(Denver Post, June 2) “Colorado can do better.” Four words, scarcely a sound bite. But if you start hearing them in reference to Gov. John Hickenlooper as 2014 approaches, you’ll know the election is not a walkover for him after all. Because when it comes to policy results from the state’s chief executive, those words are true. Leave personalities out of it. We don’t know who the incumbent Democrat’s ultimate Republican opponent will be. We don’t even know if Hick will run again. We just know that current state-to-state comparisons don’t flatter Colorado. Jobs, schools, roads, public safety – none of these yardsticks indicate top performance by the governor.
Never mind his gibe that GOP gubernatorial hopefuls “sat around the campfire and figured out they’ve got to act excited” about winning next year. Never mind his coyness about presidential ambitions in “The New Yorker.” The fact is, Hickenlooper has not led. So on the fundamentals, as they say in sports, he is beatable.
For the same reason the Rockies changed managers and the Buffs changed coaches, Coloradans could decide to change governors. It will be game on, the minute a forceful challenger – unfazed by Hick’s folksy mystique – starts connecting the dots and asking him the obvious questions.
Why is it, Governor, that Colorado has the worst unemployment rate of any state between the Mississippi and the Sierras, with the exception of Arizona and Nevada? Are we supposed to be content with that? Whatever became of your “TBD” job-creation plan? Will it remain “to be determined” throughout your second term, if we reelect you?
What makes you think, sir, that this fall’s ballot proposal for raising Colorado’s income tax rate to pour another billion dollars into status-quo public schools is either economically or educationally beneficial?
You’re not aware of the research showing that states with lower income tax rates (or none at all) outperform the rest on economic growth? (See the American Legislative Exchange Council’s study, “Rich States, Poor States.) You see no benefit in going with Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Indiana, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Maine, Arkansas, and Missouri down the tax-cutting road?
How can you still believe in the education-spending tooth fairy, Governor, after America has seen no improvement in test scores while real dollars per child in the public schools have tripled since 1970? Can we put you in touch with some of your counterparts – Bobby Jindal in Baton Rouge, Jan Brewer in Phoenix, Rick Scott in Tallahassee – for a tutorial on how parental choice is helping every child in their states, poor kids above all?
As for transportation, sir, we know your motor scooter (or state limo) zips through traffic quite effortlessly. But has anyone told you about the congestion still prevailing on I-25, despite light rail? Or about the slow crawl on I-70 to the mountains in ski season and last Memorial Day weekend? Why is the Hickenlooper highway expansion program also TBD?
At the risk of sounding like Columbo, Governor, just a couple more questions. Who allowed the massive state parole breakdown that cost Corrections Director Tom Clements his life? And why the spike in metro Denver gang violence? And the marijuana legalization that has the whole country laughing at us – with more of a campaign couldn’t you have defeated that? We hardly recognize our state any more.
Gov. Steve McNichols (D) in 1962 and Gov. John Vanderhoof (R) in 1974 were thought to be safe incumbents. They lost to John Love and Dick Lamm, respectively. Gov. Roy Romer (D) was thought a lock in 1990, and he was. I got creamed. Will voters in 2014 decide Colorado can do better than Gov. John Hickenlooper? Place your bets.
John Andrews (firstname.lastname@example.org) is director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University and a former state senator. He was the Republican nominee for Governor in 1990.