Peter Blake

Blake: GOP shouldn't count on A-66 diminishing Hickenlooper

Republicans are hoping that the resounding defeat of the proposed income tax hike for schools means that Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s bid for re-election next year is in trouble.

After all, Hickenlooper supported Amendment 66, albeit in a half-hearted, parachute-free manner, and it lost by an amazing 2 to 1 margin. Might not that be a harbinger of the governor’s electoral future?

More likely it’s another example of GOP hope trumping experience. History tells us that Colorado voters tend to separate a governor’s stand on taxes from his overall performance. That may be irrational, but we’re talking politics here.

Consider former Gov. Roy Romer, who rarely met a tax proposal he didn’t like.

Back in 1992, midway through his second term, Romer went all out for a Amendment 6, a ballot issue proposing a 1-cent sales tax increase for education.

icon_op_edThe sales tax proposal was defeated easily, 54-46. But Romer understood the defeat wouldn’t hurt him. “To be frank about it, politically I’m probably better off,” he said at a post-election news conference. “Had it won, then I would have been responsible for this tax forevermore.”

He said he had “fought the good fight for what was the most important thing to fight for in this state — its children. Politically, it was not a loss for Romer.”

Hickenlooper could say exactly the same thing, and probably will.

By the way, in 1992 Romer also opposed the TABOR Amendment and the infamous Amendment 2, which put restrictions on gay rights. Both passed, although Amendment 2 was later overturned in the courts. Romer batted 0 for 3 on major ballot issues. But two years later he handily won a third term over GOP challenger Bruce Benson.

Benson had various liabilities: He was a wealthy businessman (they almost always lose here), he was coming off a messy divorce and he was unable to debate effectively. Romer beat him by a 3 to 2 margin.

Those factors proved far more important than whatever stands the governor had taken in a previous election. If the Republicans hope to win the governorship in 2014, they’ll have to go against their history and pick someone who knows how to appeal to voters.

Money and politics: Progressives love to wring their hands over Citizens United and other court decisions which allow big bad corporations, labor unions and other groups to spend freely on political issues, since they too are protected by the First Amendment and money is a form of speech.

But we may not be hearing many complaints about that in the wake of Colorado’s election, where $10 million was spent by teacher unions and big butter-and-egg men from the East like Michael Bloomberg to promote Amendment 66. Down it went, 2 to 1, even though the opponents had only pennies to spend.

Then there was Boulder, where Xcel spent almost $700,000 to promote a measure that might have killed the city’s effort to take over the utility’s assets. Proponents of municipalization raised less than half that from various green groups. But they won 2 to 1 anyway. Those of us living elsewhere can only hope Xcel gets back its money by squeezing Boulder dry at condemnation hearings.

Money can help your promote your political cause, and you should be free to raise and spend as much as you like. Because if voters don’t like your cause, you’re still going to lose.

Secession is dead, long live secession: I like to plan ahead, and was thinking up a new flag design should 10 of our northeastern counties have succeeded in breaking away from Colorado and forming their own state.

I envisioned three rows of 17 stars in a blue field across the top of the 13 red and white stripes. That would give Old Glory new dimensions and a fresh new 21st century look.

But it was not to be. Six of the 10 counties, including ringleader Weld, voted no, and the secessionists surrendered their swords immediately. (The 11th county, Moffat, in Colorado’s northwestern corner, rejected a chance to become Wyoming’s southern panhandle.)

Besides, it turns out a 51-star flag has already been designed — you can find it on Google Images — and it features a pedestrian six rows of stars in the usual field: 9-8-9-8-9-8. Oh well.

Then there’s the name. North Colorado is boring and might force the rest of us to become South Colorado, which is absurd. I was going to suggest Conwayana, after the formerly apple-cheeked Weld County commissioner who played the role of Jefferson Davis. Or, alternatively, Conwayota or Conwayaska. Any of those names would have given the new state a midwestern regional ring.

How was this fruited but very flat plain in northeast Colorado going to promote tourism? I had an answer to that too. Remember reading how multimillionaire Jared Polis, the 2nd District congressman, sued Sundance Energy a month ago because it was fracking next to his 50-acre getaway east of Berthoud in Weld County?

He soon dropped the suit, but who knew that Polis, a resident of Boulder, would seek peace and quiet among Weld County’s drilling towers? Those who live in Weld do their retreating in the mountains. Conwayaska could have advertised itself as “The summer home of Jared Polis.”

Do I have to do all the heavy thinking around here?

Longtime Rocky Mountain News political columnist Peter Blake now writes Thursdays for Contact him at You may re-publish his work at no charge and without further permission; please give full credit to Peter Blake and


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