Friday, January 8, 2010

Bill Ritter's exit challenges Dems

I don't think Bill Ritter likes me.

I endorsed him here (November 23) almost a year before I hoped he would be re-elected governor, yet before two months have passed, he ups and quits the race.

He told us he has failed to give the proper priority to his family over the past year of worrying over that re-election, and that by dropping out, he could discount re-election politics and make the right decisions for Colorado in the last year of his term.

I know nothing of the family failures, but I agree not running frees him up politically to make some tough decisions for the general good of Colorado. But he never made very good political decisions during his term anyway. That's why he faced a very tough re-election bid. (You can read my early take on it here in ColoradoBiz.)

Still, it puzzled me when I heard and read everything said and written about Ritter's surrender to the political forces of the day. Ritter ran for the nomination of his party for governor in 2006 as a stealth candidate, someone no one expected to take the slot on the ballot, yet someone who was well respected for having done the work necessary to earn it.

At ColoradoBiz back then, I refused to endorse Ritter because I thought his campaign reflected "blue-ribbon" positions of the national Democratic Party, and not individual stances specific to Colorado. Funny, he made a joke during his bow-out press conference that his personal decision not to run was not the product of any blue-ribbon commission.

Of course not. This decision had to be individual and inevitably was specific to Colorado. But that was my problem with Ritter. To me, he seemed to speak always from a political platform that was almost alien to him. A platform never upheld by his own, strong, personal conviction.

His decision to quit, based in his concern for his family, seems to come from such strong, personal conviction. I applaud him for that.

Now Democrats face the challenge of picking a candidate who can puncture the cartoon balloons Republicans cannot help but draw around their own staid-and-failed, limited-government policies. How, for instance, can you build highways with no money? Some Republican, especially those re-endorsing TABOR, needs to answer that question.

Ironically, Democrats are going to have to use Ritter's successes to convince Colorado voters that governing and government are honorable pursuits worthy of their support.

For that reason alone, the new governor's race should be an engaging political campaign.

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