December 8 2004, 6:55 AM
The last two governors of Colorado were both state treasurers before they ran for the chief executive position. So Colorado's current treasurer, Republican Mike Coffman, has to be considered a possible candidate for the governorship when Bill Owens steps down due to term limits in 2006. But he will likely be just one of many candidates in a crowded Republican primary, and it will be hard for his opponents to avoid the temptation to make an issue of the Colorado Supreme Court's recent 6-1 decision that Coffman broke campaign laws by using state funds to campaign against Amendment 23, the public school finance measure that was passed by the voters in 2000. Coffman may get some slack from primary voters because opposition to Amendment 23 is an article of faith for some Republicans. But the fact that an administrative law judge, the Court of Appeals and now a nearly unanimous Supreme Court have all agreed that Coffman broke the law by misusing state property for political purposes takes the shine off any argument that his stewardship of the state treasury qualifies Coffman to be governor.