I used to think the South would join the rest of the country. Now I see the rest of the country became more like the South.
They have a fondness for a rascal Down South, and this election will tell us if Colorado does, too.
Take Edwin Edwards, the governor of Louisiana four times. He shined like new money in a thousand-dollar suit and neat silver hair every time you saw him on TV. He seemed like a guy who would sell you a stolen car. You knew who you were dealing with, and he was hard not to like. A certain segment of society beaten by the system admires a knight in tarnished armor who can beat it back.
“Who paved the parking lot at the football stadium?” he’d call out at a rally, his Avoyelles Parish upbringing rounding his vowels. “Who’s four-laning the highway to Abbeville?”
Edwards was acquitted of bribery in his third term, but suspicions lingered. In 1991 he won a fourth term by beating David Duke, the repentant former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
“Vote for the Crook. It’s Important.” I chuckle remembering the bumper stickers. “Elect the Lizard, Not the Wizard.”
Edwards would have been luckier if he'd lost. He legalized gambling, then extorted casino companies out of $3 million. He served eight years of a 10-year sentence, then he had a reality TV show with his much younger wife.
Colorado can hardly compare. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper is getting shoved around a bit in the U.S. Senate race over his ethics violations related to his travel in office.
Gardner hit the high points in a Sept. 10 TV spot, as he washed a Maserati, the same make as the limousine Hickenlooper rode in in Italy free of charge to a conference, one of the allegations against him. "It was completely dirty," Gardner said.
Hick has a drunk driving history, but he was a beer man and it's old news now.
On the Western Slope, Lauren Boebert, the Rifle restaurant owner and Republican nominee for Congress, has demonstrated she’s not afraid to walk on the wild side.
The first-time candidate upset incumbent Scott Tipton in the primary and faces former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, the Democrat from Steamboat Springs who lost to Tipton two years ago.
We didn’t know much about Boebert until she called out then-Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke on guns in Aurora last year, then defied Gov. Jared Polis’ order to keep restaurants closed this spring, plus she expressed some support for a QAnon conspiracy theory (she's disavowed the organization since) and apparently sold some bad pork sliders at the local rodeo in 2017.
In July, my friend Jason Salzman at the Colorado Times Recorder flagged a video on her restaurant's website. In it a 17-year-old waitress confided she wears a sidearm, like the rest of the wait staff, at Shooters Grill. That’s too young to legally pack heat in Colorado. The waitress added that Boebert allows it, because it's her business.
In August, Jason reported that four years ago Boebert ditched a court appearance and earned a warrant for failing to appear. She faced careless driving and unsafe vehicle charges after she drove her truck into a ditch near her home.
The law caught up to her four months later, and Boebert received a mugshot, had her fingerprints taken and eventually was fined $100.
Then last month, Faith Miller at Colorado Newsline reported Boebert had a verbal dustup with authorities at a country music festival in 2015, interfering with the cops detaining some kids on suspicion of underage drinking. She landed a disorderly conduct charge that the district attorney later dismissed.
This week comes a new political action committee called Rural Colorado United. It's putting up billboards in District 3's largest counties, Mesa and Pueblo, calling Boebert a lawbreaker.
“Voters deserve to know about Boebert’s troubled history with law enforcement,” said George Autobee, who created the PAC with fellow Pueblo resident Stephen Varela.
The next day, Autobee sought to knock holes in her bio, including whether she really grew up in a Democratic household, as she's said during the campaign. Autobee found that Boebert's mother was registered as a Republican much of Boebert's childhood. Her campaign said that doesn't disprove her story.
"[T]here also was clearly a period of time when she wavered back and forth in how she registered," said Boebert's spokeswoman, Laura Carno. "What isn’t reflected in that record is that Lauren’s mom voted for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, which again aligns with the fact that Lauren was raised in a Democrat household."
Carno pointed to other media's questioning whether Boebert's story about carrying a gun because of a murder near her business really happened by providing a police document regarding the incident in 2013.
She might be an unapologetic renegade, but Boebert isn't taking chances. I asked to speak to her about the new bulldog group and its personal allegations.
I got a statement instead.
“A $100 fine turned into a billboard seems like desperate mudslinging. Given Diane Mitsch Bush’s tax hiking, job killing socialist agenda, voters will see right through these petty personal attacks, and vote for me in this election," Boebert stated.
She should throw in a four-lane to Abbeville.
A candidate under attack, however, is a candidate with attention, focus and energized allies. In a close race this could backfire on Democrats. Boebert is who she is.
The test is whether she has the staying power of other renegades before her.