Off Limits

An uncivil society: Can't we all just get along? In a word, no.
In two words, hell no.
This was to be the year of the well-behaved campaign, the one in which special interests held on to their wallets and candidates held their tongues. It was to be a kinder, gentler campaign. A civil campaign. To make it official, the National Civic League chose Colorado as one of ten states where it would test out its Alliance for Better Campaigns, a nationwide effort "to raise the level of political campaign discourse." The alliance's treacly, voluntary Code of Conduct called for candidates to take full responsibility for their ads and to focus on issues rather than wage personal attacks.

Turn on your television lately? The only way the Mark Udall-Bob Greenlee matchup could get more down and dirty would be if the two candidates vying for the Second Congressional seat had their million-dollar campaign chests taken away and instead wrestled each other at one of those giant hog farms pushing for Amendment 13. On Channel 9 between 7 and 8 a.m. Sunday, both Udall and Greenlee aired a couple of attack ads (the anti-Udall 71 percent pay raise; the anti-Greenlee firing of mommies that may earn Udall a very uncivil civil suit); assorted other campaigns followed suit. While Ben Nighthorse Campbell's recent TV ads have settled for beating up his alcoholic father rather than straggler Dottie Lamm, his cuckoo Lamm radio ads are still running. (Lamm, of course, got some early mileage out of her not-exactly-positive-campaigning "fliphorse" gimmick.) Gubernatorial candidates Gail Schoettler and Bill Owens are still taking TV swings at each other, too. (Sadly, while the early-Sunday commercial that began "The Owens family makes sausage" sounded promising, it turned out to really be about pigs, not pigs in a poke.)

"Up until ten days ago, it was civil pretty much across the board," says Paul Lhevine, assistant director of the New Politics Program at the National Civic League, who's heading the civility efforts. "Then it started getting a little personal," he concedes. "It will be extremely interesting to see what happens in the next week."

Here's something else interesting: Udall, Greenlee, Owens, Schoettler and Lamm were among the 82 candidates who signed the alleged Code of Civility, which was sent out to all candidates in contested state races last month by the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado. "Our shared values teach us that we all have inherent worth as individuals and that we must work together in community in taking responsibility for ourselves and each other," these politicians pledged.

Time to demand a recount, for this is the nastiest campaign in recent memory--and the rumors about who's doing what to whom are still flying fast and furious, with a few days to go.

At least 66 candidates had the good sense to recognize the inevitable and either refused to sign on to the code or ignored it altogether. Among the realists: Nighthorse Campbell and Secretary of State Vikki Buckley. But maybe hers got lost in that stack of unverified petitions.

Doing the nasty: Apparently other parts of the country have also failed to sign the niceness pledge. Last week it was Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, who's offering a million-buck bounty for confessions of political adultery, who dismissed the worthiness of Colorado politicians. Now we're been dissed by more respectable types, including New York representative Charles Rangel, finance chairman of the Democrats' Congressional Campaign Committee. Displeased with recent statements by Democratic National Committee chair (and sometime Colorado governor) Roy Romer regarding the Democrats' chances this November--and the DNC's failure to ante up to improve those chances--Rangel had this to say about Romer to the New York Times: "What damn credibility has he got as governor of Colorado? He just should shut up. Is it like the whole world is waiting to see what's going to happen in November based on the governor's evaluation of congressional seats? Give me a break!"

Unbloodied, Romer was back spouting the party line on Sunday's Meet the Press, so intent on his task of defending the Dems that he didn't correct the other pundits who placed the murder of Matthew Shepard in Colorado.

Buy the book: And only six months to go until Denver's mayoral race! To read up on previous action, we called the Hue-Man Experience bookstore to find out if it had a copy of To Make a Mayor, the late Deborah Tucker's account of Wellington Webb's come-from-behind 1991 victory.

Our innocent inquiry seemed to set off a wave of excitement in the store. "How do you know about that book?" the woman on the other end of the phone demanded.

Well, we explained, we just sort of knew. The excitement faded. Unfortunately for the folks at Hue-Man, this true-life tale of how Webb "would ignite the people of Denver" hasn't exactly ignited sales. To nudge it along, the shop had promoted the book in the current issue of Denver's African-American business journal, In the Black. In a column called "Hue-Man Bookshelf," the store hyped the Tucker book along with other titles--but the Webb epic was the only one that carried a reduced rate ($7 from the $19.95 cover price) if you mentioned the magazine. Actually, that's not a bad deal considering that online bookstore lists the paperback price as $27.50 and the Tattered Cover doesn't even have it in stock. (The store reports that it hasn't placed an order for the book since January 1997.) Hue-Man, however, has a stack of them. Just sitting there. Waiting.

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