With Proposition 103 headed for November’s ballot, the opposition to Sen. Rollie Heath’s initiative to restore 1999 sales and income tax rates–3% and 5% respectively, up from 2.9% and 4.63%–is heating up. Through most of the spring and summer, opposition to this initiative generally consisted of laughing it off, scoffing at its (formerly) small base of support, confident predictions that the campaign wouldn’t even get enough signatures to reach the ballot, etc.
Needless to say after the Proposition 103 campaign submitted over 142,000 signatures, that line of attack was in need of some retooling.
So what seems to be happening now, as we’ve seen in conservative blog posts and an editorial in the Colorado Springs Gazette this weekend, is a shift to attacks on the person of Sen. Rollie Heath. In this weekend’s Gazette, editor Wayne Laugesen goes positively nuts in a confused but bitterly angry editorial, denouncing Heath using just about every right-wing cliché in the book. Laugesen declares Heath an “extreme Boulder liberal,” but then pivots to a very different description of Heath as a “limousine liberal” so as to acknowledge his long corporate record as director of ARMCO Steel and numerous other executive positions–and still somehow bash him. It’s just weird and inconsistent, to the point of being downright silly.
And it’s also where their caricature of Sen. Heath breaks down. In terms of his actual record, Heath is about as far from a “Boulder liberal” as you can get while technically being a registered Democrat in the city of Boulder. On the contrary, Heath has frequently served as the middleman in negotiations between majority Democrats and business interests–as in the recent debate over payday lending reform–and he’s in no way considered an “anti-business” lawmaker by any stretch (witness the very same payday lending battle). Proposition 103 itself represents a compromise from the position of many Democrats who favored a competing more progressive tax reform proposal, and Heath says his initiative can win over business support.
Bottom line: a couple of weeks ago, another wealthy businessman named Warren Buffett published an opinion column in the New York Times calling on lawmakers to stop “coddling the super-rich” like himself. Republicans answered Buffett with a furious bout of character assassination and ridicule–too much, actually, to the extent of underscoring Buffett’s point.
Once Colorado Republicans figure out if Sen. Heath is a Che Guevara-loving communist or Montgomery Burns from The Simpsons, they might want to ask themselves if this ad hominem campaign against Heath is really a good idea. Or if it might actually backfire.