[dropcap]I[/dropcap]F you live in Denver, it’s perfectly possible to have driven, biked and walked your way through the past several months without a single sign of a primary election. Our capital city is, after all, heavily “D”. Given that Democratic incumbents face no primary challenges in Colorado’s biggest races, our cityscape is virtually barren of campaign signs, billboards and other visual trappings of an election year.
I was hoping for a more accurate display of political enthusiasm as I headed out of town Monday, taking my kid to camp near the Wyoming border.
We were driving north on I-25, beyond Denver city and county limits, when I started looking for bumper stickers, road signs or at least a patch of highway frontage planted with a political placard. We were twenty and then thirty miles out of the big city when I wondered if, distracted by my 10-year-old’s World Cup prognostications and my nagging reminders that he change his socks at camp, maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough.
Hey, I suggested, let’s play a sort of “I Spy.” The first one who spots some hint of a political campaign gets the last piece of Trident Tropical Twist in my glove compartment.
Hey, he said, no way.
Like 99.9 percent of his peer group, my son has no interest in today’s primary election or who snags the GOP nomination for governor. As much as he usually enjoys cutthroat car games, looking out for campaign signs wasn’t on his agenda.
So I proposed a deal. I’d give him the stick of gum and play whatever Pandora stations he wanted in exchange for his help spotting some visual evidence that, in fact, it’s an election year. He upped the ante, demanding the gum, his choice of Pandora stations and the volume set at whatever level he wished.
We drove — the speakers thumping with Snoop Dogg Radio — looking for signs.
The miles passed, as did the housing tracts, strip centers, Harley dealerships, farms, outlet mall and rest stops. We turned off the highway and were halfway across Fort Collins when my first-born called it like he saw it.
“This is like the hardest page of ‘Where’s Waldo?” except there’s no Waldo,” he said.
He was right. Our scouting mission was, as he likes to say, an “epic fail.”
We decided to spend our last hour before his week in the wilderness focused on more important matters. Like whether we’d get there in time for him to pick his bunk. And his preference for spray-on sunscreen, not the kind you rub in. And whether Pelé is older or younger and more or less important than Barack Obama. And what he’ll do if he gets homesick.
Fast forward through our arrival at camp, meeting the counselors and saying goodbye. This, after all, is a blog about politics, not parenthood.
I took a longer, indirect way home in hopes of increasing my chances of spotting campaign signs and taking my mind off the socks, the sunscreen and that last wave goodbye.
There were signs. Plenty of them. “Jesus Saves,” read a flag up the road from camp. “Gun Show, June 21,” a billboard was still advertising. A boulder next the highway was spray painted “Usurp.” Watch for deer. What for cattle. Children playing. “Clean Highway Sponsored by AAA.” “Powerball $70 million. Mega Millions $25 Million.” “Lemonade, 50 cents.” “Speed Limit 75.” “Like Boondocks on Facebook.” “Danger. Overhead Power Lines.” “Northglenn: Where You Shop Matters.” “Dog is my copilot.” “God is great.” “Reduce Your Fat Without Surgery.” “Reduce Speed Ahead.”
Signs, everywhere. But not about politics. At least not along the 230 miles, through six counties, I drove without spotting a single message boosting anyone for governor (nor Senate, Congress or dog catcher, for that matter).
It’s a testament, at the very least, of how little money the four-pack of GOP candidates have raised in their race for the nomination to unseat Gov. John Hickenlooper. Their campaign contributions, meager compared to those in races for open seats in the last two election cycles, are paying for mailers, robocalls and select functions for specialty blocks of reliable primary voters. The billboards, bumper stickers and banners will come when — and if — anyone pays more attention in the general election.
As it turns out, Primary 2014 isn’t just invisible in Denver. It’s not part of Colorado’s broader landscape, even when you’re on the lookout, like in “Where’s Waldo?” — “Where’s Beauprez? Gessler? Kopp? Tancredo?” — the day before the election.