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Democrats finally find a candidate for state senate

Brief by Central Staff

Politics – September 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

We were wrong a couple of months ago when we reported that Larry Moser of Crawford would be the Democratic state senate candidate in District 4 to oppose Republican incumbent Ken Chlouber this fall.

The actual Democratic nominee is John Ford, a Buena Vista teacher.

Some of our confusion might be a result of the party’s confusion in selecting a candidate, which led to a protest being filed with the Colorado Secretary of State.

To start with, there wasn’t a long line of Democrats looking for a chance to run against Chlouber this fall. The party was trying to recruit a candidate (including some people named Quillen), and Moser at first appeared willing.

But he got cold feet, and so there were no declared candidates when Colorado Democrats held their state convention on June 2. The Senate District 4 convention meets at that time, and 44 people were present.

At the convention, Sue Conroe of Salida was nominated to run for state senate by acclamation. Curtis Imrie of Buena Vista (also the Democratic nominee for Congress from the Third District) was named District 4 convention chairman and Ramon Reed was elected secretary — which meant they were also the vacancy committee.

Conroe declined to accept her designation, so the vacancy committee selected Carol Bellhouse of Leadville, and polled about 15 district delegates by telephone. None objected.

Then Bellhouse decided not to run, and John Ford appeared.

Along the way, some paperwork that should have been filed wasn’t filed, and other papers were incorrect. This provoked a formal complaint to Donnetta Davidson, Colorado secretary of state and the official in charge of enforcing election laws. The complaint was filed by Merilee O’Neal, Lake County Republican chair, and Nancy O’Connor, Chaffee County Republican chair.

On July 31, Davidson ruled that Ford could have a place on the ballot opposing Chlouber, even though the Democrats “displayed an embarrassing ignorance of even the most basic requirements,” and exhibited disregard “for the procedures designed to ensure fairness and integrity.”

Davidson did observe that “there is no evidence party officials harbored dishonest motives or intended to defraud the party or the public,” and we should note that Imrie brought us this embarrassing material all on his own, without even being asked.

As for O’Neal and O’Connor, were they just being good citizens when they filed the complaint? They certainly had valid reasons to be concerned about the sloppiness in the selection process.

Or were they trying to make sure that their fellow Republican Ken Chlouber didn’t have an opponent in November? He’s an odds-on favorite to win anyway, but if he ran unopposed, the state GOP could more easily shift campaign resources to other districts with close races.

Gossip about motive abounds, but whatever the reason for the inducement the Democrats needed to get their paperwork in order (if for no better reason than to help us report on the upcoming campaigns).

Republicans currently hold a 20-15 edge in the state senate, which means that if only three seats shift, Democrats would gain an 18-17 edge, and more of a voice when the state is redistricted to reflect the 2000 census.

On that account, both parties will be putting plenty of money and energy into state senate races.

As the 2000 campaigns evolve, trying to figure out what’s really going on can be interesting. But it also explains why so many Americans hate politics: What we see on the ballot is often just the tip of the iceberg.

Stories multiply and stories contradict. How much of what we see is spin, how much is based upon polls, how much is backroom machination? And how’s the average voter going to figure all this out?