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July 30, 2020 10:39 AM UTC

The Truth Hurts: Club 20 Isn't Politically Relevant

  • by: Colorado Pols
Sad Club 20

Once upon a time, Club 20 was one of the more influential political groups in the State of Colorado. Formed in 1953 as a coalition of Western Slope business leaders, Club 20 eventually came to represent the interests of 22 rural counties in Western Colorado. The annual Club 20 debates, which took place in August of every election year, were a consistent stop on the campaign trail for candidates from both political parties.

But not anymore.

As The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports, the top statewide Democratic candidate in Colorado is skipping the Club 20 debate for the second consecutive election cycle:

The Hickenlooper [for U.S. Senate] campaign confirmed in an email Wednesday that Hickenlooper will not attend the Club 20 debate — Gardner has said he would — saying that Grand Junction voters would be able to watch a live Oct. 13 debate in Fort Collins that is being sponsored by several media outlets, including the Grand Valley’s two television stations.

The campaign for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has not yet agreed to the Oct. 13 debate in Fort Collins, but this is more about Club 20 than it is about a debate schedule. As we wrote in February 2019, Club 20 has permanently branded itself as politically-hostile to Democrats and more trouble than it is worth to engage:

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.

During the 2018 election, the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis raised a few eyebrows by skipping the Club 20 debates. Club 20 was very sad about this decision, but the election results validated the decision by the Polis campaign. Polis went on to defeat Republican Walker Stapleton by 11 points; final results showed that Polis was competitive in Western Colorado despite Club 20’s frantic fist-shaking.

Results from the 2018 Governor’s race in Colorado, via The New York Times

As Charles Ashby writes for the Daily Sentinel, Club 20 at least seems to understand that it has no political leverage anymore:

Still, Club 20 Executive Director Christian Reece is holding out hope that Hickenlooper might change his mind, saying she doesn’t want to see a repeat of two years ago when Democrat Jared Polis declined to debate Republican Walker Stapleton during the Club 20 fall meeting in the 2018 gubernatorial race, which Polis won.

“This is going to be the only debate in western Colorado,” Reece said. “I appreciate that you don’t have to have western Colorado to win statewide election, but in order to be a good elected leader, you have to represent the entire state and not just the Denver metro area.”

You’ll notice that this language is much softer than the “simply outrageous” tone taken by Club 20 after Polis dissed the group in 2018. As we wrote in this space in 2019, Club 20 isn’t “Western Colorado” — it’s just a group of people IN Western Colorado. Democratic candidates like Polis and Hickenlooper don’t need to go through Club 20 in order to talk with Western Slope voters.

There will no doubt be a few Republicans who will again declare that snubbing Club 20 is a diss to all of rural Colorado, but as we saw in 2018, Colorado voters aren’t listening.

Colorado has changed a lot in recent years. Club 20 has not. Sometimes it’s just that simple.


31 thoughts on “The Truth Hurts: Club 20 Isn’t Politically Relevant

  1. Way back when I was a young lad working in the Romer administration I had the misfortune of speaking at a Club 20 event.  Hostile is an understatement.  Bunch of fucking jerks.

    1. Club 20 has always been a water carrier for O&G interests….little else. Basically it is a subsidiary of the COGA….with a minor in GOP.  Their fortunes rise and fall with the Oily Boyz.

    2. It’s hard to miss the irony of the map above that the deep red counties in D-stan are known as Progressive 15.  

      When pigs fly Sonnenberg eats an Impossible Burger. 

      1. At some point in the recent past, Progressive 15 changed its name to Pro 15. I don't know the back story but I'm guessing a whole bunch of conservatives did not want to associate with a "progressive" organization. Don't want none of that progress in our neck of the woods (or plains)!

  2. I will say there are a few progressives active with Club 20 – from Pitkin, Ouray, Gunnison, Summit, Routt, San Miguel. Some might say just enough to make the others frown more often. The saddest thing about rural conservative counties, whether in the Club 20 region or southern or eastern Colorado, is that their local elected officials often do not make decisions in the best interests of the future of their communities. So many of these places could jump way ahead in the 21st century if they weren't stuck in the 19th. 

    1. @realist: seems like it’s more than a few progressives. Looking at the map, I see a solid line of Dem voting counties down the middle and then splitting off to the southwest and down into the Valley.

      Your comment about “local elected officials” reminds me of my long time saying about Utah governance. There, four dozen rural county commissioners have more clout with the state’s congressional delegation, governor, and legislature than do one million plus voters living on the Wasatch Front.

    2. I retain slim hopes that Club 20 will be a force in state politics again someday. They gave it away when they sold their souls to oil & gas and ignored their historic mission of water, highways, agriculture and tourism. The trend accelerated in the 1990s when Duke's favorite crowd began paying the bills.

      Perhaps with the natural gas crash, Club 20 will return to its roots again out of sheer necessity. The boyz can pay the bills no longer.


  3. What is the population percent of Colorado that is represented by Club 20 territory?

    Should we ever care about these people?
    Should we even care about the entire Western Slope as a voting force?
    Can the Front Range "steal" their water with impunity?

    Once President Biden sends all the Fat Donnie™ voters to the FEMA reëducation camps, how many voters will be left out west?

