Dogma-free Doug Dean waxes on El Paso conservatives

How cute is this? The Colorado Springs Gazette ran a story this week about the fact that a few short years ago El Paso County lawmakers held the majority of leadership positions in the Legislature, but now they’ve got just one. They quoted former House Speaker Doug Dean surmising that maybe the folks from the Springs are viewed as just too far right, too strident, too out there, for leadership. This is the same Doug Dean who went into the Legislature vowing to chemically castrate sex offenders and left the Legislature chasing his girlfriend down the street in the middle of the night wielding a screwdriver?

As the Gazette noted, eight years ago Dean was speaker and the recently deceased Ray Powers was president of the Senate. In recent years, Reps. Bill Cadman, Keith King, Ron May and Bill Sinclair have all held leadership spots, and Chuck Berry was speaker of the House for most of the 1990s. All hailed from Republican-heavy Colorado Springs.

Of next year’s leaders, only Rep. Amy Stephens holds a GOP leadership spot, as minority caucus chairwoman.

To the Gazette, Dean, who’s now the director of the state Public Utilities Commission, articulated this theory: Some legislators “are so far to the right from down in Colorado Springs that they are going to be perceived as being too conservative to work into a leadership role.

“If they’re very strident in their views, it’s not a surprise to me that they wouldn’t have much of a chance of being in leadership roles,” the paper quoted Dean saying. “But then again, the folks that are married very hard to their conservative views, a lot of them don’t care if they’re in leadership roles or not. They’re just up there to do what they think is the right thing.

“It doesn’t matter to them if they are — how shall we say? — an effective legislator,” Dean said.

To be fair, Dean did prove to be a — how shall we say? — effective lawmaker. In fact, he surpassed many peoples’ expectations when, as a house painter back in 1994, he decided to run for the state House. His wife at the time worked at Focus on the Family, and his campaign platform included the above-mentioned position on chemically castrating offenders.

He arrived in Denver looking a little geeky, but cleaned up real good, wearing expensive-looking double-breasted suits and flashing a million-dollar smile and a fake Rolex wristwatch.

From the House floor, Dean initially preached in favor of abstinence-only legislation, claiming that sex outside of marriage is dehumanizing and demeaning. But over time, he built a reputation as a real ladies’ man. After his divorce, he began dating and then living with a pharmaceutical lobbyist.

In his final term, Dean fended off a move by the far more moderate Rep. Steve Johnson and became Speaker of the House.

“Is Doug capable of changing his spots into stripes? I’m not sure he’s capable of doing that,” said then-Rep. Dan Grossman. Indeed, Dean engaged in several high-profile clashes, particularly with Democrats. But upon becoming speaker, he vowed to tone it down.

At the time Dean said he learned a lot by observing former Speaker Russell George in action. And he had learned from his own mistakes, he said.

“I have regretted that sometimes when I got my feathers ruffled I lashed out,” he said. “I’ve been known to have a quick temper, but I’ve worked on that. In the past couple of years you’ve never seen me lash out at a Republican.”

In a famous episode on his last day in public office, Dean got dumped by his girlfriend, and used a screwdriver to break into her house in the middle of the night. When she arrived and found him there, he subsequently chased her down the street as she ran to a neighbor’s house for help. Police were called, but no arrests were made.

And now it appears that Dean, dogma-free, is living happily ever after — and not in Colorado Springs.

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