Jerry Kopel

Of course Roy Romer is going to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Hank Brown in 1996. Didn't I predict it in the Statesman on Nov. 18th?

At the time I stated Romer would run because of the pressure he would be receiving from the Democratic National Committee to help overcome a three-seat deficit in the U.S. Senate. But I, like everyone else, saw Brown as running for re-election.

When asked, the comments by Romer that he "had no interest in running" for the Senate seat are what one would expect at this time. There may be many adjectives to describe the governor, but "stupid" is not one of them.

Romer has to deal with the Republican-controlled legislature in 1995, and it will be tough enough to get his ideas considered without being an announced or semi-announced candidate for a Republican-held Senate seat. But whether "coyness" will work is another matter.

Why do I feel so certain Romer will run? Well, we have to go back thirty years. It was after the Colorado legislature had adjourned for 1965. State Senator Romer called me up and asked me to visit with him at his law office.

When I got there, 37-year-old Romer said he was going to run against Gordon Llewellyn Allott for the U.S. Senate, and would I support him? I said I would, but I also tried to talk him out of it, unsuccessfully. I had some inkling of the nationwide GOP tidal wave that would hit in 1966, based on Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam policies.

The 1966 race was one in which Senator Allott showed his political astuteness -- he wouldn't debate Romer. Roy Romer lost to Allott, by more than 100,000 votes out of 630,000 cast, 57 to 43 percent. Even Denver voted for Allott.

In defeat, Romer still voiced optimism publicly, appearing at the GOP party in the now-demolished Cosmopolitan Hotel to say "I congratulate you all and I may see you again." To the Denver Post he stated: "Most Democrats did worse in the election than the advance polls had indicated. I did better. But when you are a Democrat in a year like this, you can never be happy."

But privately, it was a devastating loss, and only a few were privy to how deeply he felt the defeat. There was speculation he would run again in 1968 against Sen. Pete Dominick, but that "honor" went to former governor, Steve McNichols, who lost BIG.

Romer would not surface politically again until 1965. In the meantime he made lots of money from his business interests. When Dick Lamm became governor in 1975, he chose Romer to head the Colorado Department of Agriculture, and the rest of the story, you already know.

It was clear to me in 1965, as it is in 1995, that being a U.S. Senator from Colorado is "unfinished business" for Roy Romer. There is one caveat to this otherwise solid prediction.

Romer understands what a "national GOP tidal wave" can do in Colorado. He experienced it in 1966. If Clinton, rather than Gore, is the Democratic presidential nominee, I would guess all bets are off. We will see a Democratic sacrificial lamb, and it won't be Roy Romer.


Jerry Kopel writes a column for the Statesman based on 22 years of past legislative experience.

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