McFeely: With Colorado governor against him, maybe it's time for UND's Kennedy to throw in towel
Mark Kennedy is the loneliest man in higher education. Since Republicans here have mostly turned on him, the University of North Dakota president is unwanted at his current campus. And in a wonderfully karmic twist Thursday, the governor of Colorado tweeted that maybe it's best if Kennedy wasn't named president of the University of Colorado system.
Jared Polis is Colorado's Democratic governor. He is the first openly gay person elected governor of a state. Polis is married to Marlon Reis and the couple has two children.
Kennedy, as a right-wing Republican member of Congress from Minnesota in the 2000s, consistently voted against LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage.
"This amendment," Kennedy said in 2006 while voting for a measure that would've constitutionally defined marriage as between one man and one woman, "would settle the question once and for all, and stop these liberal activists from redefining marriage in Minnesota and the rest of the country."
And now the gay, married governor of Colorado comes out against Kennedy. Karma, you're a beautiful lady.
Since being called out by Coloradoans on his voting record, Kennedy says his stance on those issues has evolved. The possibility of losing a $750,000-a-year job has a way of readjusting one's morality.
This much is true about Kennedy's bid to get out of North Dakota at the first available opportunity: It took a hit when Polis leveraged the weight of the governor's office against it.
The Colorado job is still a political one, and Republicans on the Board of Regents in charge of the hire still have a 5-4 majority, but at what point do they look at Kennedy and make the calculation that he's not worth the headache? It's not like there aren't a few dozen mediocre Republican middle-manager types who are just as qualified for the job but don't carry Kennedy's baggage.
History remains with Kennedy. CU system spokesman Ken McConnellogue said opposition to presidential candidates isn't new.
"When our current president, Bruce Benson, was going through the process, a group of about 20 legislators that included the House majority leader issued a public letter objecting to his candidacy," McConnellogue said. "A similar incident happened with the president before that, Hank Brown (a former U.S. senator), when a state legislator publicly objected to his candidacy. President Brown said that if legislators were so opposed to him, he would step aside. The state legislator relented and Brown was appointed president."
But, and this might be key, none of the opposition in the previous cases came directly from the governor.
It was predicted in this space a few days ago that Kennedy, despite the kerfuffle surrounding him, was still going to get the Colorado job because of politics. Five is still more than four. Having the governor speak out against his candidacy lessens Kennedy's chances.
Maybe it's time Kennedy did the smart thing and withdraw. His candidacy is a mess, he keeps stuffing his feet into his mouth and the job just got exponentially harder with Polis' opposition. Kennedy's hubris will not allow it, but maybe he should realize he capped out his higher ed potential in Grand Forks.