Gossip

Political gossip and notes from The Colorado Statesman.

LUKE, WE HARDLY KNEW YE

Luke Korkowski, one of the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate whose names you’ve probably haven’t gotten used to yet, well, don’t worry about it now. He’s out of the race.

“Unfortunately, it is time to call this campaign to a close and to wish all the best to the other Republicans in the race,” said Luke in an email message. “We have some good and decent folks competing for the Senate position, and Colorado is lucky to have such a selection of choices. With your help, we’ll see a solid conservative take office in January 2011, and I strongly encourage you to stay engaged in the race and to support your favorite candidate.”

As for his own plans, Korkowski hinted at other possibilities he may pursue. “Each of us has the responsibility to act within our sphere of competence to ensure that our country regains the freedom we have lost. I will continue to do my part, whatever that may be. I encourage you to do yours as well,” he concluded.

KEEP AN EYE ON JANE NORTON AT THE MONOCLE

Any wonder U.S. Senate hopeful Jane Norton has been raking in the money? A cool $500,000-plus in just sixteen short days before the filing period ended. Not bad, and with almost 600 donors she’s off to a great start.

On Tuesday, Sept. 29, the savvy Republican candidate was hanging just a stone’s throw from the rear entrances to the Hart and Dirksen Senate office buildings on D St. where the well known Monocle Restaurant has been attracting pols from both parties since 1960.

But this get-together at Washington, D.C.’s popular Capitol Hill icon was expressly for Norton’s honor on this evening. Afterall, (sister) Judy and (brother-in-law) Charlie Black were part of the host committee for Norton’s reception upstairs in one of the Monocle’s private rooms. Judy, by the way, is a lobbyist with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, and Charlie has been a high powered lobbyist over the years and most recently John McCain’s chief advisor during the 2008 presidential campaign... And you don’t think they couldn’t attract an A-list group of donors for their kid sister?

Requested host contributions consisted of $2,500 from a PAC and $1,000 from an individual. Non-hosts were invited at $1,000 for PACS and $500 for individuals for the one and a half hour cocktails and appetizers.

Norton herself told us that 12 or 13 U.S. Senators were in attendance, and the restaurant had set up for about 70 guests total.

Unfortunately the ensuing conversation at the event was just too hush hush for even our most intrepid spy. Our RSVP to the Aristeia Group specified Off the Record and we know what that means.

So with our ears voluntarily plugged, we naturally had to pay special attention to the other reception details, such as the food.

Here’s what guests munched on at Norton’s fundraiser at the Monocle that night: A display of Genoa Salami, and assorted domestic and imported cheeses and fruits; grilled and oven roasted vegetables with asparagus and pesto; Chicken quesadillas with sour cream and avocado, tenderloin of beef (with horseradish cream, of course), cremini mushrooms stuffed with creamed spinach and parmesan; Salmon Tartar on cucumber rounds; and Belgian Endives filled with goat cheese, chutney and walnuts.

There was an open bar with domestic and imported beers, varietal wines, sparkling water, sodas and premium brand cocktails.

This is all our readers get to what their political palates for now..

APUAN'S BIRTHDAY CELEBRANTS POP GOP BALLOONS

Rep. Dennis Apuan, D-Colorado Springs, celebrated his 45th birthday with about 25 friends including “three blonde babes” who sang a breathy rendition of “Happy Birthday” in the style of Marilyn Monroe.

Birthday speeches by Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, and El Paso County Democratic Chair Jason DeGroot were spiced with raves for Apuan and razzes at Republican legislators.

“In Colorado Springs — known to some of you as the ‘belly of the beast’ — we turned House District 17 from red to blue after 16 years,” said Apuan, who added that it “signaled a seismic shift” in El Paso County politics.

When Apuan won HD 17, a swing district, last year, the Democrats gained a third legislative seat in the Republican bastion. The other two seats are held by Sen. John Morse and Rep. Michael Merrifield, who will be term limited in 2010. Merrifield plans to run for El Paso County commissioner.

