Off Limits

The loneliness of the long-distance runner: With just a day to go until the deadline for would-be candidates to file, the May 4 Denver election is looking like a major snore. Except, of course, for the usual wake-up call from former Republican Party state finance chair, onetime Littleton Rotary head and eternal candidate Johnny Gonce. Back when he ran for Denver auditor in 1995 (Don Mares beat him, for reasons that will be readily apparent), Gonce worried about the "devil worship" of Mormons. "I have no use for Mormons," he told a Westword reporter. "They're liars, cheats and thieves. And you can quote me." Okay.

Gonce's platform in his 1998 race for the statehouse seat of Frank McGregor was even more novel: Gonce, who was convicted of assault in 1989 and spent 108 days in jail on that rap, wanted to "champion the cause" of men falsely accused of domestic violence by the "cesspool of corruption" that is the justice system. (Oh, yes, he's also heading the Center for Judicial Correction, dedicated to ousting every Colorado judge.) And those men who weren't falsely accused had a very good explanation for their impulses: According to a survey he conducted behind bars, 52 percent of the men who admitted "they beat the holy tar out of" women had "bad teeth," Gonce determined. "I assumed, and still assume, that they had a lot of pain and that they were trying to kill that pain."

Currently feeling his is city councilman Ted Hackworth, whose District 2 seat is now the object of Gonce's intentions. This round, Gonce's platform is simple: All Hackworth, all the time. A Gonce-provided comparison of the two candidates offers nine points in favor of Gonce, the "Senior Member of the Ethics and Professional Practices Committee for the Board of Realtors." Hackworth, "age 72," is dismissed with this: "Before becoming a professional politician sold used cars on South Broadway. His goal is to raise our taxes by $130,000,000 per year."

Hackworth isn't facing Gonce just at the polls. They also have a December 6 date in Denver District Court, where Gonce is suing Hackworth, McGregor and several of McGregor's supporters for, among 44 other claims, allegedly stealing hundreds of Gonce campaign signs. And Gonce holds Hackworth personally responsible for those that disappeared along the Sheridan Boulevard median. "He blames me for calling the state and getting them to take that action," says Hackworth, who denies taking the signs, denies wanting to raise taxes, admits that he once worked at Courtesy Ford and notes that at a forum last month, Gonce promised to run a "positive" campaign.

Ag, ag, ag: New state agriculture commissioner Don Ament and seven former commissioners are hoping to raise a big cash crop and erect a "heroic-size statue" at Colorado State University honoring Colorado farmers and ranchers. Fourteen artists responded to a special committee's call for proposals; the group finally settled on Chris Navarro's "Twenty % Chance of Flurries" because it shows "dedication--the guy's out in a blizzard rescuing a calf!" says project coordinator Jim Rubingh.

Why not just show the state's appreciation of farmers by cutting them checks rather than spending $375,000 on a sculpture? "We have statues all over America honoring war heroes, firefighters, policemen," responds Rubingh. "We forget that farmers are heroes, too. I mean, they feed us. We take our food for granted in this country."

Not if you're former Denver Post reporter Kerri Smith, whose commitment to fighting fat will be recognized March 20--which is not only official "Ag Day," but also "Kerri Smith Day" in Colorado.

More food for thought: Now that the rumored March 15 deadline for the sale of the Post to Rocky Mountain News-owning Scripps Howard has passed without a single casualty beyond common sense--here, for your reading pleasure, are the words of Post owner Dean "Inky" Singleton. No, not the words he uttered at last Friday's press conference, where he announced the Post's ten-year partnership with Ascent Entertainment, promising that the deal would not affect coverage of the Denver Nuggets or the Colorado Avalanche (but might, just might, inspire a really big puff piece on the Pepsi Center's high-tech benefits in the next day's paper).

These words are from an actual journalism textbook (News Reporting and Writing, by Melvin Mensher). In the chapter on "Morality in Journalism," Singleton, at the time publisher of papers in Dallas (dead), Houston (even deader) and Denver, said: "The newspaper of tomorrow is going to have to give readers what they want and not what they need. Who are we to say what they need?" He described a paper as being "like a candy bar. You have to package it to be attractive to the reader. You have to put in the ingredients they want. You have to market it properly."

With plenty of nuts and a very soft center.


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