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CHECK, PLEASE

MEET THE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO KICK THE NEW MAYOR AROUND.WHO'S WATCHING THE WATCHDOGS NUMBERS AREN'T THE ONLY THINGS GETTING CRUNCHED IN THE RACE FOR DENVER AUDITOR.

"It is [my] opinion...that the piercing of the ear is to desecrate, make ritually unclean, to profane and to corrupt morally the temple of God," Gonce wrote in one court pleading. "This being ones body of each human being, both genders [sic]."

In the same pleading, Gonce railed against "feminist Mormon women who are destroying the family unit with the help of greedy, diabolical and egregious Bishops of the church." In another court document written by Gonce, he alleged that his children "suffer because of the Petitioner and her devil worship fellow Mormons."

Gonce sued the Mormon church in 1992 and says he is not allowed to comment directly about that case. But he says on the record that Mormons are "a corrupted people."

"They want to control the world," Gonce says. "They're not unlike Hitler."
Gonce, who proclaims in campaign literature that a vote for him "is a vote for honesty and integrity in every agency," has consistently placed last in campaign polls.

If campaign funds are a measure of likely success at the voting booth, Don Mares has to be considered the man to beat.

As of March 31, city campaign disclosure records show, the Democratic state senator had raised just over $42,000--more than twice as much as Adams, McCroskey or Doering. The money is financing a fusillade of pro-Mares ads now running on cable and network television and set to continue through May 1, the day before the election.

Mares has also won the support of the Denver Post, which endorsed him outright, and the Rocky Mountain News, which picked both him and McCroskey as equally good candidates for the auditor's job. "He strikes us as having the best background to focus on overall policy problems affecting Denver's fiscal future," the Post said.

Mares, 38, has served in the state legislature since 1988, when he was elected to the House of Representatives with the backing of former Denver mayor Federico Pena. In 1991 Mares was appointed to fill a vacancy in the state Senate seat representing northwest Denver. He was re-elected the following year, when he ran unopposed.

A graduate of Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Mares worked for several years at the small law firm of McKendree & Toll, where he specialized in representing labor unions. (The unions haven't forgotten; they've contributed more than $8,000 to the Mares war chest, nearly 20 percent of his total.) Later, he and his wife founded Mares & Mares, a small, general-practice law firm.

Mares brushes off criticism that he'd merely use the auditor's job as a stepping-stone to higher office. "No matter how am-bitious someone is, what's important is how good a job they're doing once they're elected," he says.

But critics say Mares has virtually mapped out his political future. They point out that just last year Mares was angling to be appointed Denver's manager of public safety. Mayor Wellington Webb gave the job to TV station executive Fidel "Butch" Montoya instead, a move that allegedly left Mares bitterly disappointed. "His great ambition is he would like to go to Congress," says one local Democratic Party activist. "But he'd settle for mayor."

That Democratic activist, who insists on anonymity, says Mares could have walked into a job at any number of big Denver law firms after getting out of law school in 1982. One of the main reasons he didn't, the activist says, is that Mares wanted to make sure he'd have enough time to pursue his political career.

Mares's main problem over the last several years, the activist says, has been satisfying his ambitions while making enough money to support his wife and three young children. The auditor's job would give him a nice paycheck and boost his political profile at the same time.

"He's constantly balancing the two [financial security and ambition]," the activist says. "And the auditor's office gives him both."

Shirley Schley, Mares's campaign manager and mother-in-law, denies that the senator's motives are so crass. "He is doing it [running for auditor] because he cares about the city," Schley says.

Mares admits the salary of the auditor's position was an attraction--but says there's nothing wrong with that. "That's obviously a factor in any decision you make," he says. "And it was in mine."

During his campaign, Mares has vowed to be vigilant about waste of taxpayer funds. But he isn't so averse to government spending that he'd turn down a city contract of his own. Last summer Mares won an $11,500 contract from the office of City Attorney Dan Muse to prosecute crimes in general sessions court. According to city documents, the contract was awarded because of a temporary staff shortage and paid Mares $30 an hour.

Asked about the contract last week, Mares first said that accepting the job was a "tremendous financial sacrifice" on his part, since his normal fee for legal services is $100 an hour. Asked why he agreed to do the work, Mares acknowledged that his firm was going through "tough times" and that he needed the business.

But Mares says the city was "desperate" for help because of the staff shortage and that he won convictions in more than 85 percent of the trials he handled. "It was a mutual benefit," Mares says. "Good for them, good for me."

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