    1. Who the hell wants a Cadillac these days?  Seems you'd want a Tesla now.  And if you haven't driven a Tesla, drive one and see why.  


      1. Yeah, Tesla.  Who wouldn't jump at the chance to pay $124,000 for a car that would run out of juice before I made it to my farm in Northeastern Colorado.

        I'll stick to my Ford F-250 diesel, thank you.

        1. Oh come on, V'ger.  I drove my Tesla (not $124k — ok, $52k — have you seen the price of pickups these days?) from Park Hill up Pikes Peak and back home without stopping on $7 worth of electrons 😉  It still had 94 miles of range leftover! 

          I fill it up in my garage, and laugh as I pass gas stations.

          1. Park hill to Pikes peak isn’t very long.  It’s 190 miles from my home in Denver to my farm north of Amherst.  Most Teslas list the range as about 200 miles.  That is cutting it very thin. I did look up and found new ones claiming as much as 400, though Car and Driver says real world performance is much less./p>

            As to price, I got my F-250 diesel from
            my dad’s estate.  It’s a 1987.  I could get a new one with all the toys and six passenger capacity for your $52 k if I watched the sales but that would be a gasoline engine. But I can carry a full-size piano, a load of lumber, furniture and lots more in my pickup.  As far as I can tell, Teslas can carry a couple burritos and a six pack of Corona.

            1. Well, I did get all wheel drive and 316 mile range for my Tesla (as proven in no-refill trips to Estes Park, Vail and Pikes Peak with plenty of juice remaining).  And if I ate a couple of burritos, I would have 68 cubic feet of storage (not counting the front trunk and underfloor storage compartment in back) for the resulting gas bomb to dissipate in 😉

              In the unlikely event I needed piano hauling duties, I'd probably ask my buddy who will be getting his CyberTruck next year with a 500 mile range, 6 passenger capacity and optional solar panels so that his operating costs will be even cheaper than my 3.5 cents per mile.  There are no mandatory maintenance costs either — no oil to change, no radiator flushes, no transmission overhauls, etc.  Check the tires and keep the windshield washer fluid filled is pretty much it.

              All, without giving cancer to pedestrians as you pass by in Old Smokey.

              1. Sounds like Tesla is making some progress.  But good luck fitting a 4 x 8 drywall load in your front trunk.  As to cancer, it depends on where you get your juice.  If it’s coal fired generation, Teslas are indirect polluters.

                Consumer Reports, my car bible, no longer recommends the model 3 because of reliability issues, especially the suspension.

                1. Yep, fortunately, Tesla does continuous production line improvements, so, while some early Model Y’s have production teething issues,  my Model Y came along later and doesn’t suffer from them, nor share the suspension issues that hit earlier Model 3’s.

                  And of course, coal fired plants are dropping like flies in Colorado (down to 45% in 2019 — and possibly as little as 24% by 2026).

                  As for diesel’s spewing of large particulate matter, Europe (and China) is leading the rush to EV’s because of their now regretted widespread adoption of diesel in the mistaken belief the emissions could be contained.


              2. My old Dodge is a holdover from my profession. It is fifteen years old, 195 K miles, but I spent a wad of cash having it refurbished, and I drive so little anymore, I haven’t considered replacing it. It is still pretty efficient and runs as clean as a fifteen year old diesel can, I suppose.

                When I do replace it, I will definitely switch to an EV, as I no longer need a 3/4 ton truck. I am interested in an electric pickup or van for the possibilities of impromptu performance. The new PUs have the capability of being power generators with considerable capacity. 

                For my purposes, a mobile, built in, AC generator would open up lots of possibilities for powering musical performances in unexpected and unusual places.

                Builders, too, will love that feature, I am sure. 

                I live in an off the grid solar and wind powered home so the cost of fuel for me will go way down.

                1. Despite its age, my 87 diesel, with just 152,000 miles, has plenty of life left.  Alas, diabetic neuropathy makes it hard for me to use the stick shift.

                  I may give it to a young friend and just go with my Honda CRV, a 2006 model with 43,000 miles on it.  Walking to work all those years kept me fit and my car costs down.

                2. Duke — my buddy that pre-ordered his CyberTruck mentioned that the majority of orders are from commercial outfits that see the standard built-in power outlets as a major advantage, as well as the ultra-low operating costs.

                  No wonder Ford has invested $500 million in Rivian in case you are put off by the Post-Apocalypse survival vehicle styling of the CyberTruck 😉

                    1. If it really seats six as they say, the cyber truck may be competitive with those $52,000 pickups.  I kind of like the styling.


  4. From the Friday edition of the Daily Sentinel:

    "That’s why it’s hard to understand Hickenlooper’s reluctance to participate. All he has to do is show up and he dismantles a sudden perception that he doesn’t care about western Colorado.

    We’d even hazard a guess that there are a significant number of “Hickenlooper Republicans” in our midst who could be soured by the cold political calculus in play.

    But the worst outcome is the disturbing precedent it would set. Winning statewide office while punting on a Western Slope-centered debate won’t just widen the rural-urban divide in the state — it will make our marginalization endemic."

      1. VG: WCC changed its name a few years ago; maybe Western Colorado Alliance. They still have at least one staff person. But that's about all I know about them.

        Perhaps the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, if they're still around?

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