Anyone familiar with Colorado politics knows that there is no more important county than Jefferson when it comes to winning statewide elections. It may be mathematically possible to win a statewide race in Colorado without carrying Jefferson County, but nobody in their right mind would actually consider that approach. That's why the spectacular implosion of the Jefferson County Republican Party is so important…and why we're baffled to see the problem continuing. Follow along as we reconstruct the tale of one of the strangest few months in recent political memory.
Back in March, Jeffco Republicans nominated Nate Marshall as their candidate to run against incumbent Democratic Rep. Max Tyler in HD-23. It didn't take more than a cursory Google search to reveal that Marshall was probably not the GOP's best option in the Lakewood district; not only did Marshall have a criminal record (which included a 9News investigation from an old crime), but he also had very clear and obvious ties to White Supremacist groups. In other words, you would have had a difficult time finding a worse candidate to represent your Party. On March 27, Jefferson County Republican Party Chair Bill Tucker demanded that Marshall resign as a candidate. An angry and defensive Marshall initially balked — after all, he was officially nominated through the caucus process as the only GOP candidate in HD-23 — but he finally relented and formally terminated his candidacy on April 9.
And that's when things get even weirder.
Jefferson County Republican Party officials inexplicably waited several weeks to form a vacancy committee to replace Marshall on the ballot — you would think that the GOP would be in more of a hurry to close this ridiculous chapter — and it wasn't until Monday, April 28, that they (very quietly) officially met to replace Marshall on the ballot. If you are wondering who the Republicans found to replace Marshall on the ballot, you wouldn't be alone — nobody in or out of the Republican Party said anything about the candidate who prevailed at the vacancy committee. There was no press release. No call to reporters. Even today, the Jeffco Republican Party website doesn't even list a candidate in HD-23.
But there is a Republican candidate in HD-23, which is what makes this whole story even more baffling.
The Jeffco GOP actually came up with a decent candidate to replace Marshall in Jane Barnes, a former member of the Jefferson County School Board who should have some level of name recognition in the district. Barnes filed candidate paperwork with the Secretary of State's office on May 6, and on May 8, somebody started to create a website for her campaign. But as of this writing, there has been no mention of Barnes as a candidate in HD-23 by, well, by anybody.
What the hell is going on here? It took weeks for Jeffco Republicans to form a vacancy committee to replace Nate Marshall in HD-23, and when the dust had settled, they emerged with a pretty decent candidate (all things considered) in Jane Barnes. Why would anyone think it was a good idea to keep this a secret? Wouldn't you want to make it crystal clear, as quickly as possible, that you had a candidate in a competitive House district who was not a criminal or a white supremacist?
Over the last two months, the level of incompetence displayed by Jefferson County Republicans has been absolutely stunning. This should scare the crap out of Republicans everywhere in Colorado, because there are a lot of statewide candidates who must carry Jefferson County in order to win in November.