Expect a Flawed Governor

A 2010 Republican Survival PlanBy John Andrews

With reluctance, I will cast no vote for the office of Governor of Colorado in this year's general election. The choices are so unsatisfactory that I cannot in good conscience put my moral weight behind any of them. When my fellow citizens have made their choice on Nov. 2, no matter who wins, our state will be looking at a seriously flawed claimant to head the executive branch for the next four years. I say this without personal disrespect to any of the candidates. And I am confident that our constitutionally resilient self-government will come through the next governor's term all right, just as we always have since 1876. But it will occur with this elector having abstained (which matters little to anyone else, I know).

Having known every Colorado governor since 1962, and having been the Republican nominee for governor in 1990, I have a good idea of what it takes to do the job, and a high standard for any individual I would support in seeking the job.

The candidate who earns my endorsement and vote must measure up on four C's: character, competence, conservative principles, and continuity of institutions.

A word of explanation about the fourth: it is inseparable from the third. Conservatives conserve; they don't impulsively improvise. When someone asks to be entrusted as chief executive in willful disregard of our two-party system because his persona and the momentary circumstance are so compelling, it's hard to see such a candidacy as genuinely conservative. And so it's hard to grant the candidate our trust.

Applying my four C's to the major contenders for governor in 2010, how does each man score?

John Hickenlooper, the Democrat, is certainly no conservative. I believe we'll also have reason to doubt his character when all the revelations of this, the Mayor's first-ever tough partisan race, are known.

Dan Maes, the Republican, talks conservative and competent, but the super-salesman does not talk straight. The shine has worn off all his pretensions, raising grave questions of integrity.

Tom Tancredo, the ex-Republican now running as an independent (borrowing the American Constitution party line), doesn't put up a reassuring score on any of these four criteria either. Hearing of his crack about elbowing aside Lincoln himself if necessary, it seemed my old friend had somehow become a different person -- a person I'm sadly unable to vote for.

Splitting the Colorado Republican Party in order to rescue it (and ostensibly rescue the state) from an unusually deficient gubernatorial nominee has overtones of the misguided warrior who burned down the village in order to save it. The "rescue" appears likely to worsen our state's governance in the long run, by encouraging freelance personality trips and factional power plays at the expense of fair competition for the political center under rules that everyone accepts.

Maes would be a flawed governor, so would Hickenlooper -- but I prefer to risk 48 months of either one in power, rather than add momentum to a rule-or-ruin experiment with radical populism that could leave us with three (or eventually several) dysfunctional parties.

I look charitably upon fellow Republicans who reach a different conclusion from mine and actively support one or another of the candidates. I hope all of us who believe that the GOP, in most circumstances, governs best can build a firewall around our gubernatorial disagreement and discouragement in order to work aggressively for GOP victories in the legislature, constitutional offices, Congress, and US Senate. The opportunity 2010 presents, and the consequences of an all-ticket defeat, simply leave us no choice.

Expect a flawed governor. It's a certainty. Think long-term and prudentially, not impulsively. It's the conservative way. Cordon off the gubernatorial schism. It's fatal otherwise. And do our utmost, regardless of the Maes-Tancredo fight, to help other Colorado candidates ride the conservative tide and win. That's my 2010 Republican survival plan.