Colorado Primary Makes Gov Nervous
By Carl Hilliard, Special to Stateline
DENVER -- If today's primary election follows traditional Colorado form, only about 20 percent of the state's eligible voters will turn out.
Nevertheless, Gov. Bill Owens will watch the event with more than just a little interest. Owens, in the second year of his first four-year term, is concerned with continuing his Republican party's domination of the Colorado House and Senate.
And he is particularly concerned that Ron May, a veteran House member from Colorado Springs, be elected to the state Senate.
Owens is so worried about that particular race he has gone to May's district to campaign for him. That irks Douglas Bruce, businessman and political gadfly, who is May's Republican primary opponent.
May has waged a particularly rough campaign against Bruce, questioning Bruce's position on everything from funding the state's highways to favoring labor unions.
Bruce has claimed May's ads are distortions of his position, and has succeeded in getting the retired Air Force officer to modify some of his campaign spots on radio.
Working against Bruce -- or possibly for him, depending on voters' moods -- is Bruce's Taxcut 2000 initiative, scheduled for the November General Election Ballot.
Bruce, a dogged pursuer of tax relief for years, uses the initiative as a campaign issue.
It would cut $25 on utility taxes, including telephones, pagers, gas, electric and cable elevision bills; $25 on each motor vehicle tax; $25 on the state income tax and $25 on property taxes each year.
The tax cut would grow by $25 every year.
Owens and a number of legislative leaders hate that approach and argue the estimated draw from highways, from 2001 to 2005, would be about $934 million.
So Owens traveled to Colorado Springs several weeks ago to walk door-to-door on May's behalf, only to see Bruce shadowing him, dragging, for some reason, a red Radio Flyer wagon carrying campaign literature.
Owens and Bruce were cordial, but reserved. Bruce questioned Owens' visit, which he said came at taxpayer expense, and he also questioned May's vote on a bill that would raise legislators' salaries.
The two little groups parted amiably, with Owens wishing Bruce good luck in his campaign. ``But not too much luck,'' he added.
It is not the first venture into politics by Bruce, who says he is not a political animal. Four years ago he lost in a race to Senate President Ray Powers, R-Colorado Springs, who is leaving this year because of term limitations.
May, who operates a computer consulting firm, has raised about $80,000 for his race, with Bruce raising about $15,000.
Owens also, to some GOP members' dismay, has opted to enter several other Republican primaries, favoring incumbent lawmakers he says he needs to continue his programs.
Owens is Colorado's first Republican governor in nearly 25 years.
Nevertheless, Bruce doesn't mind tweaking the governor's nose during his race with May.
"People don't appreciate Gov. Owens coming down here on taxpayer money to compaign for Mr. May," he said. "It was maybe the biggest boost to my campaign."
And he claims he has been able to do more as a private citizen that May has during eight years in the legislature.
"Ron 'may,'" Bruce says. "I will."
May counters that his experience as a public service counts and voters "can see where I'm going."
"He doesn't have a record."
If Bruce does have a record it is based largely on voter approval of his 1992 Taxpayer Bill of Rights, known as the TABOR Amendment, that set limits on state revenues, and requires voter approval of tax increases.
Bruce is a frequent statehouse visitor, and not always welcome. He has been ousted from committee meetings for allegedly threatening members about their votes, and frequently interrupts committee discussions with his own observations from the audience.
In 1993 the former lawyer spent several days in the Denver jail after being found in contempt in a case involving property he owned that the city found unsafe.
That contempt finding was later overturned.