I grew up in a family with Democratic blood, and I’ve voted on that side of the fence more often than not. Though I’ve been registered as an independent for the last decade or so, I voted for John Hickenlooper as governor of Colorado four years ago.
Hickenlooper’s eight-year tenure as mayor of Denver had been impressive, and I was eager to see what he could accomplish as governor. That’s when his past came crashing into the present. With Colorado ground-zero for the fracking debate, former geologist Hickenlooper has consistently made decisions that tend to line up with oil and gas interests and, in many people’s eyes, against citizens and municipalities.
He moved into the mayor’s seat after creating a Denver brewing dynasty, and upon becoming governor vocally opposed the passage of Amendment 64. Hickenlooper’s a bright guy, and he must know that cannabis is far less dangerous than alcohol for most people — heck, his beer buddy, the president, has said as much. So his stubborn opposition and seeming lack of curiosity about the subject has both puzzled and irritated me. He admitted to early use but said that it made him stupid and he didn’t like it, as if that were a good reason to keep it illegal. Since its passage, he has followed the law, but he’s been holding his nose all the way.
To his credit, Hickenlooper has praised the legalization roll-out and admitted that cannabis has helped the economy during a tough period. But watching the guv playing pool and drinking beer with the president while continuing to be unsupportive of cannabis reform begins to look as disingenuous as saying fracking fluid is safe because he once sipped some.
On the other side, we have Bob Beauprez. Given his positions on almost everything, I couldn’t vote for this Republican candidate for governor under any circumstances.
Which brings us to Mike Dunafon, the mayor of Glendale since 2012 and married to the owner of Shotgun Willie’s, who is also running for governor as an independent. And yes, he’s perfectly aware of how crazy it sounds to be running for the highest state office without party money or affiliation.
“We have got to change our operating system and say to ourselves that we are going to change this,” Dunafon told me last week. “If I get my ass kicked, so what?”
Glendale is tiny, just 0.6 square miles in size, with a population of about 4,200. Cherry Creek runs through the middle of it. It’s surrounded on all sides by Denver. Besides the strip club, Glendale boasts a worldclass rugby facility, something that Dunafon had a lot to do with, too.
Glendale uses a system of government similar to Boulder’s, with a city council that appoints a city manager. One difference is that the mayor only votes if the other six council members are tied on a particular issue. Which means that even though Dunafon is never shy about his opinions, he’s as much referee as rulemaker in a town where they regularly purge outdated laws from the books.
Dunafon says he’s the only mayor in the metro area to support Amendment 64, and he’s spoken at 420 rallies. He says that Amendment 64 showed people that they could go out and make a difference.
“But it’s a tragic mistake,” he adds, “if you only think you have one liberty or if you’re not ready to defend your neighbor’s liberty. You may not like it — you may not like homosexuals — but you better defend them. Because you don’t get to pick and choose those liberties. It’s all or none. Marijuana is a great metaphor for liberty.”
Dunafon is fiscally conservative and pro-gay marriage. He’s not opposed to fracking per se but wants to see oil drilling taking place someplace outside our cities and towns. He would free all non-violent offenders from the prison system and has some interesting ideas about how to get them back into the working class.
I’m so tired of two-party politics, the money and power that supports that system and the way it excludes almost anyone else from participation. Adherence to party affiliations and reliance on corporate money are at least two things feeding the current dysfunction and say-no politics in Washington.
What Dunafon’s candidacy reminds me is that perhaps the only way to chip away at the two-party system is to “vote the bastards out.” More than anything else, I really like the idea of the governor as more referee than policymaker, somebody who can goad both sides toward more common, non-partisan goals.
Some suggest that a vote for Dunafon might help Beauprez. But though he’s not a libertarian, Dunafon sounds enough like one that he could just as easily take voters away from a status-quo Republican teapartier like Beauprez as a pro-business Dem like Hick.
By all means, make your own decision based on the best facts you can find. (More on his positions at www.dunafonforgovernor.com.) But if you’re as fed up with party politics as I am, at least consider this alternative.
You can hear Leland discuss his most recent column and Colorado cannabis issues each Thursday morning on KGNU. http://news.kgnu/category/features/weedbetween-the-lines/