In the positive spirit of the High Holy Day (St. Patrick’s Day for us Irish), let’s praise and thank legislative Democrats for ridding us of a needless, anti-democratic and self-serving bill offered by one of their own freshmen.
Let us speak today of Rep. Bob Marshall, D-Highlands Ranch.
Marshall won a razor thin, 407-vote victory that was perhaps the biggest surprise in a cycle full of surprises. His district (in which I live) is competitive, but just one out of five voters are registered Democrats and it’s listed as plus-seven GOP. Unaffiliateds, as in many suburban districts, are dominant. For context, the district lines changed little in the recent redistricting and in 2020, Republican then-Rep. (now Sen.) Kevin Van Winkle won a dominant 2,900-vote (or nearly 6 percentage point) victory.
To his credit, Marshall was out in the community and pounded the pavement, standing on busy intersections (often alone) and walked up and down major roadways with his homemade sandwich board firmly affixed. He proved that the candidate who wears out the most pairs of shoes walking the district often can make up for other challenges — including a voter registration deficit.
But Marshall is another in a long line of elected officials here and around the country who are electoral misfits, earning a victory in districts where their party is in the minority and where they were never expected to have a chance. Step one for the prudent misfit politician is to work on legislation that demonstrates a desire to represent the real needs of the whole district.
Bob Marshall chose a different path.
While Rep. Marshall is throwing meaningless votes to join Republicans on gun legislation, the true picture of legislators’ ideas and governing philosophy is found in the bills they personally, passionately champion.
In Marshall’s case, he solidified his misfit moniker by prime-sponsoring a bill to require counties with population of 70,000 or more to have five county commissioners. This includes his home county of Douglas now represented by three conservative Republicans.
What problem is Marshall trying to solve?
The bill finds larger counties with a paltry three-member county commission need the state to “maximize the opportunity for voters in Colorado’s largest counties to elect representatives who are reflective of and responsive to their interests and concerns.”
This new Marshall Plan seeks to end this “permissive system” — which means your freedom to have a smaller, leaner county commission will not be tolerated.
In other words, voters in these larger counties who are managing to somehow get by with three commissioners are too dimwitted to understand that they really need five, and they need the wisdom of Bob Marshall and the State of Colorado to rescue them from such a Podunk, out-of-touch government.
It is not clear that the Marshall Fab Five would create any better governance, just more politicians. What if Douglas County elects five conservatives? What if Boulder County elects five progressives, which is even more likely? Should the state then mandate seven or nine, or more? Should we then create county legislatures until Bob Marshall is satisfied political diversity is achieved?
What exactly is the “greater and more diverse representation” magically created by the Marshall Plan? It doesn’t mean more people of color, or women or underrepresented ethnic groups. This is code for “I want more Democrats in county office.”
Clearly, Marshall, being a political misfit in his own district, doesn’t like the fact his county has three conservative Republican commissioners and wants to use the heavy hand of state law to get his center-left views on issues aired. Or, like many misfits, in 2024 he may be facing what Churchill called the “Order of the Boot” from voters and might like a place to land.
Unlike the real Marshall Plan, the Misfit Marshall Plan crashed and burned on the runway. In fact, the bill was not only a bad fit for his own county, but it was also a misfit among the House Democrat mega majority. This ill-considered, arrogant and heavy-handed bill garnered just three votes in the House State, Civic, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.
So, a tip of the leprechaun’s hat to House members who — like St. Patrick, who chased the snakes out of Ireland — exiled this silly bill to the 2023 legislative abyss where it belongs.
Sean Duffy, a former deputy chief of staff to Gov. Bill Owens, is a communications and media relations strategist and ghostwriter based in the Denver area.
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