If the recent statewide breakdown of the Republican Party was a quake, then La Plata County might well be the epicenter. In an e-mail exchange this week, an active county Republican traded barbs with state Rep. Mark Larson, R-Cortez, calling the lawmaker a “backstabber” and comparing his criticism of party leaders to Benedict Arnold “carping about George Washington’s leadership.”
“In addition to being a traitor to your party and constituency, like most bullies you are also a coward,” John H. Lopez wrote to Larson in an e-mail. The message was copied to dozens of others, including Attorney General John Suthers, former state treasurer Mike Coffman and County Commissioner Sheryl Ayers.
Lopez is a former special assistant to the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C., under Alan Greenspan. On Wednesday, he declined to comment on what he considered private e-mails. Lopez helped found the Republican Club of the Four Corners, based in Durango. The Web site of the La Plata County Republican Party lists his wife, Diana Johnstone Lopez, as president of the Southwest Republican Women’s Unit. Both also are involved with the county party’s central committee.
In his e-mail to Larson, Lopez said the county party had promised to fully support him in a state Senate bid if the lawmaker apologized for his controversial endorsement of Democrat Ken Salazar in the 2004 U.S. Senate race. “This you promised to do in a face-to-face meeting with (county chairwoman Shannon Richardson) and me,” Lopez wrote. “You lied. We are well rid of you. Now act like a man and put a cork in it.”…
…On Dec. 21, Larson abruptly withdrew from the 6th District state Senate race against incumbent Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus. Fallout from Larson’s departure has rippled through Colorado political circles. A Larson victory was widely considered the party’s best chance of reversing the Democrats’ 18-17 margin in the state Senate.
Again Wednesday, Larson accused hard-line right wingers of purging party moderates, even if it means losing races. Another La Plata County Republican, former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Ignacio, echoed Larson’s criticism. On Tuesday, he flatly ruled out a run for governor on the GOP ticket, citing the “absolute obedience” demanded by powerful conservatives.
After Campbell’s announcement and Tuesday’s resignation of respected moderate state Sen. Norma Anderson, R-Jefferson County, there was no letup to battling in Southwest Colorado. In a prior e-mail to Lopez’s wife, Larson accused county chairwoman Shannon Richardson of conspiring with state GOP leaders to form a “Republicans for Isgar” organization.
“I have been the best candidate I could be, worked as hard as I possibly could (to the detriment of my own health), getting results for a great many people on a great many issues,” Larson wrote this week. “But that was never enough for some and now they can find whomever they want to fit their mold. Backstabbing, indeed.”
On Wednesday, Larson blamed the local meltdown on conservative transplants from out of state who are muscling moderates from the party. “They say I’m dividing the party. Well, I’ve been here a hell of a lot longer,” he said. “It’s a fight we’re having for the life of the party, and I hope the moderates will stand up.”
Wow. This looks like it is only going to get worse. We’ll support you if you apologize for supporting Ken Salazar? That sounds awfully theocratic.