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Publish Date: 10/3/2006

Owens says one party in control would be bad

DENVER — Coloradans should protect themselves from the possibility of Democrats continuing their control of the Legislature by electing a Republican governor, GOP Gov. Bill Owens said Monday.

During his monthly appearance on KOA Radio’s “Mike Rosen Show,” Owens predicted Colorado will become “a very tough place to do business” if Democrats control the Legislature, the governor’s office and what Owens called a “liberal” Colorado Supreme Court.

Owens, who’s in his eighth and final year as governor, must turn over the reins of office in January.

The winner is likely to be either Democrat Bill Ritter or Owens’ choice, Republican Bob Beauprez.

While some September polls showed Ritter with a double-digit lead over Beauprez, Owens predicted that lead will narrow as Coloradans start to focus on what it would be like to have a Democratic governor along with a Democratic Legislature.

Evan Dreyer, Ritter’s deputy campaign manager, scoffed at Owens’ stated concern about Democrats’ controlling both the executive and legislative branches of government.

“The Republicans’ controlling the White House and both houses of Congress has been such a wild success,” Dreyer said Monday.

But Owens suggested the result would be enactment of many laws that Owens rejected with more than 90 vetoes during the past two years, when Democrats held an 18-17 majority of state Senate seats and a 35-30 majority in the Legislature’s House of Representatives.

Ritter campaign spokeswoman Laura Chapin, however, repeated the Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s insistence that he also would veto legislation he thinks would be bad for Colorado, even if those bills have Democratic sponsors.

“Bill (Ritter) views being governor as being the gatekeeper to good public policy, regardless of party,” Chapin said in a Monday interview. “He will evaluate any bill on its merits.”

Owens said many of the proposed laws he’s blocked would have harmed the state’s business community when groups such as labor unions and trial lawyers “have really come after the private sector,” he said.

Owens cited, for example, a bill that would have allowed striking workers to get unemployment benefits, one that would have mandated that employees be given access to their confidential personnel records, and one that would have prohibited employers from calling workers to meet with them to discuss the businesses’ positions on labor unions.

If Ritter becomes governor, there will be “a dramatic increase” to businesses’ bottom line, Owens warned.

Chapin noted that the Democrat “has attracted substantial support from the business community. That’s a reflection of his vision for Colorado.”

She said of Ritter: “He’s been an independent candidate, and he’ll be an independent governor.”

Asked about reports that some members of the business community aren’t supporting Beauprez because of his opposition to Referendum C, the budget-stabilization measure that Owens and Ritter supported and that voters approved last year, Owens said Beauprez has since said he’d carry out the voters’ will on that measure.

Owens noted that he’d enforced Amendment 23, the school-funding mandate that voters approved in 2000 over Owens’ opposition.

There are more important issues than past stances on ballot questions to measure a gubernatorial candidate by, Owens said.

What should be important to Colorado voters, Owens said, is which major-party candidate would be most similar to Owens’ own policies and political beliefs. In this election, he said, that would be Beauprez.

Owens said he and Beauprez probably agree on at least 90 percent of the issues facing the state, while Owens and Ritter probably agree on only about 30 percent.

Owens said that with Congress in recess, Beauprez — who represents a suburban Denver congressional district — can devote his full attention to the campaign and Colorado voters can take a closer look at the GOP candidate.

“I think it’s going to be a very close race,” Owens said.

John Fryar can be reached by e-mail at jfryar@times-call.com.

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