defeated the merry band of billionaire liberals who, in most elections since 2004, have effectively purchased the Colorado Legislature with a glut of off-book campaign expenditures. In 2010, Stephens and her allies seized control of the House for the first time in years.

As the race for U.S. Senate evolves, Stephens’ magnetic persona, combined with her common-sense conservative worldview, will make her a formidable candidate for the Senate. I’m rooting for Stephens all the way.

I’m also rooting for the school reformers who last fall took control of the Jefferson County School Board. Already besieged by a union-friendly Denver press, the school board has a chance to shakeup one of Colorado’s largest and most lethargic school districts.

Question: If you were forced to root for either the designer of the Obamacare website or for the leadership of the anti-fracking movement in Colorado, for whom would you vote? Answer: neither.

I am rooting for George Brauchler, the Arapahoe County prosecutor, who next year will be seeking the death penalty for killer James Holmes. Brauchler is a virtuoso lawyer and thinker. But his task is a tall one, to take on the gaggle of anti-death-penalty crusaders who will go to the ends of the Earth to save Holmes from execution.

Like all of Colorado and so many around the country, my family will be rooting — and praying with all the faith we can muster — for young Claire Davis, the 17-year-old Arapahoe High School student who was shot during last week’s tragic shooting. Our prayer is that Claire will be the first miracle story of 2014.

The tragedy reminds us that, while there’s plenty to argue about (see above), there’s also more important things we can all root for together.

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


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