The Happy Shrewdness of John W. Hickenlooper
Colorado’s popular governor wants to restore people’s faith in government with his unique brand of politics. It’s turning out to be a whole lot tougher than he ever imagined. An exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at Hick’s first year in office.
Late morning, Friday, May 6, 2011 | The Longest Day
as the governor’s suv arrived back at the Capitol after the Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial service, GEO was about to be defunded, the budget was in a precarious position, and Hickenlooper was attempting to facilitate a civil agreement on the redistricting maps.
One of the greatest challenges for the map talks was that, as most everyone inside the Capitol was aware, Shaffer himself almost certainly would be running for U.S. Congress. But heading back into the Capitol that Friday morning, the governor hoped the speaker and the president had made progress. “There’s always hope,” he said as the SUV pulled up at the west-side steps. He had removed his tie and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt. The chipper and charm had returned to his face.
A trooper stood inside the lobby by a nondescript, open side door directly to the governor’s chambers. Hickenlooper entered the doorway and found the would-be map-makers still there, but they were calling it quits. They had been at the table the previous day from 9 a.m. until around 6 p.m.; today they’d arrived again before 9 a.m. It was now about 11 a.m.
Tensions were high. McNulty left feeling frustrated. Throughout the talks, McNulty said he believed Shaffer was putting his own political aspirations above everything else and was merely looking to redistrict, as it were, the deck in his own favor. The idea that these two guys were going to come to an agreement had been extraordinarily unlikely, as Hickenlooper’s advisers had noted. There was also the Scott Martinez factor.
Martinez was a high-profile Democratic operative and redistricting whiz kid. Before Ritter had left office, it was Martinez who’d gone to Ritter’s administration and successfully encouraged the governor to get what was then the Democrat controlled Legislature to pass a law that would enable the courts—in the event these map talks ended up there—to have the most freedom to interpret the census data in a way that was most favorable to Democrats.
During that day-and-a-half of meetings in Hickenlooper’s office, Martinez, who was working the controls of the laptop programmed with data and map-making tools, advocated for a new map that favored the Democrats as a whole, knowing, of course, that if he didn’t get what he wanted in that room it would move to the courts, where he himself had laid the legal groundwork that put the odds in the Democrats’ favor to get the map they wanted anyhow. And so the talks ended that Friday morning with McNulty and Shaffer disliking each other more than ever before, and neither one of them feeling especially warm and fuzzy toward Gov. Hickenlooper.