DENVER—It’s not every day you see Ken Buck siding with John Hickenlooper, or Tom Tancredo lining up with Rick Palacio.
But that’s the scenario surrounding Amendment 64, the marijuana-legalization measure on the Nov. 6 ballot that has shuffled the deck on party allegiances like nothing in recent Colorado political history.
Rubbing shoulders in the No on 64 camp with Democratic Gov. Hickenlooper and the Colorado Education Association are Republicans Buck and Attorney General John Suthers.
Meanwhile, former Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo is stumping on behalf of the Yes on 64 campaign, which is backed by the Colorado Democratic Party, the American Civil Liberties Union and ProgressNow-Colorado.
“I don’t think there’s a Republican or Democratic message—I think there’s a Colorado message,” said Roger Sherman, chief operating officer of CRL Associates, the Denver public-affairs firm consulting on behalf of the No on 64 campaign.
Sherman’s involvement has raised eyebrows because he’s actively working to defeat some of the Republicans who make up the No on 64 alliance. In addition to his work on the anti-legalization campaign, Sherman serves as treasurer of Fight Back Colorado, which has targeted Republican legislators who voted against the civil-unions bill at the end of the 2012 legislative session.
Those Republicans include House Speaker Frank McNulty, who’s listed second only to the governor on the No on 64 website’s tally of top endorsements. McNulty is also featured prominently on the Fight Back Colorado website under the headline, “Farewell, Frank.”
“It’s time we have a new Speaker, someone who truly speaks for all of us,” says the Fight Back website. “After all, a majority of Colorado residents support civil unions, and we need our representatives to represent our values.”
Sherman said his participation in Fight Back Colorado is unrelated to his position as the number-two executive at CRL Associates and his role as a spokesman for No on 64.
“The work I’m doing with Fight Back Colorado is on my personal time,” said Sherman.
His duties with No on 64 means crossing paths with Buck, the Weld County District Attorney who opposed same-sex marriage in his 2010 Senate campaign. Sherman says their political differences haven’t created a problem.
“Ken Buck has been absolutely terrific to work with on the No on Amendment 64 campaign and I appreciate his enthusiasm on this issue,” said Sherman.
Buck agreed that the marijuana-legalization issue “cuts across many political lines.”
“I’m usually not on the opposite side of Tom Tancredo,” said Buck. “And I haven’t been on the same side as John Hickenlooper or the CEA in a long time.”
Both sides have highlighted the bipartisan nature of their support in their campaign literature and statements.
“I think it’s really heartening how people are putting politics aside to work together to make sure Colorado doesn’t become the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use,” said Buck.
Amendment 64 would permit adults 21 and over to use and possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and establishes a regulatory and taxation framework similar to that of alcohol. Seventeen states, including Colorado, now regulate medical marijuana, but no state has decriminalized marijuana for non-medical uses.
Tancredo may be the best-known Colorado Republican in the legalization camp, but he points out that the issue has received support from a number of distinguished conservatives.
“This issue harkens back to the views of William F. Buckley Jr., Milton Friedman and Barry Goldwater, who said that government has no right to interfere in these decisions,” said Tancredo. “It’s none of the government’s business.”
Sparring with Republicans who are usually his allies has been an interesting experience, he said. Tancredo said he and Buck are in the process of arranging a televised debate on Amendment 64 to air on “The Devil’s Advocate” on Colorado Public Television Channel 12 with Jon Caldara.
“Frankly, I enjoy the intellectual stimulation I’ve had from this debate,” said Tancredo.