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Bruce says Republicans were bamboozled on gerrymandering

Author: Joey Bunch - September 20, 2018 - Updated: October 15, 2018

Doug BruceFormer state Rep. Doug Bruce (Photo by Ed Andrieski/AP file photo)

The inimitable tax-hating ex-con Douglas Bruce is coming out swinging late in the campaign fight on issues he can’t stand.

The author of the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights has written his own voter’s guide on a handful of issues. He says it will soon be posted online.

The former El Paso County commissioner and state legislator, a devout Republican, takes special umbrage with his own party for supporting amendments Y and Z to change the way the state draws legislative and congressional districts, putting the map-making authority in the hands of independent commissions instead of under politicians who benefit from those maps.

RELATED: COVER STORY | Drawing the line on gerrymandering

Bruce said the two 12-member commissions — one for legislative and one for congressional districts — leave out minor parties, since they are one-third Republicans, one-third Democrats and one-third unaffiliated. Members also would be selected by retired judges, who overwhelming would be appointees of Democratic governors.

Since 1975, Colorado has had only one Republican governor, Bill Owens, who served from 1999 to 2007.

“It doesn’t fix it,” Bruce said of the ballot questions and gerrymandering. “It just slants everything to the Democrats, and the Republicans bought it hook, line and sinker.”

Alan Philp is a longtime Colorado Republican political consultant, who pointed to the long list of Republican supporters, and he doubted they were snookered. He supports the amendments, as well.

“John Andrews, Jon Caldara, Ken and Perry Buck, Mark Hillman, Tim Neville, John Suthers, Laura Carno, Jeff Crank, Bill Owens, Libby Szabo and about 500 of the most respected conservatives across Colorado got bamboozled?” he said. “We respectfully disagree. For the last 30 years, a single judge behind closed doors has almost always been the final arbiter of the state’s legislative and congressional maps. With Amendments Y and Z, that will change and partisan gerrymandering will be banned once and for all.”

Bruce said he has no money or organization to mount an effort to defeat the massive money and broad bipartisan political support behind the two measures, but he’s hoping to convince a few Republican legislators to come out against the two amendments. That, however, would mean admitting they were misled or misunderstood their votes at the end of the legislative session. Amendments Y and Z were referred to the ballot unanimously by the 100-member General Assembly.

“It would take a miracle to overcome a multimillion-dollar war chest,” he said, referring to Fair Maps Colorado, the organization supporting amendments Y and Z. “I’m just trying to get the word out through word of mouth and social media.”

While always one of the loudest political voices in any room, Bruce has a colorful history in Colorado politics, from being censured for kicking a press photographer at the statehouse to going to jail for 104 days after a tax evasion conviction in 2011 on charges he filed false tax returns and failed to pay taxes. He served 180 days in 2016 after he was found guilty of violating his probation. Bruce maintains his innocence.

Here are Bruce’s other ballot recommendations:

  • Amendment A to remove the 1876 wording from the state constitution that says prisoners are slaves. yes.
  • Amendment V to lower the age to serve in the legislature from 25 to 21: no.
  • Amendment W to shorten the ballot for retention of judges: no.
  • Amendment X to redefine state meaning of industrial hemp. no.
  • Amendment 73 to raise taxes on corporations and high-income earners for schools: no.
  • Amendment 74 to compensate those whose property values are reduced by regulations: yes.
  • Amendment 75 to raise contribution limits for candidates whose opponents use more than a million of their own money: no.
  • Proposition 109 to require legislators to borrow $3.5 billion for roads and bridges without raising taxes to repay it : no. (Deficits are “fiscal child abuse,” Bruce said.)
  • Proposition 110 to take transportation money from existing revenue: no.
  • Proposition 111 to cap short-term loans at 36 percent: no. (“You can’t protect the stupid,” he said.)
  • Proposition 112 to require a 2,500-foot setback for oil and gas operations: no.

Correction: This story previously said Bruce supported lowering the age to serve in the legislature. He does not.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.