Former Sen. Bill Armstrong: The guy who went from saying “no” to saying “maybe”

U.S. Rep. Jack Kemp of New York and and U.S. Bill Armstrong of Colorado in 1984. (Armstrong family photo)
U.S. Rep. Jack Kemp of New York and and U.S. Bill Armstrong of Colorado in 1984. (Armstrong family photo)

As Congress was fighting the debt ceiling in 2013, Dick Wadhams, Colorado’s political historian, passed on a New York Times story he knew I would enjoy: a 1983 feature on U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong and his brand of conservatism.

“In one sense the Senator is a missionary, preaching the gospel of fiscal rectitude to the heathens on Capitol Hill. But, in another sense, he is a pragmatist who knows how to count votes and when to accept a deal,” the newspaper wrote.

“I’m relatively inflexible on principles,” the Colorado senator told the Times, “but I’m flexible on the details.”

I reprinted the articled in the Denver Post’s award-winning political blog, The Spot, and it’s worth rereading. Armstrong died Tuesday at the age of 79.

“Have I changed in my inner self?” he said in the 1983 Times article.

“The answer is yes. Some. I’m very comfortable now with people whose political views are very different from my own, and that was hard for me 10 years ago. Until you’ve had some of the rough edges knocked off, it’s awfully easy to be brash, and feel like you’ve got all the answers. But as you gain more experience, you realize nobody has all the answers, and that fosters a degree of intellectual humility.”

Read moreFormer Sen. Bill Armstrong: The guy who went from saying “no” to saying “maybe”

Honoring “The Lady of the House”

Former Sen. Dottie Wham, former Capitol staffer Mary Sharon Wells, Sen. Pat Steadman and lobbyist Charlie Hebler at the memorial tribute for Lee Bahrych, former chief clerk of the House, Tuesday at the Colorado State Capitol. (SOS photo)
Former Sen. Dottie Wham, former Capitol staffer Mary Sharon Wells, Sen. Pat Steadman and lobbyist Charlie Hebler at the memorial tribute Tuesday at the Colorado State Capitol for Lee Bahrych, former chief clerk of the House. (SOS photo)

Lawmakers past and present showed up Tuesday to pay tribute to Lee Bahrych, the former chief clerk of the state House who loved the Capitol as much as she despised the pranks rowdy lawmakers were prone to pull.

Former staffer Donna Acierno recalled how Bahrych once got so annoyed with Rep. Scott McInnis she grabbed the lawmaker’s ear and made him sit down in his seat.

“That was before Scott was in leadership,” Acierno said, with a laugh.

Chief Clerk Marilyn Eddins and former Rep. Jeff Shoemaker at a tribute Tuesday for the late Lee Bahrych. (SOS photo)
Chief Clerk Marilyn Eddins and former Rep. Jeff Shoemaker at a tribute Tuesday for the late Lee Bahrych, former chief clerk of the House. (SOS photo)

McInnis, who went on to become the House majority leader, a congressman and now a Mesa County commissioner, was present at Bahrych’s tribute in the old Supreme Court chambers at the Capitol. Afterward, guests were invited to have strawberries and pound cake — in honor of Bahrych’s tradition of serving strawberries to her staffers once the session ended.

Bahrych, who died in April at the age of 90, had worked at the Capitol from 1970 to 1994.

“I thought it was a beautiful tribute to a great lady,” said the current chief clerk, Marilyn Eddins. “Lee was there when I was interviewed and hired in 1982. I had not been employed in 16 years and was very nervous. She put me at ease and I have never forgotten her kind words and encouragement. That encouragement never stopped.”

Eddins became emotional when talking about Bahrych.

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In memory of Lee Bahrych, former chief clerk of the state House

Chief Justice Luis Roveria and Lee Bahrych, the chief clerk of the state House of Representatives in this undated photo. (Lee Bahrych family)
Chief Justice Luis Rovira and Lee Bahrych, the chief clerk of the state House of Representatives, smile for the camera in this undated photo. Bahrych, who died in April, will honored at a memorial service Tuesday. (Lee Bahrych family photo)

Lee Bahrych, who served as chief clerk of the Colorado House of Representatives, retired from the state more than two decades ago but her legacy lives on today.

It was her idea that when a former representative passed away, their families be invited into the House chamber when the memorial was read and adopted. When she realized those touring the Capitol had no where to sit, she designed benches that were placed on all the legislative floors. And she understood long before her peers that technology was going to change the place and chaired a committee to make it happen.

Glee Coffman Bahrych, known as “Lee,” died April 10, 2016 at the age of 90. Bahrych, who began working for the legislature in 1970 and became the chief clerk in 1985, will be memorialized at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the old Supreme Court chamber.

Former Rep. Jeff Schoemaker will deliver the eulogy.

“Lee Bahrych was truly the ‘Lady of House,'” said the current chief House clerk, Marilyn Eddins. “I don’t remember who coined that phrase, but it’s true. Because of her I have loved every minute of my work in this beautiful building.”

Read moreIn memory of Lee Bahrych, former chief clerk of the state House

Ghosts of Colorado caucuses past, from nuns to a naked boy

The year was 2008 and interest in Colorado’s quirky and confusing precinct caucus system reached a zenith thanks to the presidential race, especially on the Democratic side.

Precinct co-chair Jamie Laurie counts votes for Hillary Clinton at one of 15 causes at East High School on Feb. 5, 2008. Barack Obama's supporters outnumbered Clinton supporters 1,033 to 394 in the 15 precincts. (Rocky Mountain News/
Fifteen Democratic caucuses were held at East High School on Feb. 5, 2008. Barack Obama’s supporters outnumbered Hillary Clinton supporters 1,033 to 394 in the 15 precincts. (Rocky Mountain News/Western History/Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library)

As a  political reporter for the Rocky Mountain News, I asked a variety of politicos — from then-City Auditor Dennis Gallagher to U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard to former First Lady Wilma Webb — about their precinct caucus experiences.

With Colorado Republicans and Democrats holding their precinct caucuses tonight, here’s that 2008 story:

Ah, there’s nothing like memories of caucuses past

By Lynn Bartels, Rocky Mountain News

The famed astronaut. The naked boy. The chocolate frosting. And don’t forget the nuns and the no-shows.

Read moreGhosts of Colorado caucuses past, from nuns to a naked boy