Carroll: The strange political bedfellows of Maurice Emmer and Lee Mulcahy
If politics don’t make strange bedfellows, then we’re just not paying attention.
Maurice Emmer is the first and only Aspen resident to publicly declare his candidacy for mayor in May’s city elections. He’s also one of a scant few locals to publicly support Lee Mulcahy in his run for state Senate on the Libertarian ticket.
But before Emmer could remain on Mulcahy’s campaign steering committee, he had to make a choice, as requested by Pitkin County Republican Party Chairwoman Frieda Wallison: either stay on board as the secretary of the local GOP or remain in the Mulcahy camp.
The conflict was clear, as was Emmer’s decision — he stayed with Mulcahy and resigned as secretary of the Pitkin Republicans.
Mulcahy, as if we haven’t forgotten, is one of those Aspen characters who gives Aspen its character. Pick your cliche: He’s a fly in the ointment, a needle in the eye, a boil on the collective hide of Aspen’s many well-heeled establishments. Only in Aspen does one of its most prolific, modern-day rabble-rousers boast a master’s degree in liberal arts and a Ph.D. in 19th century French literature and art, along with restraining orders filed against him by the Aspen Institute and Aspen Skiing Co. (which it lost), and a permanent ban from the Aspen Art Museum.
Last year we wrote about Mulcahy moving to Texas, but we all knew he’d be back in Aspen. Not only is he back, he’s gunning for the open seat in Colorado’s Senate District 5 in the upcoming November election. He secured the state Libertarian party’s nomination, so Mulcahy’s 15 minutes of fame live on in perpetuity.
“I dug irrigation ditches to pay for my education at university,” Mulcahy explains on his campaign website. “I’m an Eagle Scout. I believe that Colorado is riding the crest of the wave on federal over-reach. I’m going to surf that wave to give the common man a voice in government. God gave me the opportunity to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I intend to give back. I believe in what I’m doing. My steering committee has endorsed my platform: 1. Raise the minimum wage on giant corporations. 2. Save Thompson Divide. 3. State nullification of Obamacare.”
Mulcahy’s platforms certainly aren’t radical, but his past and current behavioral antics have been, from his performance-art displays to his frequent taunting — via social-media postings or in-person conduct. Sometimes radical is good (and necessary); other times it’s just preposterous grandstanding. Mulcahy is seasoned at dabbling in both approaches.
Asked about whom he considers to be the best candidate among Mulcahy, Democrat Kerry Donovan and Republican Don Suppes, Emmer said he wasn’t sure, but it appears that he’s backing Mulcahy more out of loyalty than anything else.
“I do not know who would be the best candidate for State Senate,” he said. “As a Republican, of course I support a conservative agenda, which is the Republican candidate’s agenda. Lee’s agenda is a hybrid of conservative (repeal Obamacare and replace it with a state plan) and liberal (raise the minimum wage). I agreed to assist Lee not because of his agenda and not because I disagree with the Republican agenda, but because he is a friend who asked for help. I believe Lee’s strongest qualification for the position is that he would not be bound by either major party’s agenda but would be free to think for himself and do what he personally thinks is right. He also has demonstrated a willingness to buck the power structure. I think the power structure could use more of that.
“Sometimes Lee has gone overboard and could have exercised better judgment. But he is a serious and independent thinker about the issues, and that goes a long way in my mind.”
But conventional thinking tells us that Emmer — whose stance against Aspen’s proposed hydropower project helped propel him to a third-place finish in the May 2013 mayoral election — might have committed political suicide by hitching onto Mulcahy’s wagon.
“I anticipated that supporting Lee would damage my reputation in some people’s minds,” Emmer said. “Some of my friends have even told me that very frankly. I might not have supported Lee if he had not asked me, but he is a friend, he asked me, and I believe in helping friends.
“My reputation is irrelevant when a friend asks for help.”
While that’s all well and good, what happens if Mulcahy volunteers to help Emmer with his mayoral campaign next year? Would Emmer be comfortable with Mulcahy — who bashes the 1 percent, while Emmer is a retired attorney, Aspen homeowner and a likely member of that select group — knocking on doors in the West End or Cemetery Lane?
For now, it’s one election at a time. That’s about all the fun we can handle at this point.
Rick Carroll is editor of The Aspen Times. He takes comments, complaints, questions and news tips at email@example.com.
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