An excerpt from our post, “Sept. 3, 2010: The Day the Colorado GOP Changed Forever.”
Remember this day, folks, because in the coming years politicos, reporters, bloggers and everyone with an interest in Colorado politics will point back to this day to mark the moment when the Colorado Republican Party changed completely, and perhaps irrevocably. Whether or not this change will be remembered as something positive or negative may not be known until well after Election Day in November, and maybe not until Winter 2011, when Republicans across the state elect new local and statewide leadership. But make no mistake — nothing can ever be the same in the Colorado GOP after weeks of events that culminated on Friday.
Because on Friday, Sept. 3, 2010, the State Republican Party told every Republican voter that the caucus and the primary only matter so long as you choose the candidate they want you to choose. Otherwise, your vote means nothing. Incredibly, and inexplicably, the Colorado Republican Party officially declared that a small handful of people will make decisions for you, no matter what the election results say.
Dan Maes was not a viable candidate for Governor of Colorado. He probably wasn’t a viable candidate for dog catcher in Evergreen where he lived, but that’s not what really matters. What matters is the fact that Maes, for all his flaws, received just under 200,000 votes in the August 10th GOP primary, which was enough to defeat the scandal-ravaged Scott McInnis, and had rightfully earned the Republican nomination. Regardless, on Friday, September 3rd, Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams announced in a press release that the Republican Party would not support its elected nominee for governor.
It’s been said that in the weeks between Maes’ victory in the primary and the events of the week of September 3rd, “new information” reportedly surfaced that changed the minds of Republican leaders–who had been slowly lending nominal support to Maes prior to this. We are here to tell you that this is a load of crap: the basic facts of everything, certainly enough, of what Maes had either failed to disclose or embellished from his past, as well as his famous campaign reimbursement troubles, were widely disseminated facts. Furthermore, whatever “new information” that Maes may have been threatened with in those fateful last meetings with Dick Wadhams was–this is critical to understand–dug up by Republicans, not Democrats.
In fact, we can tell you with reasonable certainty that no significant opposition research projects on Maes were ever undertaken by Democrats, who never viewed him as a threat justifying the expenditure. All of the damaging research into Maes’ background was done by the press, and Republican sources assisting and encouraging them–including after the primary.
Bottom line: the GOP leadership in Colorado more or less admitted before the primary that they didn’t care how the Republican rank-and-file actually voted. It was reported over and over, in both local and national press, that various plans to induce the withdrawal of whichever candidate won the primary were being readied. In the end, Republicans had hoped that McInnis would win; as he was considered more ‘practical,’ and therefore more tractable by a plushy alternative.
Maes, on the other hand, had everything he could hope to gain by staying in, and nothing to lose. In the end, unsuccessful Republican efforts to force Maes out served only to confuse and demoralize Republican voters on November 2nd; and the entry of the polarizing Tom Tancredo as a third-party candidate broke up the ticket, underlining the GOP’s weakness at the top.
In fact, Wadhams and the GOP have absolutely nothing to show for their machinations. Despite the flocking of Republican luminaries to Tancredo, John Hickenlooper still won over 50% of the vote, depriving Republicans of a dearly hoped-for talking point. And despite the bizarre open assault on Maes by the GOP chairman, he still got over 10% of the general election vote, preserving the GOP’s major party status. That should have been Wadhams’ goal all along; for no other reason than once McInnis imploded, the outcome of the gubernatorial race was no longer realistically in doubt. It should have been all about damage control, and minimizing the impact down the ticket from that moment forward for a party chairman doing his job.
Instead, Wadhams gambled that the same strong-arm tactics he had used to clear the primary field for Bob Schaffer in 2008, and was apparently attempted again with Jane Norton last year, could save the day: even after the voters in his party had chosen. He was wrong, he achieved nothing–and he revealed again a side of insider politics that destroys morale, empties volunteer pools, and sends the next generation of candidates looking for another line of work.