Jerry Kopel

The political writers for Colorado's major daily papers have digested and dissected Gov. Romer's bow-out as a 1998 candidate. But we need to remember the U.S. Senate is still unfinished business for the governor. It was the only election he ever lost.

Even though it happened 31 years ago, losses are more distinct and hurting than any run-of-the-mill victory. Ask any one who has both won and lost.

The 1966 legislative session only considered subjects presented by the governor, and the short session ended Feb. 24th. On March 12, State Senator Roy Romer officially announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate at the opening of his Denver headquarters, 1634 Downing street. Hugh McClearn was his campaign chairman.

Romer had no primary opposition and his major piece of campaign literature was "politically correct". The front of the folded brochure shows Romer walking up the west steps of the state capitol building towards the photographer. The inside makes much of his eight years as a legislator: Chairman of House Judiciary, member of the Joint Budget Committee, assistant minority leader of the Senate Democrats.

His interest in education was emphasized: Chairman of the legislative interim Committee on Education Beyond High School, and head of the task group that led to creation of Metropolitan State College. Also stressed was his involvement in agriculture.

One picture shows Roy shaking hands with his church minister. I'm not sure whether it was Bea Romer's father. Roy's wife Bea stands by Roy, smiling, while their five children, Mary, Mark, Paul, Tim, and Chris descend the church steps.

The last part of the brochure fold has Roy Romer on the issues and there wasn't a single word in the ten issues listed, ranging from war and peace to natural resources, that the most conservative Republican could have found fault with.

The year 1968 was also the year of the Housewives Consumer Boycott of Supermarkets, seeking lower food prices in the metro Denver area. Romer got into the fray by charging in the Denver Post that "farmers, too, have been caught in middlemen squeeze plays and manipulative practices."

Vietnam and Lyndon Johnson were more than enough to bring out voters against the national Democrats whom they had swept into office just two years earlier. Romer had gone to Vietnam before announcing for the Senate to acquaint himself better on that issue.

In the nation's and Colorado's mood, U.S. Senator Gordon Allott did exactly what he needed to do: Ignore Romer, and never debate a better debater.

When it was over, Bartell Nyberg wrote the U.S. Senate story for the Nov. 9th Denver Post. Here are excerpts, beginning with the first graph: "Republican Sen. Gordon Llewellyn Allott, skimming along the crest of the nationwide GOP tidal wave, sailed past the challenge of Democrat Roy Romer Tuesday to earn a third six-year term in the U.S. Senate.

"The Republican incumbent garnered 365,518 votes, just under 58.1 percent of the total, to Romer's 263,697 votes, 41.9 percent, with just nine of the state's 1,941 precincts yet to report. (Actual numbers were 368,307 to 266,198 from the Secretary of States final abstract.)

"The Republican senator, 59, carried rural areas, along with Arapahoe and Jefferson Counties, overwhelmingly and even edged Romer in normally Democratic Denver (87,763 to 81,035). Romer led 21,087 to 17,467 in Pueblo County.

"Romer, a 38-year-old Denver attorney, ran slightly better than the Colorado Democratic ticket as a whole, with the notable exception of Mark Hogan who won the lieutenant governorship.

"Across the state, Allott, whose home is Lamar, won all but six counties. Romer's winners were primarily in southern Colorado -- Bent, Las Animas, Pueblo, Archuleta and Huerfano. Romer's only other winner was Lake County, in central Colorado. (Final results had him also carrying Costilla and Pitkin.)

"Even in defeat, though, Romer failed in what turned out to be his primary campaign task -- finding Gordon Allott.

"`I went to the Cosmopolitan Hotel to congratulate my opponent Tuesday night,' Romer said, `but even in defeat I couldn't find this man.'

"Throughout the campaign, Romer hammered hard at the 'invisible man' idea (`My opponent is hiding from me...Why won't he debate with me?')

"Allott, a silver-haired, one-time track star, conducted a subdued campaign marked by handshaking tours. He substituted paid political advertising -- a luxury his opponent said he couldn't afford -- for the joint television appearances used by other candidates.

"Romer, an eight-year veteran of the Colorado legislature, wasn't dismayed in defeat. Even though the Democratic hopeful conceded to his foe at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Romer felt the race `was pretty gratifying'.

"`Most Democrats did worse in the election than the advance polls had indicated' Romer said. `I did better'.

"`I honestly felt I had the toughest man (for an opponent) the Republicans had to offer in Colorado.' Romer continued `There is no anti-feeling in the state against Allott.'

"What about the future?.... `The first thing I plan to do is get reacquainted with five lovely children and remind my wife that I can be a husband as well as a campaigner.'

"`But I still think Colorado needs a Democratic senator' Romer said. `I will definitely give some thought to running against (Peter) Dominick in 1968'.

Post reporter Leonard Larson in a separate story noted "When Romer did go to the Cosmopolitan Hotel to find Allott and didn't, he did laud the rejoicing Republicans for their campaign work and added a warning: 'I congratulate you all and I may see you again'."

And of course, he did.


Jerry Kopel writes a column for the Statesman based on 22 years past experience as a state legislator.


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