Andy Stone: Aspen politics: The pit and the pendulum (but who’s the pits?) |

Andy Stone: Aspen politics: The pit and the pendulum (but who’s the pits?)

Is the Aspen pendulum swinging? Sure feels like it.

It felt like a swing in the conservative direction a few years ago when Helen Klanderud was elected mayor and Tony Hershey and Tom McCabe won seats on the council.

I know “conservative” is a tricky word to use in Aspen politics. When Aspen’s at its best, everything in this town is so perversely, magnificently sideways that standard political labels don’t quite fit.

You can never be sure whether the long-haired artist who’s campaigned for affordable housing is going to turn out to be a fervent supporter of President Bush and the war in Iraq. Or if the billionaire in his private jet will be supporting a petition drive to impeach the president – and another one to recall the county commissioners because they rezoned his land.

In truth, Aspen politics have always had a right wing, a left wing and a wacko wing.

So you just never know what strange circles any of our political birds will be flying in.

Still, there do seem to be some discernable liberal-conservative fault lines in our local culture. And, truth to tell, those billionaires often do lean at least a little to the right. (One wonders how those private jets can fly when they only have one wing: the right wing.)

And it did seem as if the city government was tilting a bit to the right.

It wasn’t that Helen Klanderud was necessarily a raging right-winger, by any means. But she won the mayor’s job by defeating Rachel Richards – and Rachel is clearly as liberal as apple pie. (Is that how the saying goes?)

Anyway, Helen’s election, even though by the narrowest of margins, seemed like a little bit of a shift to the right.

And Tom McCabe . well, Tom was solid and steady and thoughtful and I’m just not going to pin any labels on him.

But Tony Hershey . what can you say?

Tony never made any secret of where he stood politically. He sneered at liberals’ favorite causes. He ran as a Republican and he was in favor of invading whatever country the Republicans thought needed invading at any given moment.

Somewhat bizarrely, I actually like Tony. He’s smart. He cares. And, if he hasn’t decided to be nasty to you, he can be a pleasant conversationalist.

Ah, there’s the rub (as whatshisname said) – because if Tony did decide to be nasty to you, he could be very, very nasty.

Tony could be vicious. Sometimes amusingly vicious, sometimes just plain vicious. He often apologized . but then he’d go right back and do it again. He berated private citizens, in public, in language I’m not allowed to print in this newspaper.

It was curious, since Tony was the beloved golden boy of the conservatives who had worked themselves into a lather and launched a recall campaign against a liberal local politician who, they said, was too nasty and rude to be allowed to remain in office.

But that’s all behind us now . sort of.

Rachel – that embodiment of all that’s locally liberal – won a seat on the council with the most votes of anyone in the field. She left poor Tom McCabe in the dust.

And Tony made it into the run-off only to get badly battered, stomped actually, by the mono-named Torre – who might be liberal or might be wacko, but certainly doesn’t seem to qualify as a conservative.

And if you have any question about it, you should read Tony’s unfortunate whining in his letter conceding the election. He blames his defeat on, among other things, the “blatant bias of the Aspen Daily News [and] their liberal columnists.”

(Actually, I’m a little embarrassed that Tony didn’t pin some of the blame on The Aspen Times. But the members of this newspaper’s editorial board, for bizarre reasons of their own – which I, at least, cannot fathom – actually endorsed Mr. Hershey.)

Of course, Helen was also a winner, retaining her seat as mayor by a solid margin. But that may have been because one of her opponents was a liberal-wacko who already had a seat on the council (so why would liberals vote to give up a seat they already held?) and the other was . well, the other was Andrew Kole.

So let’s not draw any conclusions there.

Bottom line?

Take your pick:

(a) Aspen voters don’t mind a rude liberal, but they just can’t tolerate a rude conservative.

(b) The pendulum’s swinging.

[Andy Stone is former editor and publisher of The Aspen Times. His column appears every Thursday.]