Who could forget the notorious ads launched by the Republican Governor’s Association in the lead up to Colorado’s 2010 gubernatorial election linking then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper to feckless Governor Bill Ritter as being “politicians of the same stripe.” Nearly two years in to the media love-fest known as the Hickenlooper administration, we have seen many similarities between the two Denver centric politicians. Both stay in Denver. A lot. Both surround themselves with the smartest people in the state. Don’t believe it? Just ask them.
But in spite of the expected similarities between the two Democrats from Denver, we have been intrigued by just how different Ritter and Hickenlooper are as leaders and politicians. The stark difference between the hard headed true believer (Ritter) and the noodle-spined opportunist currently occupying the first floor of the Capitol was on full display last week when Hickenlooper signed in to law House Bill 1271, a measure designed to restrict the ability of district attorneys around Colorado to directly charge 16 and 17 year old juveniles as adults.
When a similar bill landed on Ritter’s desk a few years ago, he immediately broke out the veto pen and went to work. Why? Perhaps his experience prosecuting thugs and criminals (regardless of their age) while John Hickenlooper was experimenting with beer recipes had something to do with it.
While Hickenlooper told Pueblo Chieftain Reporter Patrick Malone that he didn’t intentionally sign House Bill 1271 on the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, we believe the unforced error makes a pretty salient point. Although the most compassionate and caring among us will go to their graves believing that teenagers are incapable of committing unthinkable crimes, reading the newspaper every day leads us to a very different conclusion.
From our vantage point, we tend to agree with Attorney General John Suthers and most other prosecutors in Colorado in believing that the current system was not broken and that giving district attorneys the ability to direct file on juveniles – when the facts of the case warranted it — was an important tool in the administration of justice toolbox.
With the stroke of a pen, Hickenlooper may have gotten some members of his left wing coalition off his back. We sincerely hope the Governor never has to regret this decision.