In today’s Denver Post political newsletter “The Spot,” reporter Nic Garcia resurrects a topic that was a brief flashpoint last summer: The demise of Club 20 as a statewide political power. Garcia takes a tone that is oddly deferential to Club 20 and glosses over the reality that the organization made itself irrelevant with a rightward partisan lurch over the last decade:
It has been 205 days since then-Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis declined to debate his Republican opponent, Walker Stapleton, in front a crowd of Western Slope movers and shakers.
While Polis’ apparent snub of Club 20 meant little to the general public, his calendar conflict sent shock waves through the state’s political class and reinforced – rightly or wrongly – a long-held belief that Colorado Democrats don’t care about the rural parts of the state. [Pols emphasis]
This “Democrats hate rural voters” narrative is what Club 20 has clung to in its desperation to remain relevant, but the truth is much simpler: Polis skipped the group’s annual kiss-the-ring gathering in Grand Junction in 2018 because he and his campaign correctly understood that Club 20 doesn’t represent rural Coloradans any more than groups like the Colorado chapter of the NFIB accurately reflect the interests of everyday small business owners.
Club 20 has long presented itself as the voice of the Western Slope, which might have been true at one point; but in the last several election cycles, Club 20 has consistently favored right-wing candidates and oil and gas interests at the expense of all other constituents. When Club 20 zigged right, it never bothered to turn around to check if anyone else was following along. It is true that the annual Club 20 debates were once a key date on the election calendar; people also used to wear leg warmers in public. Things change.
Last summer, Club 20 complained loudly about Polis’ decision to skip their gubernatorial debate – at one point, calling the decision “simply outrageous” – but the absence of the Democratic nominee did little to hurt his General Election hopes. The Republican Governor’s Association later tried hard to spin the Club 20 snub as a broader diss of the Western Slope…which also went nowhere.
This is the point where we remind you that Polis won the election by nearly 11 points over Republican Walker Stapleton.
Polis is Governor today because he outperformed Stapleton in the more heavily-populated parts of Colorado, but he also held his own on the Western Slope. Take a look at this county-by-county map of the 2018 gubernatorial election via the New York Times. You’ll notice that the left side of the map is not engulfed in a giant swatch of red:
Stapleton carried West Slope counties like Mesa, Delta, and Montrose. But Polis actually came out ahead in counties like Garfield, Routt, and Gunnison. Polis held events all across the Western Slope and did just fine, proving that a statewide candidate can differentiate between the lobby groups and the West Slope voters.
The headline of “The Spot” newsletter posits the wrong question when it asks, “After apparent snub, has Polis regained this group’s trust?” To whatever degree that there is a burden of reconciliation in this case, that responsibility rests solely on Club 20.
The Western Slope has changed greatly during the past 30 years, except probably in the issue of water diversions. It's hard to say now that resort and outdoor recreation based counties; Eagle, Summit, Gunnison, Pitkin, San Miguel, La Plata, Routt; have a lot in common with the more rural counties like Delta or Rio Blanco. Even in far right Moffat County, Craig has become a bedroom community for Steamboat Springs.
I guess the nutters out in Grand Junction haven’t gotten their stagecoach delivery for awhile? . . .
. . . So sorry folks, Windsor is now the (new) capitol of Colorado crazy!
(First they steal your water, then they make off with your tin foil . . .)
Poor Windsor. It's a quaint, cozy little town and doesn't deserve to be Tinfoil Capital.
Club 20 has become a pay to play organization, dominated by voices with money. Those who pay higher dues get more votes, its that simple. Only the top tier memberships get votes on Executive Board, per the member form and information here.
Also, the above map is instructive, but if one looks at a layer below that even, the story is even more stark. In the 2018 cycle most counties on the West Slope — even those that stayed "red" — still moved significantly toward the Democrats over 2016. Delta County moved 6 points in that direction.
Club 20 made itself irrelevant.
I don’t hate rural voters.
I just don’t care about them as their numbers are too minuscule to matter.
I will only care when it comes to rounding up Trump voters for their extended stay in FEMA reëducation camps.
The map is informative. It would be even MORE informative if the counties were outlined and then there was a red or blue (or other color for other parties) dot for every 1,000 or 5,000 voters in the race for governor.
I appreciate the desire to be relevant to the outcome, to have some sense the candidates are working to understand and appeal to the voters in your area and in your particular niche. But the harsh reality is Club 20 tried to convince people of their relevance, highlighted their claim by blowing up the magnitude of "the mistake," and then lost.