Off Limits

First there were the 1999 rumors that John Elway -- who'd just retired from the Denver Broncos after two consecutive Super Bowl victories -- would move into Denver to challenge Democrat Diana DeGette in the First Congressional District. Political operatives and analysts figured that Elway would be the only Republican with a shot at beating her for the staunchly Democratic seat. Then there was talk that Elway, who lives in the Sixth District, which sent Republican Tom Tancredo to Congress in 1998, might run for the new Seventh District slot if Cherry Hills Village, where Elway lives, was included in it. The creation of the Seventh District was officially sanctioned in December 2000 by the U.S. Census Bureau, but it had been expected for some time. In fact, people began to call the Seventh the "John Elway seat."

But on January 25, when Denver District Judge John Coughlin approved a map that delineated the new Seventh District, Elway's 'hood wasn't included. Not because the posh neighborhood had remained in Tancredo's clutches, though. Nope, Elway and thousands of other fabulously wealthy Republicans who live in Cherry Hills Village -- like Broncos coach Mike Shanahan -- are now represented by none other than...Diana DeGette!

Have we come full circle? Probably not. Despite the rumors, Elway has shown no interest whatsoever in running for office.

Scott Martinez, deputy director of the Colorado Democratic Party, drew the map (Republicans are now appealing Judge Coughlin's decision to the Colorado Supreme Court), but he says he didn't have any mischievous intentions when he included Cherry Hills in DeGette's territory. Instead, he says, he was trying not to break up cities and communities while making sure that the Seventh District had a population comparable in size to the other districts. "I sat down on Christmas night amid all of this wrapping paper and prayed for some kind of Christmas miracle," Martinez says, describing how he designed a map that could gain approval from the judge whose court had the final say.

Not only does the Seventh that resulted have a population that's the right size, but that population is about evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. And most of them seem interested in running. The names of assorted politicos, both former and current, have been bandied about, including former state senator Mike Feeley, on-again, off-again gubernatorial candidate Bob Hagedorn, Jeffco DA Dave Thomas, current senator Norma Anderson and current rep Mark Paschall. Lieutenant Governor Joe Rogers and State Treasurer Mike Coffman have talked about moving into the new district, although Coffman now seems intent on staying put in the treasurer's office.

And then there's Tim Knaus, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party, who lives in Arvada. Knaus, who helped Martinez draw the map, says running has crossed his mind and that two or three people have asked him about it. "I was born in that district, and I've lived there for 47 years," he says. "I love Arvada. It has such a good history. It would be terrific from a public-service perspective. Representing your own hometown would be a pretty amazing thing." But there are already a lot of "big-name Democrats in this district," he adds with a laugh, "and I'd have to take a 700 percent pay cut from what I make as a lawyer. Plus, I love being chairman."

Although party officials don't have much of a history of running for office in this state, that could change. After all, Bob Beauprez, a Lafayette banker and chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, is thought to be a leading candidate to challenge Mark Udall in what is always a hotly contested Second District race.

Just how hot that race could get remains to be seen, especially now that Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone and several other ski resorts have been moved from the Third District, represented by Republican Scott McInnis, into Udall's territory. Over the years, McInnis has done everything he could to help those resorts with their ambitions, including expansion and development of the surrounding areas, and his efforts have been rewarded -- in the form of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. (In the recent redrawing of districts, McInnis's seat was saddled with Pueblo, a heavily Democratic city.) But Udall has a different agenda when it comes to mountain development.

Of course, Udall may not be long for the Second if he chooses to run in 2004 for the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Ben Nighthorse Campbell, which would leave the job open to...his brother. That's right: Brad Udall, the former executive director of the Eagle Valley Land Trust, which fights to protect open space, lives in Boulder and has been rumored to be considering a bid to replace Mark if Big Brother moves on. Knaus says he's approached Brad Udall a couple of times, without much luck. But he'd love to push him as a candidate and will keep trying. "You can definitely tell the genes in that family," he says.

In our sights: What with the Rocky Mountain News's Penny Parker and the Denver Post's Bill Husted both heading for the Olympics (along with a cast of thousands from the dailies), the folks they're leaving behind could suffer major gossip deprivation in the weeks to come. (Who cares where Arnold Schwarzenegger's dining in Salt Lake City? We need to know where power lawyer Steve Farber's lunching in Denver!)

So in the interest of serving the public, we'll be feeding you some guaranteed-true recent sightings. For starters, Mayor Wellington Webb dropped by Pierre's Supper Club twice last week -- once for lunch with Manager of Safety and now official mayoral candidate Ari Zavaras, and once to meet and eat with Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio, he of the declining stock price and increasing competition from AT&T Wireless (or do you call it mlife?). And Parker herself was spotted at last Saturday's Beaux Arts Ball (yes, Farber was there, too), doing the bump with philanthropist Sharon Magness, widow of Bob Magness, the man who founded Telecommunications Inc., the firm that partner John Malone later hooked up with AT&T.

Hey, if they're not talking about you, it means you're not worth talking about.


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