The Life of the Party
Bob Beauprez came off the ranch to lead the state GOP, won one of the tightest U.S. Congressional races in history, and now he's the Republican frontrunner in the Colorado governor's race. What would JFK say?
Beauprez couldn't be more right of center than he is now. His pickup has just parked in front of the right wing's unofficial headquarters: Dr. James Dobson's sprawling Focus on the Family campus in Colorado Springs. On the drive over here, Beauprez said he's shaken hands with Dobson maybe twice at events in D.C. and that he doesn't know him all that well. What Beauprez does know of Dobson, he said, is that he's "a very influential guy." I'm not welcome to join the congressman and his staffer for the Focus meeting, so I wait in the truck. An hour later, the two men emerge from the building smiling. Beauprez tells me that he met with one of Dobson's representatives. "I'd say it went pretty well," he says. "The gentleman we met with said he'd like to host a dinner party for me and Claudia."
It makes sense that Beauprez and Team Dobson would get along divinely. In 2004, Congressman Beauprez's votes supported the Christian Coalition 100 percent of the time. He opposes abortion and rejects the idea of same-sex marriage. He's okay with same-sex "unions," but he believes "that marriage is between a man and a woman." Not exactly the stuff of bread-and-butter issues that he would face as governor. So, considering his position on abortion, I ask Beauprez what he would do as governor if he had to sign off on a death sentence-if he sees any difference between his Catholic respect for the "unborn" and his Republican Party's willingness to execute criminals. There are three inmates on death row in Colorado.
Beauprez nods thoughtfully for a few seconds. He says he's discussed this very question with Archbishop Charles Chaput. The "essence" of Chaput's explanation, Beauprez says, was that there is a "distinction between the innocence of the unborn and then one who has forsaken innocence and committed one of those heinous criminal activities." Finally, he says, "I don't know. I've just decided that I will deal with that when and if the time actually comes."
Some of Beauprez's critics have taken to calling him "Both Ways Bob." They insist the congressman has a knack for being on both sides of an issue while seeming to take no firm position at all. The nickname recently resurfaced with the referendums on C and D, the two TABOR-bending tax proposals to fund public education and infrastructure improvements. Holtzman had been running around the state telling anyone who would listen that Beauprez had not come out against C and D-which Holtzman insisted would be the truly Republican thing to do. On the gazebo, I heard Beauprez say clearly, "I am against C and D," and then add the line, "but I do have friends on both sides of the issue."
On the gazebo, Beauprez had talked to Mr. Mohawk about homelessness for several minutes, sounding sincere and thoughtful, but neglected to offer any concrete plan. He's talked with Chaput about respect for life, but remains uncertain about what he'd do if he had to sign off on a death sentence. He's gone to pay his respects to Focus on the Family, but says he really doesn't know Dobson all that well. Beauprez continues to support the war in Iraq, but he says when he cast his vote he was relying on the military experts and, look, "humans make mistakes." As far as Tom DeLay, the former House Majority Leader indicted for allegedly violating campaign-finance laws, Beauprez says he isn't rushing to judgment. He's going to let the system work. And no, he has no intention of returning any of the approximately $30,000 DeLay has given to him over the years. "I've done exactly what Tom asked me to do with that money," Beauprez says. "I've used it to win elections."