It's politics as usual these days between Democratic Governor John "How many apologies do you want" Hickenlooper and Republican challenger Bob "47 percent of all Americans pay no federal income tax" Beauprez. The polls are tight, the money is flowing and rhetoric is heating up. And while both of these mainstream candidates are doing their best to put out any fires before the November 4 election, Colorado's third-party candidates would actually prefer to see more smoke -- a lot more smoke.
On October 8, the California-based Free & Equal Elections Foundation will host an Open Gubernatorial Debate at Infinity Park in Glendale featuring Libertarian candidate Matthew Hess, Green Party candidate Harry Hempy, write-in candidate Marcus Giavanni (update: Giavanni is no longer attending), and Glendale's own charismatic mayor, Mike Dunafon, who is running as a cigar-chomping, rapping independent, as you can see in this campaign video:
All candidates are welcome, though -- whether they prefer cigars or pot or something else -- and Free & Equal founder Christina Tobin says both Beauprez and Hickenlooper have expressed interest. "They can make a decision the day of if they want," she says. "It's an open podium."
Tobin, a longtime third-party activist, will moderate the debate along with controversial '80s rapper Professor Griff (Richard Griffin), who was a part of the group Public Enemy. Griff, who got into trouble for anti-Semitic remarks while he was with the band, has since recanted some of what he'd said then and has become involved with the third-party movement. "Neither of us is going to be partisan in any way," promises Tobin. "We all have our own beliefs, but we all want better things in the world. That is a common denominator for Griff and Mike Dunafon and all of the candidates here."
But Griff isn't the only hip-hop artist making waves. Last week Dunafon and Wyclef Jean, who met at a pot rally earlier this year, released a pretty slick song and music video called "The Trap," with the tagline "critical thinking for critical times." The lyrics are pro- pot, freedom and local control, and anti-big government. Shot at various Denver locations, the song features Dunafon rapping, with Jean supplying the chorus.
Parts of the video were also shot in a human-sized rat cage that bears a resemblance to those used in the $2 million "Don't Be a Lab Rat" public-education campaign aimed at deterring teenage marijuana use -- and that was no accident. Dunafon wanted to use the actual cages but says he was refused access by the state.
Dunafon's campaign manager says "The Trap" -- which is a metaphor designed to address "political parties' refusal to address the key issues that Coloradans face today" -- has gone viral since it was released, garnering 100,000 views on YouTube.
"'The Trap' is a metaphor that amplifies the misguided fear-mongering of John Hickenlooper's now infamous 'Don't be a Lab Rat' ad campaign," he tells us. "In 'The Trap' music video, leading Colorado activists and concerned citizens from all walks of life are trapped in the cage to graphically display the reality of the political parties' refusal to address the key issues that Coloradans face today. Music reviewers and audiences of all ages are identifying with the citizens locked in the major-party cage."
Of course, Hickenlooper, whose public persona is based partly on genius commercials showing him plugging parking meters for strangers, taking a shower with a suit on and jumping out of planes, is familiar with video, too.
But the best ad featuring the governor this year may actually be a spoof made by craft-beer marketer Marty Jones to promote his October 1 "The Brew Night Show" on the eve of the Great American Beer Festival. Designed to look and sound just like a negative attack ad, the video features a dramatic voiceover by Jones along with grainy photos and slow-motion footage of Hickenlooper -- who founded the Wynkoop Brewing Company in 1988 -- putting back a few pints. See it below.
Here's some of the verbiage: "For a man charged with running the state, brewer-turned-governor John Hickenlooper has sure spent a lot of time doing something else: drinking beer! While the state's politicians conduct government business, John Hickenlooper visits breweries and promotes Colorado microbrews. If that weren't enough, in the past year, he's installed beer taps in the Governor's Mansion. To make matters worse, John Hickenlooper had the nerve to drink beer at a Colorado brewpub with the president of the United States Is this the kind of leadership Coloradans want for the next four years?
"Hick yeah, it is!" the video concludes with a cheering crowd before another voice says. "Brought to you by the Brew Night Show and the citizens brew-nighted for beer-making governors. I drank beer with John Hickenlooper, and I approved this message."
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When it comes to real attack ads, though, the National Republican Senatorial Committee dashed off a pretty good one recently that mimics the opening credits of Dynasty -- the 1980s nighttime soap opera which was supposed to have taken place in Colorado -- to bash incumbent Democrat Mark Udall.
After running through a parody of the show's sequence and music, the ad cuts to Udall and Barack Obama rather than actors John Forsythe and Linda Evans. "On this episode of the Mark Udall dynasty," the voiceover begins, "the shocking betrayal of a bipartisan promise...."
Don't forget, the new fall season is just beginning; we can expect plenty more steamy episodes. Because where there's smoke, there's ire.