Now that the most recent bout of municipal madness is behind us, we can square our shoulders and dive into state legislative lunacy.
Boy, it's been a super moon over the capitol for a couple of months.
For those in need of reminding, both houses of the Legislature as well as the governor are in progressive/Democratic hands. Since the governor appoints the justices to the Colorado Supreme Court, without any type of hearing by the state Senate, we can probably realistically think all three branches are there or headed there.
We've had this before but it was never quite this … what's the word I'm looking for — turbulent — which is probably the least alarming term if not the most descriptive. This massive lurch to the left in our state government didn't just happen recently or accidentally. It began, as many know, between 2004 in 2008 when a group of wealthy and progressive Democrats — namely four, one of whom is now governor — created an effective plan and organization that essentially moved the selection and financing of candidates for state legislative offices from the control of the Democratic Party, to an alter ego group that had a lot more money, organization and a plan that would take place over more than one election cycle.
Imagine that — focus and resources that are not constrained by a party structure (which, by the way, isn't supposed to choose candidates before primaries).
The value of a focused organization and a multi-cycle plan here are evident. However, none of it happens the magic ingredient of money. If you have that, it's not hard to attract candidates and keep them to your way of thinking.
Politicians follow money for their campaigns like a bloodhound chases an escaped convict.
The plan worked quite well. Sizable quantities of money, which amounted to much more than what was usually spent on state legislative races, was poured into selected areas early and candidates were able to begin marshaling their forces toward the general election before Republicans were even done attacking each other in the primaries.
Progressive candidates supported by this new plan were less likely to stray from the overarching ideological agenda because nothing promotes political loyalty faster than financing.
Republicans meanwhile continued the selection procedure generally employed by state and local candidates — the circular firing squad.
After a substantial amount of time where this took place in many races — either because of personalities, lack of control by local party organizations or narrow issue focus — there was continuous and ultimately personal infighting. At the end of that cycle, the least wounded candidates were expected to drag themselves to the general election with much of the work of their opponents already done for them by the candidate's prior competitors.
If you're looking for an example, just consider the last Republican gubernatorial primary, where businessman Victor Mitchell spent nearly $5 million, most of it his own money, to turn Walker Stapleton into a scratching post. By the time it was over, Jared Polis barely needed to spend his $13 million, also most of it from himself, pounding poor Walker into the ground like a tent peg.
He also didn't want to go cheap because it was pretty clear he needed to win without much support on the west side of the Rockies, where he's made it evident that when it comes to western Colorado, we can say what we want but he feels that he can do what he wants.
It might even be true if West Slope conservatives can't put differences behind them and financially and vocally support candidates that may not be everyone's perfect choice, but are at least a better choice in the end. If Republicans can take back one of the two legislative houses — and the Senate seems to be within reach — much of this recent runaway legislative nonsense could be stopped.
Some candidates who could make this happen might not even be running where prospective donors live. Therefore, some group needs to follow a successful path and get a little cash backing and figure out the respective strengths and weaknesses of various districts.
They need to direct money and support from people who have a candidate in a safe district who doesn't need much money.
After all, if your local guy wins but doesn't have any power in the General Assembly, it's not much fun.
Rick Wagner is a Grand Junction attorney. Email him at email@example.com. His weekly political talk show airs on KNZZ 1100 AM/92.7 FM on Saturdays at noon.