Get a Job!

You can choose your friends, but you canít choose your lieutenant governor.

The suit apparently was too much for Owens. In September and October, his staff began to release documents indicating that Rogers had engaged in other questionable activities. The administration accused Rogers of buying a cell phone for his wife with state money; charging personal travel costs to his expense account; overstepping good sense by spending more than $6,000 on balloons, flowers and food for Buckley's funeral; and promising state money to one of the injured Columbine students.

And then there was that little matter of a state employee getting caught driving a state car over 100 mph in order to get Rogers to a meeting. A highway patrolman had stopped the car but didn't issue a ticket, and Rogers had failed to discipline the employee. (Speaking of state cars, Rogers had already gone on record complaining that Owens got to ride around in a fancy sport utility vehicle while Rogers had a mere bucket of a sedan.)

In late October, the governor and his lieutenant sat down for a long meeting during which they reportedly worked out many problems. But since then, the atmosphere has remained on the chilly side.

The state legislators who proposed the bill that would allow the governor to pick his own sidekick insist the proposal was not inspired by the Owens/Rogers spats, but almost everyone, including some former lieutenant governors, think Rogers should have kept his mouth shut.

Sam Cassidy, who finished out Mike Callihan's term after he resigned one year early, calls the lieutenant governor job the "greatest" in state government. "The nicest part of the position is that you get to define it and work on issues that you are committed to and feel passionate about," he says. "But, obviously, you need to stay close to your governor and work with him or her to do it. If you fall out of grace, it's difficult to do. Most governors don't mind having disagreements behind closed doors -- debate gives you a more well-rounded thought process. But when you are on the same team and you can't settle a debate this way, it can become embarrassing."

Cassidy, who is now the president and CEO of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry (CACI), believes that candidates for lieutenant governor should run separately from the governor -- a method that was in place in Colorado until 1970 and often resulted in the governor and lieutenant governor's coming from different parties. Short of that, he says, a governor should be allowed to pick his own running mate. "Since they run together, it's awkward if they can't pick someone they work well with," he explains. "It should be one way or another."

In October, former lieutenant governor Schoettler told the Rocky Mountain News: "People don't vote for the lieutenant governor, they vote for the governor -- and as lieutenant governor, you should never forget that. Quite honestly, if Joe Rogers doesn't develop a better relationship, he doesn't have a job. He's going to be marginalized, trivialized. He may be able to gain some press by making some outrageous comments. But that's not what a lieutenant governor is supposed to do. He's supposed to contribute to the well-being of the state.''

But there's nothing wrong with a little disagreement between the state's number one and number two, Callihan says -- and he should know. At one point, Callihan strongly criticized Romer for releasing some of Colorado's water to drought-stricken California, and he spoke his mind at other times, too.

"Roy Romer and I actually disagreed far more than people ever knew, and I pissed him off an awful lot," Callihan says. "But you pick your fights, and we just had the good sense to do it behind closed doors. Occasionally it spilled out -- that's human nature. But we respected each other, and I respected the fact that there was only one governor."

He doesn't think the governor should be able to select his own running mate, however. "If you are beholden to the governor because he gave you the job," he explains, "then the state loses another perspective. I'd abolish it before I'd make the position a hack for the governor.

"I was never afraid to speak my mind. Joe's mistake is that he's done it in the papers."


By speaking out, Rogers may hope to elevate his profile in a bid to one day reach an even higher office. But he should be aware (as should other would-be light guvs, including Doug Dean) that the lieutenant governor's office, once regarded as a stepping stone to the governor's office, usually serves more as a plank to walk off of. The last lieutenant governor to ascend the throne was John D. Vanderhoof, governor from 1973 to 1974 -- but that was only because his boss, Governor John Love, resigned to take a job in the Nixon administration. (The last lieutenant governor to be elected governor was Stephen McNichols, in 1957.)

For most lieutenant governors, the job has actually signaled an end to elected office.

Ted Strickland, appointed to serve as Vanderhoof's lieutenant governor, continued as his second when he ran in 1974 -- but they were beaten by Democrats Dick Lamm and his lieutenant, George Brown. A state senator for many years, Strickland returned to the legislature after that defeat and promptly proposed a constitutional amendment to eliminate the lieutenant governor's job, calling it "a useless office." He later ran as the Republican gubernatorial candidate against Romer, who was then state treasurer, in 1986 -- and lost again. Today he's an Adams County commissioner.

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