The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs student body president who caused a furor this school year when he refused to sign off on allocating student-fee dollars to a campus gay organization, said Wednesday he'll seek a seat on the El Paso County Commission.
David Williams, a 22-year-old political science major who said he anticipates graduating in December, announced his candidacy for the District 5 seat being vacated by Jim Bensberg, who is term-limited in 2010. The district includes most of east, north and south-central Colorado Springs.
In the e-mail announcement, Williams endorsed "limited government, low taxes, adequate public safety and fiscal responsibility," but made no specific proposals. In an interview, he said the county's chronic budget problems should be solved by "making the government smaller so that there would be a smaller budget," but said he had not developed a list of the agencies or services he would cut.
The jockeying for Bensberg's seat is off to an early start. Peggy Littleton, this region's representative on the state Board of Education, and Patrick Carter, who ran for the Fifth Congressional District seat won by Doug Lamborn in 2006, have already announced their candidacies, and Bensberg said he expected former state Sen. Ed Jones to join the race.
Kay Rendleman, the county GOP chairwoman, said others are also considering making a run.
Williams made headlines in September when he declined to sign off on the student Senate's appropriation of $2,100 in student government-managed funding to Spectrum, a gay, bisexual and transgender club.
Williams said he had "a moral compass that disagrees with the lifestyle and message preached by Spectrum."
Williams' inaction did not block the request, which was granted without his signature in accordance with the student government constitution. But it ignited a controversy that burned for the rest of the school year.
Williams was impeached in April by the student government, which found him guilty of discrimination but did not take the final step of removing him from office. A separate effort to recall Williams by a vote of the 8,000-member student body was blocked by UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak, who said proper procedures had not been followed. Williams' term ends June 1.
The episode sparked a debate about homophobia on campus and a heightened awareness of gay-rights issues. Williams was defeated for re-election, and his successor as student body president is openly gay.
Williams said Wednesday that he had acted on his "core beliefs."
"I don't apologize for what I did," he said. "We have too many politicians that have no sort of a backbone. They're just simply politicians that pander to both sides in order to get elected."
Rendleman said she didn't think the insertion of a social wedge issue into a county commissioner's race would tarnish the party. "People will try to use that against him," she said of the campus controversy. "I don't think that's what any of the candidates in that race will be pushing, so I don't see it as impacting the image of the party."