Let Ralph Debate!
by Ari Armstrong, September 27, 2002
Libertarian Ralph Shnelvar and around 20 of his supporters rallied in Denver September 24 to protest his exclusion from a debate between his gubernatorial opponents, Bill Owens and Rollie Heath. The City Club of Denver sponsored the debate at the Brown Palace and told Shnelvar's campaign it would not permit third-party participation.
Ralph Shnelvar holds up a sign that says, "Let Ralph Debate!" Rand Fanshier is to Shnelvar's left; Mike McKinzie is to the right.
About as many people showed up to support Heath as appeared for Shnelvar, though 30-40 people rallied for Owens. While Heath's supporters simply claimed their corner and stood silently, the Libertarians and Republicans heckled each other and chanted.
The Republicans lamely spelled "O-W-E-N-S," and asked, "What does that spell?" Libertarians retorted, "Sell-Out!" Using a bullhorn, I started a few chants like, "Vote Bill Out" and "B.O. Stinks." Good clean fun.
The Libertarians were woefully under-signed -- Owens' supporters carried large purple signs and banners -- but I used that as a point of heckling. "Everybody who supports tax increases, hold up your purple sign! Everybody who supports sending sick cancer and AIDS patients to prison for smoking medical marijuana, hold up your purple sign! Everybody who supports gun registration in Colorado, hold up your purple sign!"
One fellow got a little miffed about my tax claims. Notably, he did not bother to try to debate me about firearms or medical marijuana, because Owens is obviously on the anti-freedom side of those issues. (When I asked one Republican if he supports sending sick people to prison for taking medical marijuana, he replied, "Yup.")
I heckle Owens' supporters. I even got to see the governor himself and deride him for supporting Amendment 22, which expanded gun registration.
With regard to taxes, I was referring to Bill 1310. Shnelvar explains in a September 19 article in the Denver Post:
Our governor signed a bill earlier this year, HB 1310, defining a decade as 19 years so that politicians could spend at least $300 million more of your money every year. HB 1310 also paved the way to raise RTD taxes 67 percent. The governor pushed through HB 1310 at 11:30 p.m. -- the last half-hour of the 2002 legislative session -- without giving legislators time to read the final 47-page bill before voting... By pushing 1310, the governor violated TABOR. He violated his oath to uphold the Colorado constitution's TABOR provisions and his written pledge not to raise taxes. The author of TABOR, Douglas Bruce, agrees: HB 1310 is an illegal tax increase.
But the Republican countered that Owens had cut the state income and sales taxes.
Indeed, a September 24 Denver Post editorial notes Owens cut "the state income tax from 5 percent to 4.63 percent and the sales tax from 3 to 2.9 percent. According to the nonpartisan Legislative Council, those permanent cuts reduced state revenues by $552 million during the 2001-2 fiscal year..." (Interestingly, the Post admitted its error in supporting the "rigid" Amendment 23, which jacks up funding for government education every year.)
But an editorial in the Rocky Mountain News the next day offers the important context: "remember most of the surplus of the past few years would have been refunded under the TABOR Amendment with or without permanent tax cuts." The News also points to Amendment 23 as one cause of current financial troubles.
In other words, Owens "cut" taxes when the economy was good and everyone expected it to keep getting better. He didn't actually cut the amount of government spending, nor did he cut the effective tax rate given a good economy. It is only an accident that economic troubles actually made Owens' tax cuts meaningful. Then what did Owens do? He violated TABOR to increase state funding. So Owens is a fair-weather fiscal conservative. A governor who supported economic freedom would push for tax cuts and spending cuts especially when the economy has trouble.
So I say again, "Everybody who supports tax increases, hold up your purple sign!" And if you support economic freedom, vote for Ralph Shnelvar, the only candidate in the race who supports significant reductions in state spending. He's also the only candidate in the race who consistently supports the right to bear arms and who actively campaigns for medical marijuana and the legalization of marijuana.
Want an interesting political discussion? Let Ralph debate!
[Shnelvar sent out the following release on September 23.]
"I'm the candidate talking about the issues that concern Coloradans. I'm the candidate bringing a fresh perspective to politics as usual. Why, then, am I the candidate excluded from the debate between Owens and Heath?" Libertarian Ralph Shnelvar said.
Governor Owens and his Democratic "challenger" Rollie Heath will debate September 24 at noon at the Brown Palace in Denver. The City Club of Denver denied Shnelvar entry into the debate. Shnelvar plans to show up anyway with signs and supporters to protest his unfair exclusion.
Shnelvar said, "A debate between somebody who wants to raise your taxes and someone who already has raised your taxes is not a debate at all. In addition, I'm the only candidate who fully supports the human right of self defense. I'm the only candidate who advocates the legalization of marijuana. Coloradans deserve the hear the Libertarian perspective on these important issues."
[Rand Fanshier sent the following remarks to the "lpco-chat" list September 24.]
We had 15-20 Libertarian protesters, a larger crowd than the Heath Supporters. Owens had quite a few supporters... Along with the protest, we also distributed 250 "A New Vision for America" flyers, 200 "Slate of candidates" leaflets, 300 Ralph "Wanted" posters, and 200 "Let Ralph Debate" flyers which had [the Denver Post article] printed on the back.
[Ralph Shnelvar sent out the following comments on September 24. The remarks were forwarded to the "lpco-chat" list.]
Well, we had a lot of fun with this event. I just want to thank all the wonderful people who showed up... Ya gotta admire Adam Katz's guts. He held a "Let Ralph debate!" sign while surrounded by 50 Republicans. You had to be there to picture what was going on at the intersection of Tremont and 17th. The Republicans had two corners, the Democrats had one, and we had one. We handed out about 500 pieces of Libertature. Not bad. Not bad.
I spoke with Michael C. Bender of Grand Junction's Sentinel and he said, "Hey, you had as many people as the Democrats." Yup. Felt good, too...]
Ya had to feel sorry for the Democrats. No bullhorn. They just couldn't get a chant going...
The Rocky Mountain News mentioned Shnelvar in the context of the debate. A September 25 story by John Ensslin reports, "Larry Ruane, a Libertarian from Parker, thought both men [Owens and Heath] earned an 'A' on their debating skills. But Ruane thought they agreed on too many things and wished his own party's candidate was allowed to take part in the debate."
Mike Seebeck reports, "The Gazette covered the debate and Kyle Henley mentioned that Ralph was not invited."