Bruce’s primary loss leaves him commentless

By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

COLORADO SPRINGS — When Rep. Douglas Bruce was appointed to the House, he refused to be sworn in with the other legislators. The sly Colorado Springs Republican calculated that a delay would create an end-run around term limits and enable him to run and win four consecutive two-year terms in House District 15.

Bruce should have spent more time on manners and less on math.

Republican primary voters rebelled against Bruce’s rude behavior and rallied for his Republican opponent, Mark Waller, and Bruce lost the primary race by 320 votes.

“A lot of people know Douglas Bruce as the guy who kicked the photographer in Denver,” said Waller of his former opponent.

Most candidates concede as soon as their defeat is known. But at press time, Waller had yet to receive a concession call from Bruce.

“I do not wish to speak with you,” said Bruce, in response to a call asking for his take on the election results and his future plans.

He abruptly hung up the phone.

The first primary election count of mail-in ballots gave Waller an 8 percent edge over Bruce, but the margin narrowed as the votes were counted.

Of the 8,907 votes cast in the Tuesday primary, Waller won 52 percent and Bruce 48 percent.

Waller and his supporters were elated as they watched the returns at the Fox and Hound Restaurant on the east side of Colorado Springs. Hours earlier, Waller and his son, Truman, had waved campaign signs during a “honk and wave” on a nearby corner.

“It’s wonderful!” enthused El Paso County Commissioner Amy Lathen. She — along with commissioners Sallie Clark, Jim Bensberg and Dennis Hisey — had endorsed Waller.

“Mark is going to be a good addition to our delegation,” said Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs. “He will be a very effective legislator. He’s friendly and open to ideas, and he’s not a one-issue person. It’s a refreshing change.”

Liston and Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, had urged delegates to support Waller at the district Republican assembly in April. Waller won 57 percent of the vote and snared top line on the ballot. Bruce received 43 percent.

“Douglas Bruce works hard for the issues that he believes in,” said El Paso County Commissioner Wayne Williams. “He wasn’t as effective as he could have been. There are a large number of people who appreciate his strong stands. Losing by 320 votes is not a large margin.”

Bruce was endorsed by Rep. Kent Lambert and Sen. Dave Schultheis, both Colorado Springs Republicans. Williams did not endorse a candidate in the primary.

“I’m confident that we’ll continue to hear from Douglas,” Williams said. “He’s been more effective as a citizen legislator.”

Late last year, Bruce was appointed to the House seat that was vacated when Sen. Bill Cadman was chosen to replace former Sen. Ron May, who retired last fall. Bruce’s short tenure was long on reports of bad behavior.

The former El Paso County commissioner and “father of TABOR” arrived at the Legislature making demands and gaffes, and generating almost enough negative news to rival Brittney Spears.

Incensed that his photo was being taken during a prayer at the Legislature, Bruce kicked a Rocky Mountain News photographer. The incident resulted in Bruce becoming the first Colorado legislator in history to be censured.

Bruce allegedly refused to vote for a resolution to honor veterans — an assertion he later said was a lie — and called migrant farm workers, “illiterate peasants,” during discussion of a bill sponsored by Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Colorado Springs.

“There was no grand conspiracy to go after Douglas Bruce in the Legislature,” said Liston, recalling Bruce’s tendency to blame others for his snafus. “Doug was his own worst enemy.”

Waller, an attorney who served in the Air Force, described himself as a pro-life, pro-family conservative Republican. Instead of waging a traditional campaign on legislative issues, Waller promised to represent the district in a respectful way. The bottom line: voters could count on a team player instead of a prima donna.

Waller will run against Democrat Michelle Maksimowicz in the general election.

“It’s awesome!” said Waller of his victory. “Next, we’re going to seriously take on the Democratic challenger.”