Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Governor, Please Tell Us What You Believe

If you were to walk down Cascade Avenue and ask people what their view of the death penalty is, I would venture to say that a majority of people would be in favor – probably a vast majority. I would also venture to say that nobody you ask would say that they don’t have an opinion – that is unless you just happened to run into Bill Ritter. You know, Governor Bill Ritter, the only man in Colorado who has the authority to stop or allow the state-sponsored execution of a brutal killer. The only man in Colorado who’s opinion matters.

Last week when Governor Bill Ritter was asked by a reporter if he had an opinion about the death penalty, the former district attorney said, “Yes, I have an opinion, but I’m not going to share that with you because then people feel like the argument (they make) is meaningless.” Uh-humm?

What an odd statement the Governor made when he said he wasn’t going to share his opinion with us and what an odd move to keep his own party guessing until the last minute about whether or not he was going to sign or veto legislation that would have ended the death penalty in Colorado. In holding his opinion to himself he may have politically executed a few vulnerable members of his own party in the General Assembly. By not showing his hand (some Democrat members talked with the Governor two days before he vetoed the bill and felt that he would sign it) Governor Ritter forced many of his Democrat legislators to vote to kill the death penalty at a time when most voters think the death penalty should be legal.

Take State Representative Dennis Apuan – someone I have criticized many times for being a war protester. Representative Apuan voted to kill the death penalty – something I know is not popular in El Paso County and something I would guess is unpopular among the rank-and-file voter in House District 17. While I have no doubt that Representative Apuan is ideologically opposed to the death penalty, I doubt he would have cast a politically unpopular vote to kill the death penalty if he knew the Governor was simply going to veto the bill. Representative Apuan has not shown, as of yet, an ability to simply vote on issues out of conviction and I doubt he would have cast such a vote if he knew of the Governors impending veto pen.

When it comes to Ritter, it is ironic that a former prosecutor, who, on several occasions, sought the death penalty, would offer no opinion as Governor. In my view, a society that outlaws the death penalty shows moral cowardice. We say to the rapists and murderers among us that no matter what they do to women, children, and the elderly – and no matter how heinous the crime – their most precious possession, their life, is guaranteed in advance. Absolute moral cowardice and an injustice to all those who have lost a loved one to these wolves that roam our society and prey on the weakest among us.

Governor, our state deserves to know where you stand on the death penalty. We need leadership, not another study. We elected you to lead and that includes taking positions on issues; not sticking your finger in the public opinion wind.

If I was asked by a reporter whether or not I will support Bill Ritter for re-election as Governor, I will not hesitate in my answer. I have an opinion, former Governor Ritter, and I will share it. I hope others will as well.

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