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Posted: January 06, 2010

Ritter’s decision might have the GOP rethinking theirs

A new Democrat in the mix changes the dynamic

Jeff Rundles

Like everyone else, I was taken aback by Gov. Bill Ritter's decision not to seek re-election to a second term this year. I'll take him at his word that it was an "intensely personal" reason, having to do with his family. Whatever anyone thinks of Gov. Ritter politically, there is no dispute anywhere that he is the ultimate family man.

The job of governor over the three years Gov. Ritter has been in office, and especially the last year and half or so as the economic crisis gripped the state, has not been an easy one. Pretty tough for anyone, Republican or Democrat, to address the political agenda they got elected on in such an economic climate. Certainly very little of the fiscal mess the state finds itself in can be attributed to Bill Ritter, no matter what his opponents say or planned to hammer him with in the coming campaign.

Still, Gov. Ritter's tenure has been an odd one. He rankled his own party and political backers, particularly the unions, with decisions early on, he launched study after study and very little real policy, and I don't believe I am alone in thinking the appointment of Michael Bennet to Ken Salazar's senate seat was, well, goofy. More than any other Colorado governor, Republican or Democrat, in my experience -- and I go back to Johnny Van -- the Ritter Administration always struck me as more rhetoric than reality.

So Ritter has bowed out, for whatever reason, and what we are left with is the political landscape. I was torn about the coming governor's race already in that I was very disappointed with Ritter's job performance, but I simply detest the presumptive Republican candidate Scott McInnis. No matter what the Democrats do now, it is pretty clear the Republicans have plugged their respective noses and settled on McInnis - an unlikeable, undistinguished former congressman. A new Democrat in the mix obviously changes the dynamics of the coming race, so I wouldn't be surprised if the Republicans rethink where they are this first week in January.

Politics used to be fun, with interesting, outstanding people and not a few scoundrels on both sides of the aisle, but there was always hope that a Hank Brown and Bill Armstrong or Ray Kogovsek and Tim Wirth would emerge to display true leadership. Now the fringes rule with frayed thinking. People have always joked that politics came down to a choice of the lesser of evils. It's no joke anymore.

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Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Email him at jrundles@cobizmag.com.

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Readers Respond

Families - and the need to spend more time with them - have thwarted more prominent political and business careers than I can think of. By Keith DuBay on 2010 01 07

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