By Joel Warner
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"We went to dinner, and by the end, I was sold on who he was," says Lane, who now works as a political liaison for the Department of Defense in Washington, D.C. "He was down-to-earth, concerned about issues of the common man and very moderate in his views. I liked his background, too, his rags-to-riches story."
Campbell came from behind to defeat Strang, and Wolff and Lane went with him to Washington, as chief of staff and legislative assistant, respectively. During his first term, Campbell introduced and passed more bills than any other representative. Some were bits of fluff, like the House resolution to name January 7 as National Ski Day, but others, including the water-settlement act, were more substantial.
Much of the credit for Campbell's impressive legislative record should go to his staff, Lane says. "He was generally a hands-off manager," he recalls. "He was good about letting his staff grow into their roles." And that staff became one of the best and most loyal in the Beltway, according to Lane, with each member developing areas of expertise. "The longevity of the staff helped develop an institutional memory, which was uncommon on the Hill."
Staffers researched issues and then gave their information to Campbell--who often was ruled by his emotions rather than his head, Lane says. "We liked Ben's freshness, and I thought he genuinely felt an affinity toward us and treated us as valued employees," he adds. "I also liked his bravado. But he was sometimes difficult to handle and had a tendency to fly off at the slightest provocation. He doesn't deal well with pressure; confrontations have a tendency to unnerve him, and he strikes back--reverts to the bully mentality of his youth and the 'lone athlete against the world.' Then he doesn't care who he hurts."
Lane laughs. "It was certainly never, ever dull working for Ben Campbell."
In 1988, when Campbell was up for re-election, Lane was named campaign manager. More loyal staffers soon signed on.
Dave Devendorf was one of them. At the request of a friend, he'd worked briefly with Campbell's 1986 campaign. Two years later he met with Lane to volunteer his help. A few days after that, he met Campbell personally for the first time. "Ben did most of the talking, asking more about me than I asked about him," Devendorf says. "I have to tell you, I was awestruck. We all went to lunch together, and the hook was set. I went from being a hard worker to being a tireless worker."
Campbell easily won re-election. In 1990 Lane replaced Wolff, who went back to her former job with the Colorado Democratic Party. At 32, he was one of the youngest on Capitol Hill to hold the chief-of-staff position, responsible for policies and operations at both home and district offices.
The hallmark of Campbell's offices was their attention to individual constituents. "But he was definitely not the most active lawmaker," Lane says. "He's not interested in the nitty-gritty details. The staff had to bird-dog him a lot on the issues, otherwise he'd let them drop. It was also up to the staff to do the fighting behind the scenes, rounding up support by talking to other staffs and their bosses."
Sometimes rounding up support included calling Linda Campbell and asking her to press her husband to stay on an issue. Recalls Lane: "We'd be in the middle of a fight, and Ben would be like, 'I'm sick and tired of this shit.' So we'd have to rely on Linda telling him, 'Ben, you have to be interested in this issue; you can't ignore it.'"
Campbell's short attention span extended to the water-project proposal. Credit for that legislation, according to Lane, should go to Dan McAuliffe, who'd worked for Campbell as a statehouse intern and then volunteered in the 1986 campaign, eventually becoming the senator's legislative director.
"It was Dan who did all the research, worked the other staffs, fought all the battles and then handed it over to Ben," Lane says. "Ben even acknowledged that if it hadn't been for Dan, there wouldn't be even the possibility of an Animas-La Plata water project."
After six years in the House of Representatives, Campbell was once again contemplating retiring from public life. Then Senator Tim Wirth, a liberal Democrat, unexpectedly announced that he would not be running again.
Wirth's announcement inspired a political free-for-all. Terry Considine, a staunch conservative and advocate of term limits, had been gearing up to run against a true liberal. Now he didn't know what--or whom--he would face.
Campbell decided that maybe he'd stay in Congress after all--this time as a senator. But former governor Richard Lamm and Josie Heath, a former Boulder County commissioner, also determined they'd make a run at it.
After a hard-fought Democratic primary, Campbell emerged the victor. Polls gave him a twenty-point lead over Considine, who'd suddenly found himself up against a moderate-to-conservative Democrat. A Democrat who shared his interest in term limits--even though Campbell had already spent six years in Congress.
But there were crucial differences between the candidates, too. While Considine was a buttoned-down business type, Campbell had a knack for catching the public's eye--and plenty of press, as "the only American Indian in Congress."