To hear the candidates tell it, the U.S. Senate race in Colorado is between two guys named "Strickland-the-Lobbyist" and "Allard-Gingrich."
"Allard-Gingrich" votes with
the Republican congressional leadership 92 percent of the time,
generally to dehydrate rivers, clear-cut forests and sell public
lands to private developers. "Strickland-the-Lobbyist" talks pretty
green, but has been paid quite well to represent polluters like
Louisiana-Pacific, as well as a medical-waste incinerator in Denver
and a ski-resort developer intent on destroying
Their environmental jabs and punches
fill Colorado airwaves as both major parties pour resources into
Colorado this year. Colorado is getting all this national attention
because the Senate seat is open. Hank Brown, generally a moderate
Republican, is stepping down after one
Although Colorado can often be as
Republican as a country club or a bank's loan committee, Bill
Clinton did carry the state in 1992, Democrats have held the
governor's seat since 1975, and Colorado voters seem to like to
send one from each party to the U.S. Senate, ideological
consistency be damned.
During the "80s, for
instance, Colorado's senators were liberal Democrat Gary Hart, who
got caught cheating on his wife, and conservative Republican Bill
Armstrong, who, among other things, tried to ban sales of Playboy
on military bases.
This trend has persisted into
the 1990s, with Brown replacing Armstrong as the Republican in
1990, and Ben Nighthorse Campbell as the Democrat in 1992,
replacing Tim Wirth who replaced Gary Hart in 1986. But then
"Benedict Nightmare" Campbell - as some Democrats dubbed him -
switched parties in 1995, giving Colorado two Republicans, an
unusual state for the state.
Why the propensity
for one of each? One theory is that Colorado wants to make sure
that both parties have a Coloradan advocating important state
issues like grazing subsidies, timber subsidies, mining subsidies,
tourism promotion, highway subsidies, bigger Denver airports,
water-project subsidies, military-base preservation,
Another theory is that Colorado, with its
relatively small population, contains only one person of senatorial
caliber in either party. In that respect, things look promising for
Tom Strickland, a 43-year-old downtown Denver lawyer making his
first run for public office.
earned $555,536 in 1994 as a partner in the Democratic powerhouse
law firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber & Strickland, says his main
priority is improving the lot of Colorado's working
Although, like Allard, he supports the
controversial Animas-La Plata water project near Durango (HCN,
5/27/96), Strickland is campaigning hard on environmental issues.
Strickland stresses his volunteer work with the Environmental
Defense Fund and his leadership in the 1992 drive to guarantee that
state lottery money would go to parks and open space, not prisons.
He points to his endorsement by the Sierra Club and the League of
Conservation Voters, as contrasted to his opponent's low rankings
on environmental scorecards, such as 8 out of a possible 100 from
the League of Conservation Voters.
is a 52-year-old veterinarian from Loveland. His political career
began in 1982 in the state Legislature. Along the way he managed
Hank Brown's campaigns for representative and then senator. He was
elected to Brown's House seat in 1990, and now he's running for
Brown's Senate seat.
Earlier this year, Allard
came under fire from environmental groups, which ran full-page
newspaper ads of rock-strewn dry streambeds, portraying Allard as a
heartless fish-killer errand boy for Newt
At issue were several reservoir sites
in Roosevelt National Forest, leased by Front Range cities. As the
old leases expired, the Forest Service tried to get provisions in
the new leases to guarantee that enough water would be released
from the reservoirs to maintain minimum stream
"Wayne fought this as a federal intrusion
into Colorado water policy," explained his campaign manager, Dick
Wadhams. "He wasn't trying to dry up any new streams, but only to
preserve the current status." The matter is now under review by a
commission which is supposed to make recommendations sometime next
Wadhams also said it's unfair to portray
Allard as uncaring about environmental issues. He said the
congressman has worked to maintain the old Rocky Mountain Arsenal
site on the north side of Denver as a wildlife preserve and to
prohibit development along North St. Vrain Creek on the east side
of Rocky Mountain National Park.
in working on the local level to build support and consensus,"
Wadhams added, "rather than establishing policy by fiat from
Aside from the environment, Allard
is running the standard Republican campaign - economy in
government, balancing the budget, more local
The latest polls show them neck and neck
as they try to define themselves and each other. As for Colorado's
newcomers, they arguably come to the state for its down-home charm
- a factor that could favor Allard. If they care about the
environment, and do some homework on the issues, it's more likely
they'll turn to Strickland.
Ed Quillen writes from