Off Limits

Not since purple thistle invaded from Scotland has anything spread so quickly across Colorado.

Hundreds of four-by-eight-foot, purple "Owens for Governor" billboards have sprung up around the state. The goal of this frenzy, according to campaign staffer Cinamon Watson, is to get at least 400 Bill Owens-supporting signs in place by August, thereby more than doubling the "record" set by backers of President George W. Bush during his 2000 campaign stop here.

Bush topped out at 190 signs. "People got excited by those signs and wanted to put up these," Watson says. They're all being put on private land, with the owners' permission. "For every one we put up, we get three calls volunteering to have one," she adds.

So why stop at 400?

"We'll shoot for 500," Watson says, adding that the only limitations are cost, time and, possibly, vandals. But if anti-billboard/anti-Owens forces tear down any signs, she promises that pro-Owens forces will respond quickly and replace them.

While not advocating destruction, photographer/growth-initiative leader John Fielder expresses skepticism -- not just of what the signs do to mar Colorado's landscape, but also of Owens's candidacy. "Given the poor environmental record of his first term, it's not surprising he's putting up ugly signs," Fielder says. He might have said something even stronger, but Fielder is opening a photo gallery this fall in Cherry Creek, and he surely doesn't want it surrounded by a purple Owens haze.

Why purple? Watson says the color is a holdover from Owens's last gubernatorial race -- not a response to polls that show him beating Democratic challenger Rollie Heath black and blue in November.

It's the prose that's purple -- or at least off-color -- on another set of billboards appearing around town. The campaign, sponsored by local McDonald's franchises, reads: "At least there's one thing easy to pick up tonight." Pictured is a hamburger, along with the tag line "Open 'til midnight or later."

Interesting choice of slogans in a town where Mayor Wellington Webb wants to put prostitutes and johns on the city's TV station, with a pilot program set for July 25. But McDonald's Rocky Mountain regional marketing department spokeswoman Kelly Hoyman says she's not aware of any complaints about the risque message. And mayoral spokesman Andrew Hudson sees nothing sinister in the Mcdouble entendre. "I think they're talking about hamburgers, not prostitutes," he says, not biting.

Still, it's enough to make you hit the streets looking for a Big Mac Daddy.


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