2008: The year Colorado finally de-Bruced

Father of TABOR and kicker of photographers, Douglas Bruce. (Photo/Colorado.gov)

Father of TABOR and kicker of photographers, Douglas Bruce. (Photo/Colorado.gov)

If you ask most Coloradans what they remember most about the four-month long legislative session, their response is, sadly, predictable. Douglas Bruce kicked a photographer in the knee. And, as columnist Al Lewis noted, Douglas Bruce kicks like a little girl. That was just the beginning.

To rehash, a year ago Bruce, the famously acerbic author of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, got himself appointed to fill an open seat in the state Legislature.

Many moons ago, when Bruce ran unsuccessfully for another open seat, Mike Feeley, the then-Senate minority leader, predicted that a Bruce under the Golden Dome could single-handedly bring basic government operations to a screeching halt.

“He has no impulse control, he can’t sit quietly and listen to anyone else’s opinion,” Feeley said. “If your 4-year-old acted like Doug Bruce does, you’d correct him.”

Those words, spoken in 2000, were just as fresh and true eight years later. The first day, before even being sworn into office, Bruce kicked a Rocky Mountain News photographer, in chambers, during the morning prayer. His colleagues rewarded him for that action — which he insisted was a “nudge” — by censuring him, the first time in the history of the Legislature that had happened.

Over the next month, Bruce announced he would no longer talk to reporters, then he refused to co-sponsor a resolution honoring veterans and men and women in the military — prompting his own party leader, Mike May, R-Parker, to opine to the Rocky Mountain News, “That’s a man with no honor. He has no shame.”

After the vote, Bruce shouted at his colleagues, “Are you all happy?” after they required him to vote on another resolution to urge health care coverage for children in Colorado by 2018 (Bruce also voted no).

Then, in a floor speech, Bruce called Mexican migrant workers “illiterate peasants” — which set off another round of chatter.

When Mark Waller, an attorney and Air Force officer reservist, announced plans to challenge Bruce, he responded by criticizing Waller for not having voted in the last election (at the time Waller was serving in Iraq, prosecuting insurgents in Iraqi courts). By then even Bruce’s own past supporters were saying “We were wrong.”

Bruce lost the August primary. “At some point, I think Mr. Bruce has to realize that the community is rejecting him and his ideas,” said Colorado Springs City Councilman Scott Hente.

Four months later, as the year comes to a close, Bruce still has a letter to his dear constituents prominently displayed on the front page of his personal Web site:

“I am honored to have been chosen to be your House District 15 state representative. I have lived in House District 15 for 22 years and have served as your county commissioner, a precinct committeeman, county and state assembly delegate, and party activist. I am a pro-life, traditional family values, social and fiscal conservative — a Ronald Reagan Republican. …”

Someone better break the news to Bruce, soon. After all, the 2009 Colorado Legislature is set to convene soon.

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Cara Degette

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