Off Limits

Up in smoke: That mushroom cloud over New Mexico last month didn't have anything to do with an out-of-control "controlled" fire burning up radioactive material at Los Alamos. Actually, it was Department of Energy Secretary Bill Richardson's chances of being nominated as Al Gore's vice-presidential running mate that were going up in smoke. Richardson, former United Nations ambassador and a onetime congressman representing Colorado's southern neighbor, was being talked up this past spring as a Gore veep short-lister -- and potentially the first Latino to make the double bill -- until those two computer drives, chock-full of nuclear secrets, temporarily disappeared from the DOE's Los Alamos lab, prompting a firestorm of criticism for security breaches at the facility during Richardson's tenure and even Republican calls for his resignation.

The scorching scandal couldn't have come at a worse time for Tim Knaus, a longtime Richardson supporter and chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party. Knaus had just joined an ad-hoc group of Western state party chairs and former elected officials who planned to lobby Gore to nominate Richardson; Gore's June 22 visit to Denver to address the National Association of Latino Elected Officials would have been the perfect time for Knaus and the others to push Richardson's candidacy. But it was not to be. Gore didn't mention Richardson, and neither did Knaus. (Gore did, however, tell the convention that while his first child [he later said he meant grandchild] was born on Independence Day, he hoped the second would be born on Cinco de Mayo.)

"Richardson is a really good friend of mine," Knaus says. "I just think he's wonderful. For a long time, I thought he should be the vice-presidential candidate. He's an everyday kind of guy, and the Latino vote is crucial to us. It's time there was a Latino on the party ticket. Having said all that, I think it's impossible at this point. The race being the way it is, Gore is taking no risks about anything. And it's heartbreaking, because Richardson is tremendous."Knaus predicts that Gore will now go after someone from a Midwestern state, possibly senators Richard Durbin of Illinois or Evan Bayh of Indiana. "There's no way there will be a Westerner on the ticket, which is too bad," he adds. "Gore needs some excitement on the ticket." Knaus thinks Gore will make his veep announcement sometime between the Republican National Convention, July 31-August 3, and the Democratic National Convention, August 14-17.

Let's see -- that would be right about the time Al and wife Tipper would have to be doing the wild thing if they still want that Cinco de Mayo baby.

Yo mama! Colorado hasn't seen much of Sam Riddle lately; the political consultant who collected a big state paycheck last year has been busy working with lawyer Geoffrey Fieger (with whom he's also teamed on the Isaiah Shoels case) to resurrect the reputation of Tamarla Owens, whose six-year-old son shot and killed five-year-old Kayla Rolland in Flint, Michigan, on February 29. Riddle's role in fighting the "mainstream-media smear" of the beleaguered mother -- as well as a few of Riddle's more colorful characteristics, such as his fondness for profanity and Jack Daniel's -- is outlined in the July 3 New Yorker. Should Riddle return to Colorado, we've got his next case: Has any mother ever been more defamed than Ulu? Not content with taking cubs Klondike and Snow away from the polar bear, Denver Zoo officials labeled her an unfit mother, later poured vodka down her throat (allegedly because someone had thrown what might be poison meat Ulu's way), and finally put her to sleep last week. Conspiracy or coincidence? You decide.


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