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August 11, 2020 11:08 AM UTC

Club 20 Lashes Out Like Jilted Lover

  • by: Colorado Pols
We are SO over…unless you want to try again.

It’s been almost two weeks since the campaign for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper made it clear that it would not be participating in the annual “Club 20” debate on the Western Slope of Colorado. Club 20 is apparently having trouble moving on.

On Monday, Club 20 did the political equivalent of posting a sad breakup video to its Instagram page. Six whole people — all of whom are Republicans — from the Western Slope political/business/civic group stood on the steps of a courthouse building in Grand Junction to lament that Hickenlooper was no longer returning any of their calls or text messages.

As Joey Bunch reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

Western Slope business and community leaders reminded former Gov. John Hickenlooper of his work to bridge the rural-urban divide Monday as they urged him to reconsider his decision to snub the Club 20 debate in Grand Junction next month.

The executive director of the business and civic coalition, Christian Reece, said organizers were “astonished” that he would bypass the Western Slope event that traditionally signals the homestretch of campaign season. Moreover, the event is online this year, Sept. 18-19.

Club 20 officials noted they have gone to “great lengths” to accommodate health concerns around the COVID-19 outbreak by moving the political debates online and offering them free through streaming produced by Colorado Mesa University.

Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush (left) and Republican Rep. Scott Tipton debate issues at the 2018 Club 20 forum underneath a gigantic Chevron banner.

That’s very nice that Club 20 has gone to “great lengths” to accommodate COVID-19 health concerns, but this is sort of like responding to your spouse’s complaints about your behavior by getting a haircut. As we wrote last month, Club 20 marginalized itself by always using a stick and never a carrot in its political dealings with Democrats, and over the years its annual election year gathering became more of a gripe session for oil and gas interests than anything else. In 2018, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis became the first major statewide candidate to skip the Club 20 debate; despite predictions of electoral doom from Club 20 supporters, Polis went on to win the race for Governor by 11 points. Polis even did pretty well in Western Colorado.

As Eric Washburn, a fifth-generation Coloradan who lives in Steamboat Springs, told Joey Bunch in an interview:

“I don’t think this reflects an animosity toward Club 20,” he said. “It’s a sense that Democratic politicians have that they certainly want to plug in to the West Slope and attract West Slope voters.

“I don’t think they’re convinced Club 20 is the way to do that.” [Pols emphasis]

Club 20 is trying hard to convince folks that dissing its membership is the same thing as ignoring the Western Slope, but it’s not working. Club 20 doesn’t represent the Western Slope any more than your dog represents all canines in Colorado, so perhaps they should look inward instead. Alas, self-reflection is not a strength for this group. Club 20 is still in that post-breakup stage of blaming all of its problems on the other person (or party, in this case).



As Charles Ashby reports today for the Grand Junction Daily-Sentinel, this breakup with Club 20 was a long time coming:

…state Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat whose district includes Delta County, said it’s because Club 20 isn’t what it used to be.

The group that touts itself as the “Voice of the Western Slope” has increasingly become less of a general voice for people on this side of the Continental Divide, and more concerned about conservative ideals, including not addressing such things as climate change, she said…

…Rick Ridder, a Denver-based political consultant who solely works for Democrats but isn’t on anyone’s payroll at the moment, said not only has the group’s debates become one-sided to favor Republicans, but the group itself no longer seems to speak for the Western Slope.

“Democrats have increasingly shied away because it’s become a gotcha forum, and the issues that are directed are not the ones that they’re hearing on the streets of the growing areas of the Western Slope,” said Ridder, who has attended Club 20 events for more than 30 years. “It’s a very different environment now. There are very different agendas from a political standpoint from the old Club 20. It’s become a little bit of a hostile environment when those who seek questions on their issues are not necessarily reflective of the issues that candidates are hearing in other situations.” [Pols emphasis]

Hickenlooper’s 2020 opponent, incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, is trying to make it look like he is the true debate warrior and that Hickenlooper is ducking him…which conveniently ignores the fact that Gardner has thus far only agreed to attend one debate at the same time and location as Hickenlooper (in Pueblo in October).

As for Club 20, they can make an effort to be more inclusive and see where that leads them in the future…or they can just keep writing mean things in all capital letters in their diary. The latter may make them feel better, but it’s not going to change anything.


6 thoughts on “Club 20 Lashes Out Like Jilted Lover

  1. Good golly they are just ASTONISHED that Hick won't accept their trap invitation to get shelled by a hostile audience that has absolutely no intention to vote for him anyway ! What is happening to Club 20 is kind of like my special wish for the Republican party; a consistent overplaying of your hand that creates dwindling support, a smaller tent, and then finally irrelevance.

    Victory and beyond !

    1. I have to give props to Jared Polis for bravery in facing hostile audiences; maybe he didn’t go to the Club 20 Dem Roast, but he did appear in Morgan County at the Steak Out Restaurant, and other counties / other venues, where folks grilled him about oil and gas, the popular vote bill, and other hot button issues. 

      When he was still a congressman, he defended abandoning the anti-fracking initiatives to a hostile Boulder crowd. I disagreed with him on that, but liked that he showed up. 

      One thing you have to grant Jared Polis: he’s not afraid to face the music.

  2. Club 20 sold its soul to O&G years ago. Ag, water and highway people have been marginalized. Instead of having Western Slope reporters asking questions of the candidates as was the practice for many years, in recent years the O&G-dominated executive committee selects questioners who faithfully toe the extraction party line and toss softballs to Republican candidates. I think if Christian could persuade the fossils on the exec committee to bring reporters back, it would restore some semblance of fairness. Who knows? Hick might even change his mind.

    1. @gertie97: guess the identity of the only industry that grew even a little during the Great Recession of 2007-08? Hint: it wasn't O & G, which slumped badly.

      O & G also cratered during the big energy bust of 2014 and has cratered yet again in the COVID Bust of 2020.

      Answer is outdoor recreation. This conservative will offer that Club 20 is obsolete in its current format and structure. Question now will be: is Club 20 smart enough to figure that out? 

      1. Some in Club 20 get it and have for years. But the O&G crowd pays the bills. They do no matter how bad of a financial bath they're taking.

        Christian has to solve that. It takes money to buy whiskey.


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