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Yesteryear: Eight Republicans make ’96 Colorado presidential primary ballot

Author: Ernest Luning - January 19, 2016 - Updated: February 25, 2016

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Twenty Years Ago this week in The Colorado Statesman … The 1996 Colorado presidential primary ballot was set, with orator Alan Keyes qualifying for the Republican primary at the last minute. He joined seven other GOP candidates, including Lamar Alexander, Pat Buchanan, Charles Collins, Bob Dole, Steve Forbes, Phil Gramm and Richard Lugar. On the Democratic side, President Bill Clinton faced a challenge from Lyndon LaRouche, Jr. For its March 5 election, Colorado was grouped with seven other states — Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont — for the so-called “Junior Tuesday” primaries. Texas Sen. Phil Gramm had visited Colorado more than all the other Republican candidates combined, his campaign said, and when he couldn’t make it, his wife, Wendy, stood in, speaking on her husband’s behalf a week earlier at a Christian Coalition forum in the state. But Natalie Meyer, head of the Colorado Dole campaign, said the Kansas lawmaker had the inside track to win Colorado’s vote. “He’s almost perceived as a third senator here,” Meyer said, brushing off complaints from some Republicans that the Senate majority leader was too much of a compromiser. “We call him a facilitator,” she said, “because people understand that he is not trying to eliminate government, just limit the size of government.” Lugar’s plan to eliminate corporate and capital gains taxes in exchange for a national sales tax was resonating, said Colorado Springs organizer Randy Ankeney. “He’s such a thoughtful man, he’s not the kind of guy that says things to make the headlines, he’s not into sound bites,” he said of the Indiana senator, who had won endorsements from former Gov. John Love and El Pomar Foundation Chairman and former state Rep. Bill Hybl. The Morrie Taylor campaign, however, was considering suing Colorado for blocking its candidate from the ballot. The state required presidential candidates to report at least $5,000 in donations per state from at least 20 states to make Colorado’s ballot. …

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In this January 1996 cartoon, a voter laments that there seem to be more legislation emerging at the ballot box than from the General Assembly. (Colorado Statesman archives)

… Gov. Roy Romer was taking some heat from Colorado Springs for a brief remark about the city’s relationship with the burgeoning “patriot” movement during a speech at the City Club of Denver. Here’s what the governor said: “When you think of a patriot, you (now) think of someone who has an organization whose headquarters is in Colorado Springs, not necessarily there only, but it’s one location. And it’s a band that’s armed itself well, out in the woods, doing defensive measures, trying to protect whatever they define to be valuable to them.” Hold your horses, Mayor Bob Isaac and Springs business leaders shot back, the city is anything but a hotbed of armed militias. The El Paso County Militia, the Sons of Liberty and the Sovereign Patriots — all based in Colorado Springs — hadn’t weighed in publicly on the controversy, but state Sen. Charlie Duke, R-Colorado Springs, chuckled in response. Duke, who was exploring a bid for the U.S. Senate, was a founder of the 10th Amendment Committee and considered a hero to militias nationwide. …

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Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert

… There was a fierce battle under way over which renowned Coloradan should join public health hero Florence Sabin as the state’s other representative enshrined in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. A committee backing Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert over bandleader Glenn Miller was pulling out all the stops, with full-page ads in The Statesman extolling the Medal of Freedom winner. Swigert was the clear choice, wrote the committee, led by Hal Shroyer, General Jim Hall and Mort Marks. “Colorado should show the youth of our nation that all heroes didn’t die a hundred years ago,” they declared. “Jack Swigert, clad in his space suit with helmet under his arm, cast in beautiful bronze, would shine like a beacon and become the focal point for visitors to our nation’s Capitol.” (Swigert, a Republican, won election to represent Colorado’s new 6th Congressional District in 1982, defeating Aurora Councilman Steve Hogan, the Democratic nominee, but succumbed to cancer eight days before taking office. Republican state Sen. Dan Schaefer won the seat in a special election in 1983 and went on to serve eight terms.) …

Ellyngton’s, the main dining room at the Brown Palace Hotel, was temporarily closed for remodeling, reported columnist Jay Fox in his No More Mr. Nice Guy Dining Guide. It seems the historic hotel was carving out some space for something called the Churchill Bar, where Denver’s powerful would soon be able to smoke cigars in relaxed splendor. The new room would have a custom humidor stocked with the rarest of stogies, and a state-of-the-art air filtration system would prevent cigar odors from drifting to other rooms. In the meantime, Fox noted, the Ellyngton’s menu was being served upstairs in the Brown Palace Club, and the thoroughly enjoyable Ship’s Tavern was serving its fantastic food. For those who could afford it, the Palace Arms was still the finest, most elegant dining in Denver, Fox added.

— ernest@coloradostatesman.com

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.