So Douglas “The Kicker” Bruce has replaced Bill “The Fister” Cadman in the Colorado House of Representatives. And really, when you think about it, faced with the option, ’tis far better to witness a kick to the knee than the real-life fisting that Cadman — Bruce’s predecessor — once threatened upon another lawmaker.For those who have no earthly idea what I’m talking about, let’s back up.
This week newly appointed state Rep. Bruce kicked a Denver newspaper photographer in the knee. That happened after Bruce finally showed up at the state Capitol, bearing Jelly Bellies for his new colleagues and swaggering in the limelight of a media horde that followed him around and asked him questions like, “How does it feel to be popular?”
Bruce, the self-proclaimed anti-government guy and former El Paso County commissioner who has now been collecting a government paycheck for more than three years, filled the seat vacated by Rep. Cadman, who went off to the state Senate to replace former Sen. Ron May.
We haven’t heard much from Cadman lately. But that was far from the case in 2005, when Cadman positively stunned the General Assembly when he publicly threatened to ram his fist up the ass of another lawmaker.
The confrontation occurred during a disagreement with then-state Rep. Val Vigil, a Democrat from Thornton. Specifically, Vigil had introduced a bill to allow the families of killed soldiers to obtain special military license plates. Cadman didn’t like the bill and called it “garbage.” Vigil responded by calling Cadman “garbage.” Cadman then threatened Vigil with this: “If you try that again, I’ll ram my fist up your ass.”
That Cadman, a conservative Colorado Springs family-values-and-all-that lawmaker, would even have knowledge of a raunchy gay sex act, was truly unusual. But that he would threaten to perform it on another lawmaker on the floor of the House was really something.
Not surprisingly, the threat created quite a stir. Fellow lawmakers received a not-so-welcome education about the practice of fisting. Bloggers from around the country urged readers to send Cadman a package of Ultra Glide lube with a note warning him of the dangers of high-risk behavior. Rubber gloves were spotted around the Capitol. And The Fister got his new nickname.
At first, Cadman refused to back down. The Rocky Mountain News weighed in, tagging him in an editorial as a “sanctimonious loose cannon – someone to whom it might be wise to give a wide berth.” (Three years later, in the post-Larry Craig era, that comment itself has certainly taken on broad new implications.)
“What is shocking is not only Cadman’s reluctance to express regret but the fact that he wasn’t absolutely mortified by what he’d stooped to say,” continued the Rocky‘s smackdown. “It would never occur to most people to use such an expression even in private, no matter how incensed they were over an affront, let alone utter such words in public before other elected officials.”
Cadman finally apologized, and is living happily ever after as a state senator.
Now we have Bruce. Out of the gate, he threatened to not take the oath of office unless he got the king’s treatment. Then, he kicked a photographer during a public prayer, right after the preacher made the following comment:
“May each leader individually, at this time, pause and reflect upon those that they represent …”
Even Bruce’s fellow Republicans had had enough. They voted, 22-1, calling for him to get sworn in pronto – without any ticker-tape parade and dancing girls. If he didn’t, the GOP caucus threatened to request the vacancy committee that had sent Bruce there in the first place send them someone else. (Bruce’s lone defender was Kevin Lundberg, a Berthoud Republican.)
“This is the House of Representatives. It is not the House of Bruce,” noted House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker.
Said Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Littleton: “He can take the oath or take a hike.”
Said John Temple, editor of the Rocky Mountain News: “It’s outrageous for Mr. Bruce, in a public place, to assault a photographer.”
Said an unrepentant Bruce: “In 21 years, I don’t think there has ever been an instance where I had to do something to stop somebody from behaving in such a coarse and disgusting way.”
At a hearing on Friday, Bruce made history, reportedly becoming the first legislator in Colorado history recommended be censured by his colleagues. He was also ordered to apologize – though Democratic Rep. Paul Weissmann of Louisville opposed that idea, pointing out that it doesn’t really mean much to force someone to apologize when they don’t mean it.
Now that everything’s settled, the Rocky may consider updating its old Cadman editorial – with a position that would likely be supported by Idaho Sen. Craig: “Douglas Bruce is a sanctimonious loose cannon – someone to whom it might be wise to give a wide berth.”
And next time you see Sen. Cadman, consider giving him the old fist, er, thumbs up, for the gift of Rep. Bruce.
Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential and a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent, where a version of this originally appeared. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org