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Year in Review: The Great Pretenders

Welcome to the 2006 Hall of Shame.

In Colorado, 2006 will be remembered as the Year of the Great Pretender. Many of the most notorious newsmakers were people masquerading as someone or something they weren't -- leading secret lives, conning the public, boasting of a competency they didn't possess or taking credit for achievements and even crimes that were not theirs.

Among all these impostors and frauds, a few truly remarkable posers demand special mention. We can't bid this year adieu, shedding mock tears as it ebbs away, without first recognizing the greatest pretenders of them all.

Here they are, the Sham Seven, in ascending order of sincere, authentic, from-the-heart fakery.

7. BOB BEAUPREZ

Occupation: All-occasion candidate.

Offense: Walking contradiction. Partly truth, partly fiction.

A year ago, Bob Beauprez was an incumbent congressman with impeccable conservative credentials, a folksy backstory about milking the cows, a lack of any heavyweight Democratic opponent with statewide recognition -- and thus considered a shoo-in for the governor's office. So who was that rank impostor who went down in flames in November?

Call him Both Ways Bob.

Put aside all the incidental missteps of the campaign -- the unfortunate choice of a running mate who likened gay marriage to sheep marriage, the bad stats on the African-American abortion rate. The basic problem here was a campaign bereft of ideas, particularly ideas about who Bob Beauprez really is.

Both Ways wanted it every which way. He wanted to woo the party's ultra-righties away from upstart Marc Holtzman, and that meant slamming Referendum C, thereby alienating moderates, Governor Bill Owens and business leaders. He wanted to push his experience as a congressman but downplay his ties as a Washington insider. He wanted to blast Bill Ritter on immigration policy yet failed to come up with a coherent plan of his own. ("Illegal immigration? It's illegal," his horse-patootie ad boldly pointed out.) He was with Tom Tancredo when he wasn't against him. He wanted to be tough on national security issues and be "held accountable," he said, yet he defended the unauthorized use of a federal criminal database to supply ammo for his attack ads.

In the end, the former dairy rancher turned banker turned party go-to guy spun himself out of contention. Voters may not have figured out who Beauprez is, but they know the type: All hat, no cattle.

6. THE DENVER ELECTION

COMMISSION

Occupation: Not for long.

Offense: Take a number. We'll get back to you.

No terrorist cell could have disrupted free elections in Denver last month more effectively than the city's own commissioners, who ran such a disastrous operation that you have to wonder if they're only pretending to be on our side. Clueless buffoons, or fanatical, expertly trained enemies of democracy? You decide.

If you want to discourage voter turnout, here's a master plan. Replace the old neighborhood precincts with a meager scatter of "voting centers." Send out mail-in ballots with erroneous postage information. Buy some complicated, half-assed voter-registration software for $85,000 and fail to test it (while turning down a proven system offered for free). Neglect to inform people that it will take weeks to hand-sort the absentee ballots. Then express bewilderment when the three-hour lines on election day turn the citizenry into homicidal maniacs and discourage an estimated 18,000 people from voting at all.

What? You can't handle a little inconvenience? Don't worry. These well-placed operatives, masquerading as inept bureaucrats, will have everything running fine in time for the May elections. Just wait.

And wait.

5. ZURI-KYE MCGHEE

Occupation: Sexual predator.

Offense: Being damn good at his job.

It takes a certain something, really, to be able to pass yourself off as a fourth-grader when you're pushing thirty. For the past five years, Zuri-Kye McGhee pretended to be one of the boys. He cruised Aurora on a bicycle, helped kids with their homework and lured them to his apartment for sleepovers, promising video games and "workout" sessions that soon turned sexual.

He also did impersonations of Michael Jackson.

Apparently, one of the things it takes to pull this off is an understanding mom. Soldad McGhee allegedly introduced her son to his victims' parents, telling them he was thirteen and lived with his uncle, prosecutors say.

Last August, Zuri-Kye, now 32, was sentenced to 508 years in prison on multiple counts of child molestation. His victims, eighteen boys and one girl, ranged in age from nine to sixteen. Soldad also faces sexual-assault charges for her alleged role in aiding her son's attacks. She stood by Zuri-Kye when he faced similar charges in New Mexico in the 1990s (which were plea-bargained down to a single felony count) and defended his innocence on the latest charges. Boys will be boys, after all.

And women will be girls: A Special Dishonorable Mention goes to former Brighton Charter High School teacher Carrie McCandless. While not in McGhee's league, McCandless is charged with conducting a hot-and-heavy romance with a seventeen-year-old student; police say the affair led to a boozy night of dry-humping on a field trip to Estes Park and as many as 76 text messages between the pair in a single day. If nothing else, the 29-year-old McCandless may well be guilty of impersonating an adult.

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