Something in the Heir

Why you won't find Colorado's most interesting Democrat on this November's ballot.

November 2002

That november they took control of the state senate for the first time in a generation, giving them a long-awaited chance to advance their legislative agenda – as well as a powerful club with which to bash Gov. Bill Owens during the last half of his first term. The Democrats also defended both of their U.S. congressional seats and won two of the year’s three board of education races. Although the state went Republican in the presidential campaign, on all the big issues – growth, education, health care, gun control – the voters seemed to be on the Democrats’ side. Coloradans passed an initiative closing the gun-show loophole, defeated an anti-abortion proposal, rejected a Douglas Bruce-backed tax-cutting measure, and approved a Democrat-supported school-finance bill – Amendment 23 – that most observers had predicted would fail miserably.

In the wake of those triumphs, the Democrats appeared loaded for 2002. Their stable of potential candidates included Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, who was then mulling a run against vulnerable Republican senator Wayne Allard; Mark Udall, son of longtime congressman Mo Udall and another possible Allard foe; term-limited legislator Mike Feeley, largely credited with engineering the Democrats’ state senate coup; attorney general Ken Salazar, the party’s highest-ranking state official; and dot-com tycoon Jared Polis, who purchased (by the thinnest of margins) a seat on Colorado’s board of education. Whispers began to circulate among the party faithful about recapturing the governor’s mansion, solidifying the one-seat senate margin, maybe even getting into position for a run at the state House.