Off Limits

Can't we all just get along?

While the manure -- a substance that Republican Wayne Allard, the Senate's only veterinarian, is very capable of recognizing, according to one of his ads -- continues to accumulate on the campaign trail, a few voters unhappy with the negative tone of the major parties' campaign for the U.S. Senate seat have decided to raise Coloradans out of the muck.

They're proposing longtime Denver resident and musician Marcia Whitcomb as a write-in candidate for the Senate, an alternative in the dirty fight that's marked the rematch between Allard and Democratic challenger Tom Strickland. "It started up perhaps a week ago, when Marcia and I were talking to each other," says Joe Wilcox, who plays alongside Whitcomb in the Centennial Philharmonic. "She became a candidate because she lost the coin toss. This candidacy is purely as a protest. We just wanted to give ourselves and a few of our friends an opportunity to make a vote that has meaning."

Meaning: "We should be hearing serious discussion of some issues, but instead the two major-party candidates are engaged in a poisonous battle of negative attack ads and vituperation," Wilcox advises in an e-mail he's sending to friends and acquaintances. "In tone and content, their campaign is an embarrassment. Our state deserves better."

Wilcox, a retired computer programmer who "worked for Mobil Oil until they abandoned Denver," recognizes that there are "some third-party and independent candidates for the office, but their platforms and positions are specialized. For the rest of us," he says, "I thought we needed something else."

Enter Whitcomb.

"For most people, whether they have decided on a candidate or not, the tone of the campaign is absolutely sickening," the very recent candidate explains. "It's a tremendous waste of time for the taxpayer, it's a tremendous amount of money, and it's doing absolutely nothing to encourage young, voting-age people to get involved in the process."

If elected, she will not serve, the 64-year-old cellist promises: "I have no knowledge about the political situation, and I'm not tactful in the way that would make a good candidate."

But she's outspoken in the way that makes for a very good citizen.

"I have no illusions about upsetting anybody's apple cart," Whitcomb says, "but I think personally this is a time in the life of Denver and cities across the country where this amount of money can be better directed than a television smear campaign.

"That's my personal issue, how to stop these smear campaigns," she adds. "If you target the campaign manager rather than the candidate, you're trying to deal with the person behind the scenes who is virtually untouchable -- and if the candidate wins, he becomes the hero.

"But he's no hero," she concludes.


Dialing for dolours:Are you listening, Dick Wadhams?

Probably not. Earlier this week, Allard's campaign manager was too busy dealing with a flurry of complaints over phone calls allegedly pushing Allard's candidacy to worry about late entry Whitcomb. By Tuesday, that flurry had become a flood, and Wadhams labeled the calls that inspired the complaints a "deliberate act of sabotage on our campaign."

Area residents unlucky enough to answer the call report that it featured an electronic voice urging them to vote for Wayne Allard and to call and tell him what a great senator he is -- although the voice didn't provide a phone number. Instead, those with caller ID found that the voice had originated from "WIN 100000 CASH 214-615-3451."

Dialing that Dallas number lands you at a recording from IDS, "the nation's leading voice mail/cellular retailer," telling you that you're eligible to win up to $100,000 -- not to mention free phones and excellent services -- by providing such information as your address, driver's license number and Social Security number. And, gee, if for some reason you don't want to win $100,000, you can opt to be placed on IDS's "do not call" list -- a real act of charity, considering that many of the people who got the call are already on Colorado's official "do not call" list.

Because of that, and because many of the calls came in after 9 p.m. -- when telemarketers aren't allowed to contact even the households that love to hear from them -- Allard's office has been getting an earful. But the calling campaign has absolutely no connection to the incumbent senator, Wadhams says.

In fact, on Tuesday the campaign filed a complaint with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, which will be investigating it as a criminal matter, according to Wadhams. "That will allow Qwest to pursue this, too."

Pursue it where -- and to whom -- Wadhams doesn't know. But he does know this: "It was designed to piss people off."

And that includes Strickland's staff. "Our campaign has absolutely no involvement," says spokeswoman Chris Watney. "We knew nothing about it."


Can't we all just get along, part two:No one's more aware of the low road this election is taking than Myrna Poticha. She's the local director of the Joint Project on Campaign Conduct, co-sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado and the Institute for Global Ethics, an international group that's been pushing the concept of well-behaved campaigns for six years.

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