“I demand an age recount!” joked Apuan at the birthday dinner hosted by Chuck and Maryann Murphy and Shirley and Lloyd Kordick, at Nanay Betty’s Filipino Restaurant on Oct. 3.

Guests enjoyed the Filipino fare of Beef Lumpia (egg rolls), Pancit (noodles), Asado (pork, potatoes and carrots), rice and Ginatan, (a yam, tapioca, coconut and banana dessert).

If Republican legislators in El Paso County “quit obsessing about Dennis having won election in House District 17, they might get more bills passed. He got six bills passed,” declared Pace.

“We work hard instead of playing partisan games like the other side,” said Pace, who returned fire on Republicans who had blasted Apuan during the legislative session.

Most GOP legislators from El Paso County criticized Apuan for not speaking against a bill to block the expansion of Fort Carson’s training site in Piñon Canyon. Apuan voted against the bill that passed and was signed into law by Gov. Bill Ritter.

“I’m going to do everything I can to get Dennis re-elected,” vowed Pace, who had campaigned for Apuan, walking door-to-door in HD 17 last year.

The birthday guests burst into laughter when Democrats Alpha Noel, Judi Ingelido and Phillis Lortz donned platinum wigs and bubblegum pink boas to serenade Apuan.

The vamps liberally spoofed “Three Blondes for Bush” — El Paso County Republicans Rep. Amy Stephens, State Board of Education member Peggy Littleton and Cindy Murphy, who snared 15 seconds of fame with Sean Hannity on Fox News during the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Ingelido is first vice chair of the county Democratic Party and Apuan’s campaign manager. Noel is manager of the county party headquarters and Lortz publishes the party newsletter.

The showstopper was the trio’s rendition of “He’s So Fine” — the 1963 hit recorded by The Chiffons. The lyrics were personalized for Apuan — and peppered with ammo against the GOP — by Merrifield.

“He’s so fine, that Rep of mine, that handsome guy over there, the one with the graying hair;

“I sure know how we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna help him shine, be the envy of all the R’s, it’s just a matter of time;

“He’s a soft spoken guy, also seems kind of shy; makes me know that I, should sign up to help him try;

“Then once again he’ll fly, fly above the GOPers, we’re gonna help him shine, like the star he is forever;

“He’s so fine, (Oh yeah); Gonna help him shine, (Oh yeah); Now, not later, (Oh yeah); Can’t be later, (Oh yeah); We’ve gotta work together, (Oh yeah); the sooner the better;

“We just can’t wait; we just can’t wait to show off all his charms;

“If you are a Dem, and he asked your help to win this fight, you’d do anything that he asked, anything to beat the Far Right;

“For he’s so fine, so fine, so fine…”

A PRIZE FIGHT FOR TAPIA’S PUEBLO SENATE SEAT

Lots of names have been mentioned as possible contenders to replace Sen. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, who will be term limited in 2010. At least two rumored challengers — Democrats Rep. Sal Pace and Pueblo City Councilman Larry Atencio — said they are not running for Tapia’s Senate District 3 seat.

The top contenders — at this early stage of the election cycle — are Democrat Angela Giron, regional representative for U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, and Republican Alexander Mugatu, a professional wrestler and businessman.

Giron, who hasn’t officially launched her campaign, has an edge over other contenders — Tapia’s endorsement.

“Pueblo needs a strong person — someone that can represent Pueblo well and someone that can take leadership roles and become a dynamic voice for southern Colorado,” said Tapia in newly released Giron campaign video.

“I believe Angela Giron can do that,” declared Tapia.

Prior to working for Bennet, Giron served as the regional representative to 13 counties for former U.S. Senator Ken Salazar, now the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Previously, she worked 27 years for the Boys & Girls Club of Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas Valley, starting as a program aide and rising to become vice president of operations.

“What I’ll bring to the Senate seat is an understanding of families — middle-class families as well as families who are struggling,” said Giron.

She said her top priority is economic development to create jobs that pay a living wage.

