It was disappointing to see a copy of the latest Colorado Statesman and read the headline: “Hasan opens treasurer’s race by attacking his foes.” Just last week I welcomed Ali Hasan to the Republican state treasurer’s primary and re-issued the admonition to stay focused on incumbent Cary Kennedy.
Not that Hasan or any other candidate has any special need to defer to my wishes. But in a potentially promising year for Republicans and fiscal conservatives, with an incumbent Democrat at the end of the tunnel, the advice is very sound. So seeing the newcomer to the race blasting fellow Republicans J.J. Ament and Walker Stapleton as “fiscal liberals” in the first paragraph of the story just about made my head spin.
Reading the substance of the charges, at least as presented in the Statesman article, made it even worse. Most disturbing was the quote taken out of context from Stapleton’s website — portraying a descriptive statement about what could happen if we don’t reform the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) as a normative statement about Stapleton’s agenda:
Hasan also placed a poster featuring Stapleton’s picture and a boldface quote onto an easel. Hasan read aloud the quote, which he attributed to Stapleton’s campaign Web site.
“At best, PERA’s future is questionable. And the risk extends beyond government workers to every taxpayer in the state, since any unfunded liability in state pension funds will ultimately have to be borne by a Colorado-taxpayer-funded bailout.”
Hasan deemed Stapleton a “fiscal liberal” who will use taxpayers’ money to bail out PERA.
“I feel that Walker Stapleton will use the bully pulpit of the state treasurer’s office to help PERA — not the Taxpayer Bill of Rights,” said Hasan. “Over my dead body would a bailout of PERA take place by increasing taxes on every Coloradan.”
It doesn’t matter if you like the idea or not. The fact of the matter is that if we let PERA go insolvent, the obligation for the debt rests with the state — and ultimately with the taxpayer.
Therefore, not only did Hasan falter in his opening gambit by attacking his Republican primary opponents, but at least one of those attacks is fundamentally unserious. (And maybe someone out there can help me make sense of the claim that Ament’s stance on Pension Obligation Bonds represents a violation of the spirit — if not the letter — of TABOR. I certainly don’t see it.)
I hope that there was a lot missing from the Statesman story, but it’s hard to see how it could make the situation much better. If this is the start of a developing theme, then I can confidently say the two earlier candidates in the race have made much stronger cases for their own credentials and qualifications to replace Cary Kennedy.
I still have much to learn, but I don’t see any advantage in the timing and approach to Hasan’s entry into the treasurer’s race. Whether you agree or disagree, don’t forget to sound off on this race and others by Friday afternoon on our survey of Colorado’s political temperature.