Clowns to the Left of Me

Marc Holtzman's got a feeling that something in the Grand Old Party ain't right.

Benson has collected stacks of Holtzman mailings, which he contends are full of gross exaggerations and "bullshit," on everything from Holtzman's ties to Reagan to his contributions to the party to the Photoshopping that seems to have raised his height in some pictures. "Marc is whatever he thinks it's appropriate to be," he says. "The guy just makes anything up, and he could care less."

Holtzman calls Benson "a leading figure in the establishment" who resented his opposition to Referendum C. He insists he's the candidate of ideas and principles in the race. And it's true that he can be thoughtful, even disarming, on the issues.

He talks about the actions a Colorado governor could take to pressure the employers of illegal aliens and to "unite other Western governors behind a common agenda." He talks about what a "green Republican" could do to limit damage from oil and gas drilling and promote statewide standards for smart growth: "My party has done a pretty lousy job in the past and can do a better job in the future, putting forth market-oriented, conservationist alternatives to left-wing, environmental extremist policies that aren't cost-effective or realistic. We're guilty many times of not offering any alternative at all."

But a fuller discussion of policy might have to wait -- until the next RV odyssey, perhaps. Right now his staff is piling on the homework, including a list of fifty state assembly delegates Holtzman is expected to call tonight. (His running mate, former state legislator Lola Spradley, has another fifty names on her list.) The negotiations over nominating procedures at this weekend's convention are at a perilous stage, with Holtzman fretting about possible "fraud and manipulation" and promises reneged. (Marshall says that the Beauprez campaign has agreed to all of Holtzman's demands, and that the rules Holtzman is now protesting were set by an El Paso County official who happens to be a Holtzman supporter.) And there's the matter of his upcoming wedding: A lifelong bachelor, Holtzman plans to marry Kristen Hubbell, spokeswoman for the Colorado Attorney General's Office, in July, in a ceremony involving a rabbi and a Presbyterian minister.

It's enough to make some men forswear politics and public life entirely. But not Holtzman. He isn't about to lose his cool.

At campaign headquarters, the most recent photo of Holtzman with his hero dates from 1996. A smiling Reagan is sitting on a couch in California with two visitors, Holtzman and the president of Poland. It's shortly after the great man's battle with Alzheimer's was announced, and Reagan doesn't even recognize his former pen pal. How much he understands of what is going on around him is anyone's guess.

Holtzman is smiling, too. Reagan may not know who Holtzman is, but Holtzman knows who Reagan is -- and what it takes to win one for the Gipper.

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