Tapia said that Giron shares a lot of his values, particularly “a lot of concern for children and for the needy and for the elderly.”

Giron has also served as a Democratic Party precinct committee chair and treasurer for the Pueblo Chicano Democratic Caucus. She is married to Steve Nawrocki, director of the Senior Resource Development Agency in Pueblo.

Giron’s daughter, Melanie Bravo, served as director of programs for the Colorado Springs-based El Pomar Foundation and in June became president and chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Club in Pueblo.

Mugatu, age 26, announced his Republican bid in July and immediately launched a Web site and communications through Facebook, Twitter and MySpace on the Internet.

“I don’t think Giron is going to be much of a threat to us,” said Mugatu, who added that he’s heard other Democrats may leap into the arena.

“As a business owner and an entrepreneur at heart, I now know what it means to be a fiscal conservative,” said Mugatu, who founded Icon Asylum Entertainment, which promotes sports entertainment.

Mugatu’s campaign platform includes putting a freeze on government spending; opposing tax increases; developing an energy plan that would also include nuclear, natural gas and coal; and securing the country’s borders from illegal immigration.

The Republican candidate also said that he thinks it’s time for the legislators to repeal laws.

“It seems that all they do is enact more and more laws,” said Mugatu. “As a friend of mine said, ‘Every day of the session that goes by, they make somebody a criminal.’”

Democrats, meanwhile, are questioning why the Republican candidate changed his name last year from Ernest Benjamin Lee Lucero to Alexander Bailey Mugatu.

“In a Senate district of largely Hispanic voters, why would you change your name from Lucero to Mugatu?” asked a Democrat who asked for anonymity.

“We knew they’d make something of that — and we’re prepared,” said Mugatu.

“I did it for professional reasons — it’s a stage name,” said Mugatu, who added that he’s won several wrestling titles including World Heavyweight Champion.

Another problem, he said, was that there are at least three people with the name Ernie Lucero in Pueblo.

Legal names aside, the Republican is running as Alex Lucero-Mugatu.

“Mugatu is a Spanish name,” he concluded.

STATE LAWMAKERS WILL HAVE TO GET THEIR BELGIAN CHOCOLATE FIXES ELSEWHERE

Belvedere Belgian Chocolate Shop owners Ivan Fears and Laurie Martin left Cherry Creek North in June 2008 and reopened about a year ago as Indulgences, etc. directly across the street from the Capitol at 229 E. Colfax Ave.

Shortly thereafter, says Fears, “My American dream turned into a nightmare.”

If something could go wrong, it did. Fears and Martin sank their life savings into renovating their space, a gutted restaurant. Pipes burst. There were conflicts with the contractors. The rent remained high, but the sales never really materialized.

They finally threw in the towel and shuttered the charming bistro-style shop for good on Tuesday, Oct. 6.

From now on, legislators jonesing for velvety handmade dark chocolate will either have to bring it from home or make do with a Hershey bar from the Argonant grocery, next door to the empty storefront.

From now on, the couple is limiting their enterprise to a wholesale and Internet operation, making candy and other confections and supplying Colorado’s microbreweries with Belgian chocolate and Belgian sugar.

“Wholesale is going to be a lot cheaper to run and operate, and we think we can make a go of it,” Fears said. “But I’m sure going to miss this. It’s sad to so many stores going out. I visited Europe recently, and when I went into the shops there, I recognized the America I grew up in. Everyone knew each other. We’ve lost that.”

CORRECTION

A question posed by Colorado Republican Party Chair Dick Wadhams to gubernatorial candidates last month incorrectly inferred that Gov. Ritter had signed an executive order on a golf course. (Keystone polls gives Penry wide margin, Oct. 2, 2009).

Referring to the election of Gov. Bill Ritter in 2006, Wadhams actually said that voters did not anticipate “that (Ritter) would sign an executive order on a dark Friday afternoon when he thought no one was looking and hand state government to union bosses.”

We regret this error and apologize to Chairman Wadhams, the Governor, and to our readers for making such a silly mistake.