Integrity Is Key in Race to Replace ‘The Bingo Queen’

Mike Coffman and Ken Gordon are touting their personal integrity and ability to live above partisan influence in their campaigns for Secretary of State. Both candidates say those qualities are of utmost importance when accusations of voting irregularities can cast clouds of suspicion over election results.

If only the current Secretary of State agreed.

When Gigi Dennis was interviewed last week on KGNU’s Metro program, she wore her partisanship proudly. In response to questions about the ethics of co-chairing a fundraiser for Bob Beauprez earlier this month, Dennis snapped, “For anyone to think that I wouldn’t be supporting the top of my ticket, they’re nuts.”  Dennis seemed confused about where exactly her allegiance to the GOP ended and her job as Colorado’s Secretary of State began.

“It is a partisan position,” she said. “I’ve got to keep a non-partisan attitude once in here … That part of my life I can’t take away.”

The day after the fundraiser, a Denver Post editorial urged Dennis to play fair:

We’ve said it before and, by gosh, we’ll say it again. As Colorado’s top elections officer, Secretary of State Gigi Dennis needs to take off her Republican Party badge and provide neutral supervision of the 2006 election campaign.

Dennis said she was included in the fundraiser only as a government figurehead. The names of the governor and attorney general were included, too, she said. But, when asked if she would have agreed regardless of who the fundraiser was for, Dennis replied it would depend on whether she believed in the candidate or not. She said her co-chairmanship of the fundraiser was “honorary,” and not over the line.

“The one thing people need to keep in consideration is I’ve not actively participated in his campaign,” she said.

But, any involvement with the Beauprez campaign will be an issue if the governor’s race is close, and Dennis has to sort out the results. She belittled the idea of a conflict of interest.

“I find it a little amusing that everyone wants to make such a hoopla out of it,” she said. “It happened, and we’ll all move on.”

Here’s hoping that when we move on, we’ll have a Secretary of State who understands the significance of the job. Dennis doesn’t seem to quite get it. When asked about the different functions of the office, she said  (among other things) she is in charge of all bingo operations in Colorado.

“I like to say I’m the bingo queen,” she said.

Here’s an excerpt from today’s Rocky Mountain News article about the current race:

Democratic state Sen. Ken Gordon and Republican State Treasurer Mike Coffman, in the race to replace Gigi Dennis, are billing themselves as men with the records of integrity needed to run Colorado elections.

That’s key in this race, after accusations of stolen elections in the presidential race, first in the conroversial Florida count in 2000 and then in Ohio in 2004. The concerns have been compounded in Colorado by worries over the vulnerabilty of new computerized voting machines to reprogramming that could alter results.

Coffman and Gordon agree on many issues involving how to run the office. So for many voters, this will be a choice of trust and character.

“The key issue in this race is partisan influence,” said Coffman. “We have a presidential race coming up in 2008. Colorado is a swing state. Pressures in this office are by the political parties. Who can stand up to that influence? It’s going to be tremendous. . . . I think I’ve demonstrated the ability to do that.”

Gordon agrees that even-handedness is critical to the job and points to his record in the legislature.

“I’ve always been working in the middle to get things done,” he said. “Seventy-eight percent of my bills have had a Republican sponsor in the House.”

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Kerri Rebresh

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