By Alan Prendergast
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"The lieutenant governor has requested to be on more task forces," says Kerri Carmin, Rogers's spokeswoman, who notes that the lieutenant governor will soon begin serving on a task force dealing with retirement plans for state employees. "But we don't yet know what all of those will be at this point in time."
While he's on the road, Rogers also plans to drum up support for one of his own projects: a one-day conference on youth education called "Uncensored," slated for March 25 at the University of Denver. Although educational reform was one of the issues Rogers campaigned on in 1998, he only announced plans for Uncensored, which carries a million-dollar budget, after the Columbine shootings.
Other than that, Rogers has mainly attended state dinners, fundraisers and luncheons, including: a reception for the new, full-time Japanese consulate in Denver; a benefit for Terrell Davis's Salute the Kids Foundation at the opening of a chile-shaped Chili's Bar & Grill; an auction and dinner for A Taste of Excellence in Education, benefiting the Denver Teachers' Awards; and several events for visiting Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji. He has also given numerous speeches, appearing at the Expanding the Visions Conference to promote mentoring and foster awareness of career opportunities for black youth; at A Youth Walk for All Ages to promote alternatives to violence; and at the British-American Chamber of Commerce to promote the consumption of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.
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"The Young and the Restless"
In mid-January, Rogers traveled to Florida to participate in the American Conservative Union's 27th Annual Conservative Political Action Conference. He returned to Denver in time to march in the nineteenth annual Martin Luther King Day parade with Owens and Denver First Lady Wilma Webb.
But idle hands do the devil's work, and although Carmin professes to be so busy with the lieutenant governor's various activities that she no longer has time to publish his calendar ("I simply have put my efforts elsewhere," she says), Rogers and his staff seem to have more than enough time to get into trouble with the boss.
Maybe Owens should have doled out a few more of those task-force appointments.
When he decided to run for lieutenant governor, Joe Rogers had never held an elected office.
A Denver-area native, he'd been an aide for former Republican U.S. Senator Hank Brown and an attorney before running -- unsuccessfully -- against Democrat Diana DeGette when Pat Schroeder's First Congressional District seat opened up in 1996. Just 34 years old in 1998, when Owens was the leading Republican candidate for governor, Rogers was seen by many in the political establishment -- including former governor John Love and former federal housing secretary and vice-presidential candidate Jack Kemp -- as a potential young star who could reach out to Denver's black voters.
He faced a tough primary battle, though, against conservative state senator Jim Congrove of Arvada, who wasted no time in criticizing Rogers for an embarrassing problem paying back his student loans and a fourteen-year-old ticket for riding a moped on the sidewalk. But Rogers, who took a more moderate stand on issues such as abortion and gun control, ultimately prevailed in the August 1998 primary election.
That earned him a supporting role with Owens, the buttoned-down, conservative number cruncher from the suburbs who'd served in both houses of the state legislature and as Colorado treasurer for four years under Romer.
The two seemed an odd couple from the beginning, and their election in November 1998 -- the first Republican duo to run the state in 24 years -- didn't change that.
Still, Owens and his lieutenant appeared to be getting along just fine -- at least, to the public eye -- until this past June, when Owens and Attorney General Ken Salazar scheduled a summit on youth violence in the aftermath of Columbine. The date the two chose conflicted with Juneteenth, an annual celebration in the black community, and black leaders criticized the administration for its bad timing and worse sensitivity. Rogers, who complained that he hadn't been consulted by the governor, joined in suggesting that Owens apologize to the black community. The governor didn't, and the summit went on as planned. But Owens also took time out to join the Juneteenth marchers.
Then, on July 14, Buckley died of a heart attack. Saying he admired the late secretary of state, Rogers asked to postpone the first meeting of the child-welfare task force scheduled for three days later out of respect for Buckley, and he spoke out loudly against the governor after Owens refused. And Owens did more than simply refuse: He said Rogers would have to resign from the task force if he skipped the meeting. The dispute continued for several days before Rogers gave in; in the meantime, Rogers's chief of staff, Scott Spendlove, quit in protest over his own boss's public griping.
Feelings between the two camps were still a little bruised when Latisha Kinslow, Rogers's office manager, filed suit against Owens on September 1, accusing him of illegally blocking her first month's pay because she wouldn't submit to the same criminal background check that the governor's own staffers had to undergo. The bizarre suit got even stranger when it was revealed that Kinslow would be represented by Rogers's lawyer and that Rogers had approved of her action -- a revelation that shocked fellow Republicans as well as Democrats.