Colorado U.S. Senate Hopefuls Struggle with Baggage of Past

By Richardson, Valerie | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 17, 1998 | Go to article overview

Colorado U.S. Senate Hopefuls Struggle with Baggage of Past


Richardson, Valerie, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


DENVER - When you carve out a new political identity, the past is bound to catch up with you. It caught up with Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell last month.

Winding up a speech before the Denver County Republican Assembly, Mr. Campbell gazed out across the half-empty hall at George Washington High School and thundered, "I hope when I come back in two years, I'll look across this auditorium and just see it filled with Democrats!" Then he left.

Whoops. Minutes later Mr. Campbell, who was elected as a Democrat but switched parties three years ago, returned to the stage. "I guess I blew it," he said, chalking up the error to campaign fatigue.

Fortunately for Mr. Campbell, he's not the only candidate in this year's Colorado Senate race facing an identity crisis. His likely Democratic opponent is first-time candidate Dottie Lamm, who has been active in state politics for more than 30 years - but most prominently as the wife of former three-term Gov. Richard Lamm.

The challenge for both candidates, say analysts, is to downplay their political pasts while buttressing their conservative credentials in a state with a growing GOP majority. Republican voters now outnumber Democrats by 36 to 31 percent, with 33 percent unaffiliated.

For Mrs. Lamm, 60, the priority is to make voters see her as a candidate in her own right, not as Dick Lamm's wife. Her involvement in community service and women's issues has helped, as does a Denver Post column she wrote for 17 years.

But the column is also expected to cause her problems. The state GOP has amassed a 100-page collection of potentially inflammatory quotes that place her "off the left end of the spectrum," said state Republican Party Chairman Steve Curtis.

"In one of her many abortion columns, she said she'd disconnect the incubator of any baby born under 1 pound, 10 ounces," said Mr. Curtis. "Then, in another, she says she'd outlaw organ transplants for anyone over 55."

"She wants to kill them coming and going," said Mr. Curtis. "It's like, geez, Dottie, when are you coming after me?"

Her defenders argue that her job as a columnist was to stir up debate, not to take safe stands.

"I was a columnist to push ideas," said Mrs. …

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