December 11, 2006

Bill Owens' Legacy--Good Or Bad?

The Denver Post has a mostly favorable (and lengthy) review of Bill Owens' tenure as Colorado's governor, praising his leadership over the often difficult eight-year journey in office:
Days of blood and debt and fire define Bill Owens' years as governor. Nights of grief and worry.

The eager young conservative elected in 1998 is a remade man today. Accomplished. Scarred. More interesting.

After eight years as governor, Owens will leave office next month, having put his imprint on Colorado and its politics. Views of his legacy are as stormy as his times.
And the Post views Owens' bucking of state GOP "ideology" as praiseworthy:
For much of the past five years, he has been hard-put at damage control. Given a choice between pragmatism and ideological rigidity, at times to the frustration of Republican partisans, he's revealed himself a realist.

"I have tried," says Owens, when asked to summarize his tenure, "to do the right thing."

For some in the Republican Party, there's a sense of lost potential in his story.
. . .
"You have to give the governor credit for attacking big issues. He didn't occupy his time on little stuff," says former Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong. "He was never passive. Never content to sit back and let things go."

"When you evaluate somebody, you must ask if they met the big test of their time," says former Democratic Gov. Dick Lamm. "And he really did step up to the plate on C and D, and at great political risk.

"The average person has no idea how anti-tax the Republican Party has become. Bill Owens knew he was going to buy himself a whole bushelbasket of opposition," says Lamm. And "he is an ambitious guy - my God, he was talking about the presidency!"

In his resolute response to Colorado's budget crisis, Owens "was being governor of all the people," Lamm says, and "definitely met the test of his time."
It is precisely this "moderation" and "pragmatism" that has earned him praise from Democrats and vilification from GOP and libertarian TABOR-supporters.

ToTheRight has a decidedly less favorable view.

Of course, the responsibility of governing a state with interests as wide as the Colorado Rockies requires some earnest measures of pragmatism and realism, rather than pandering and politicking. Making tough decisions, Owens showed that he had the ability to be a leader, even though he wasn't always successful and over the course of his second term ended up alienating a good portion of the state's GOP base through a mix of controversial anti-TABOR measures and head-scratching endorsements. The truth? Probably somewhere in between. At least Owens won't be remembered as a governor marked by hesitation, or one that leaned whichever direction the wind was blowing.



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