Bruce Benson, one of Colorado’s best

Bruce Benson smiles as he talks to reporters after he was voted to be president of the University of Colorado by the CU Board of Regents Feb. 20, 2008. (Rocky Mountain News/Western History/Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library)

University of Colorado President Bruce Benson’s announcement last week that he was retiring in a year brought much deserved accolades about his contributions to education, but the reality is Benson’s investment in Colorado straddles a variety of issues. We are all the better for it.

I covered the legislature in 2005 when deep, deep cuts still hadn’t solved the budget crisis. There were very real behind-the-scene discussions about what was next. Community colleges and state parks were on the list, even though closing them would trigger economic disasters in those regions.

Bruce, an oilman and business executive, and two other high-profile Republicans, Gov. Bill Owens and then CU President Hank Brown, put their reputations on the line to push for the passages of Referendums C and D. The right dissed the tax measures but the trio held firm.

“This isn’t about politics; this is about good fiscally conservative policies,” Benson told the Pueblo Chieftain.

Read moreBruce Benson, one of Colorado’s best

Colorado, the “Burger King of elections”

Secretary of State Wayne Williams talks to Coloradans 50 and older about elections and other issues. He and Elena Nunez, the director of Common Cause, addressed an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute class on Tuesday. (SOS photo)

Colorado is “kind of the Burger King of elections,” Secretary of State Wayne Williams told a class Tuesday during a talk with seniors learning about government.

Williams and Elena Nunez, executive director of Common Cause Colorado, spoke to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a program through the University of Denver that provides adult learning for men and women age 50 and “better.”

Williams explained that Colorado is the only state that offers a mail-ballot system, early voting and polling-place locations two weeks before an election.

“So it’s kind of the Burger King of elections, right?” he said. “Having it your way, however you want to do it.”

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For now, the “bulletproof” congressman

Today's headline in The Denver Post after the congressman's successful re-election on Tuesday.
Today’s headline in The Denver Post after the congressman’s successful re-election on Tuesday.

Two years ago I interviewed an African immigrant who told me an interesting story about Congressman Mike Coffman.

It turns out the young man was quite upset when he opened his ballot and saw Democrat Diana DeGette and Republican Martin Walsh on the ballot.

He made inquiries. Where is my ballot with Republican Mike Coffman’s name? That’s when he learned he lived in Denver-based Congressional District 1 and not Aurora-based Congressional District 6.

Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora.
Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora.

I’ve thought of that interview many times in recent days as Arapahoe County Democrats outpaced Republicans in ballot returns. Sure, it was great for local Democrats but would it be great for Coffman’s challenger, Democratic state Sen. Morgan Carroll?

She became the third Democrat in a row to lose to Coffman since the 6th CD was redrawn to make what had been a conservative district a competitive one.

“Is Mike Coffman invincible?” the headline in today’s Sunday Denver Post asked.

Results from the Arapahoe County election website provide a fascinating glimpse of a swing county that for the most part went blue.

Read moreFor now, the “bulletproof” congressman

Secretary Wayne Williams kicks off City Club of Denver fall series

Secretary of State Wayne Williams will speak at City Club of Denver Sept. 13. (SOS photo)
Secretary of State Wayne Williams will speak at City Club of Denver Sept. 13. (SOS photo)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams will be the first speaker at the City Club of Denver when it resumes its guest programs this month.

Williams will discuss the upcoming election, including the race for president and citizen-initiated ballot measures, as well as possible legislation in the 2017 legislative session. Afterward he will answer questions.

The event will be held from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Sept. 13 at the Brown Palace. Click here to register for the lunch.

The City Club of Denver formed in 1922 when a group of businessman began meeting to discuss civic affairs. Since then, women have joined in and the organization has become an “active and influential source of knowledge about issues affecting metropolitan Denver,” according to its website.

Because many issues have political implications, politicians are frequent presenters at City Club, including Denver’s mayor in the fall and the governor the first of the year.

“One issue that we are struggling with and is reflective of the larger environment is polarization in politics,” said June Twinam, president of the City Club of Denver. “CCD is non-partisan and has always tried to present a spectrum or balance of opinions. However, during the last few years, this has become very difficult to get political rivals to agree to appear together and/or on a panel together — even with a skilled moderator.”

She said one reason she is “personally interested” in Williams’ presentation is “his reputation for fairness in discharging his public duties despite his personal preferences.”

Read moreSecretary Wayne Williams kicks off City Club of Denver fall series

Politico Katy Atkinson loses her battle with cancer

Political consultant Katy Atkinson.
Political consultant Katy Atkinson.

Political consultant Katy Atkinson, who started out working for Republicans and eventually handled high-profile nonpartisan ballot measures, died today.

Atkinson was a sought-after spokesperson by reporters because she knew Colorado politics and she quickly returned phone calls.

“Katy Atkinson was smart and witty and just a delight to be around,” said Dick Wadhams, the former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party and a veteran political consultant. “That’s what made her just a great person to work with in politics. In the most intense situation, she could laugh.”

Atkinson was a Colorado native who attended Wheat Ridge High School and Colorado College, where she graduated in 1978 — the same year she got her start in politics.

“She accomplished quite a bit but her son Randy was her greatest achievement,” said lobbyist Mike Beasley, who visited Atkinson Wednesday in hospice.

Atkinson was diagnosed with brain cancer. She was 59.

Read morePolitico Katy Atkinson loses her battle with cancer