Is it politics or is it art? |

Is it politics or is it art?

Scott Condon
Artist Rick Magnuson and Anne-Marie Cales of Stanfield Fine Art admire Ronnie MorganÕs collection.

An Aspen community safety officer known for his strange performance art says he plans to run against Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis this year.Rick Magnuson vowed Tuesday while talking with the Aspen City Council that his effort to unseat a political powerhouse like Braudis is no “lark.””It’s a legitimate run for office,” Magnuson said.Skeptics think it is just another elaborate performance art display that Magnuson will put on at voters’ expense.

He discussed his possible candidacy with the council members because he needs their indirect blessing. Aspen’s personnel policy requires that a city employee take a leave of absence while campaigning for elected office. Magnuson asked the council in a work session to eliminate the requirement. He said he couldn’t afford to go six months without pay or benefits while making a bid for sheriff. “Especially running against someone like Bob,” Magnuson said. “It’s a huge gamble.”Braudis hasn’t announced yet if he will run for re-election this year. If Braudis runs and Magnuson challenges, it promises to make for a more exciting sheriff’s race than usual. Braudis faced a serious challenge from former Pitkin County Undersheriff Don Davis in his first race, in 1986. Since then, Braudis has gone unchallenged in four elections.The council members informally seemed inclined to allow Magnuson to continue working while he campaigns. They said a city employee should be able to run for office, just like any other American. The exception, they said, is if an employee ran for Aspen City Council. That scenario would be rife with conflicts of interest, they said.But Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss, a former judge, wasn’t buying Magnuson’s story about a legitimate candidacy.

“Well, Rick, are you really going to run for something, or is this performance art?” DeVilbiss said.Magnuson, who has been a community safety officer with the Aspen Police Department for 10 years, assured him he is serious about challenging Braudis.DeVilbiss responded that “it is difficult for me to take a guy seriously who drives around in circles and calls it art.” He was referring to a performance Magnuson staged in June 2002 when he drove around – and around and around – the traffic roundabout west of town with a goldfish bowl glued to his Ryder truck’s dashboard. He made an estimated 1,080 laps around the roundabout in six hours.Another Magnuson performance that raised eyebrows, and quizzical looks, occurred when he hired some Latinos to march around at the corner of Mill and Main streets with an American flag.DeVilbiss, who as a judge had a knack for cutting through elaborate stories by criminal defendants in court, continually pressed Magnuson.

“What’s your campaign slogan going to be?” he said.”I was thinking ‘Bob 2.0,'” said Magnuson, explaining that he likes Braudis and believes their positions are similar.Magnuson’s intentions didn’t entirely surprise Braudis. He said Tuesday night that Magnuson is a friend of his who has mentioned in the past he would like to run against Braudis for sheriff and run with the motto “Vote for Bob.””Ricky has told me for many years he wanted to run against me for performance art,” Braudis said.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is