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February 17, 2023 10:02 AM UTC

Republicans, Thiry Want Inmates to Return Asylum Keys

  • by: Colorado Pols

UPDATE: As expected, Senate Bill 101 failed to make it out of the Senate State, Military and Veterans Committee on Thursday and is now officially dead. Republican State Sen. Larry Liston was the only ‘YES’ vote.


Former DaVita CEO Kent Thiry is making it rain for GOP consultants once again

There is an effort underway by the likes of “Unaffiliated” voter enthusiast Kent Thiry and Republican State Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer to scrap the party caucus system that has played a significant role in turning the Colorado Republican Party into a barn full of drooling nitwits.

As The Colorado Sun reports in its “Unaffiliated” (no relation) newsletter:

The former DaVita CEO’s next political act, which may be his most transformative yet, comes on the heels of his acquittal in April on federal criminal charges alleging that he worked with business competitors to prevent the hiring of each other’s employees.

“I’m passionate about democracy,” Thiry told The Colorado Sun in a recent interview. “And it takes work to keep a democracy working.”

Thiry, who is registered as an unaffiliated voter, is pushing the legislature to make changes to Colorado’s primary processes, but he indicated he’s willing to pursue ballot measures if the General Assembly doesn’t act…

…Thiry supports Senate Bill 101, which would end Colorado’ caucus and assembly process of selecting primary candidates and make signature gathering the only way to make the ballot. It would also let unaffiliated voters sign partisan candidate petitions. [Pols emphasis]

Senate Bill 101 is sponsored by Kirkmeyer and Republican State Rep. Mary Bradfield of Colorado Springs. Kirkmeyer was the Republican nominee in CO-08 last November, eventually losing a close race to Democrat Yadira Caraveo. But in order to even make it to the General Election, Kirkmeyer had to first win a Republican Primary Election that turned into an all-out brawl over which candidate was the most MAGA of them all. To be clear, Kirkmeyer holds plenty of extremist views, but she had to let her right-wing freak flag fly more than she probably would have preferred in order to become the official Republican nominee.

Kirkmeyer understands that Colorado voters largely reject right-wing views; outside of a few bright red districts here and there, a Republican path to victory in a General Election is now closer to “none” than “slim.” But Republican candidates who try to soften their right-wing viewpoints have a hard time even making it onto the ballot, let alone winning a Primary Election. Last weekend we learned another lesson on the extent of the problem for the GOP when El Paso County Republican Party Chair Vickie Tonkins was re-elected to a third term despite significant effort from the establishment to kick her out.

The MAGA Republicans are firmly in control of the Colorado Republican Party, and they aren’t going to let anyone just take their keys away. Take a look at this email dated Feb. 4, 2023, from former Republican State Sen. Kevin Lundberg:


Email from former GOP State Sen. Kevin Lundberg to Republican supporters


Thiry and Kirkmeyer can talk all they want about fairness and equality and protecting democracy, but right-wingers such as Lundberg know what is really happening here: Establishment Republicans are looking for a way to bypass the base in future elections so that they can still sound like reasonable candidates in a General Election.

Senate Bill 101 isn’t something that most people are clamoring for; it is opposed by grassroots Republicans, the Colorado Democratic Party, and the Colorado Libertarian Party, among others. This is a bill, and potentially a future ballot measure, that was created in order to fix a problem that Colorado Republicans created for themselves.

It’s not a mystery as to how the Colorado GOP lost control to the right-wingers. The roots of the problem date back to at least the Tea Party movement that preceded the 2010 election, but it wasn’t until the 2020 election that the GOP establishment in Colorado decided to hand everything over to the most MAGA members of the Republican Party. Nationally, the GOP largely stood with President Donald Trump after he blamed his re-election loss on claims of election fraud, and they mostly refused to budge even after the insurrection on January 6, 2021. Here in Colorado, Republicans such as Kristi Burton Brown and Scott Gessler ran for the role of State Republican Party Chairperson by explicitly campaigning on their support for Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud.

Kristi Burton Brown (KBB) won the 2021 election for GOP Chair by effectively capturing a larger percentage of crazy people than Gessler. The downside to recruiting all of these nuts to take part in the race for GOP Chair was that it put many of them in local party leadership positions. The completely bananas 2022 State Republican Party Assembly demonstrated what happens when a major political party caters almost exclusively to its right-wing base.

Establishment Republicans need Kent Thiry and Senate Bill 101 to solve a problem they can’t fix on their own. Unfortunately for them, this legislation is destined to be killed in committee as soon as this week.


14 thoughts on “Republicans, Thiry Want Inmates to Return Asylum Keys

  1. I can write a treatise at the length of the stuff Steve Harvey used to post here about problems with caucus, but I won't because:

    Petitioning as the only way to reach a ballot would by and large favor the wealthy, who can afford petitioning companies. Petitioning is a pain in the ass for candidates and volunteers and staff, plus it's not that fun for ordinary people getting bugged for signatures when they'd rather just enjoy their day.

    And petitioning has always been an option for those who don't want to go through caucus and assemblies anyway, with or without a Kent Thiry mandate. A round of boos to him, not a round of booze!


    1. Good to hear the state bill died. Now, decline to sign Thiry's petition, whenever it might arrive. And careful, it will be presented to you draped in the typical language about how he's trying to "save democracy" and all that jazz.

  2. I have a hard time with the combo of "petition only" and "let the unaffiliated sign petitions" elements of the legislation.  That would remove the most evident way for a political party to exercise power in the choice of candidates.

    There are a variety of other ways to diminish the power of the fringes that make more sense to me.

  3. Here's my thought on this. First, you have IRV jungle primaries where the top 4 go on to the general election. And the general is also IRV. This makes it doable for a sane Republican and a Moderate Democrat to be on the general ballot.

    Second, you lower the signature collection numbers a lot. For governor, senator, etc. say 100 signatures from each congressional district. Very doable and not that much effort.

    Third, as an alternative, whatever the general cost of collecting 800 signatures from professionals is, allow people on also by just paying the fee. If the money is going to be spent, give it to the state.


    1. IRV sounds good, but Australia has a ranked voting system and they elect idiots just like we do. I think humans are going to find a way to screw things up regardless of what the voting system mechanics are.

      Also you lost me at "sane Republican."  smiley

  4. The caucus process is deeply flawed, but I don't think that Thiry and Kirkmeyer have the right answer.

    I went to my Republican caucus in Lakewood a few times in the late '00s and early '10s. What I found was that the big decisions on candidate selection had already been made somewhere else. We were expected to merely endorse those selections and then cough up the cash to be able to attend the county and state conventions. I never "coughed."

    1. "We were expected to merely endorse those selections and then cough up the cash to be able to attend the county and state conventions."

      I remember attending my first Dem caucus in 1992 and hearing someone say that the GOP charged admission fees at their caucuses. I thought that was a joke. Apparently not.

      1. The state wasn't paying for caucus expenses, so they money had to come from somewhere — Democratic donors and Republican "per head" options both have problems.

  5. Subject to certain limitations involving fundamental rights or suspect classifications (e.g., the whites-only primary), political parties are allowed to make their own rules as to candidate selection.

    There has been a long line of US Supreme Court and lower court cases holding as such.

    In fact, one Colorado federal court case from back in the late ’80’s held that the state statute requiring that a candidate be a member of a political party for a certain length of time prior to nomination was unconstitutional when the Democrats wanted to nominate Martha Ezzard, a Republican state legislator, to run in CD 6 against Dan Schaffer. The federal court said that the state statute had to yield to the political party’s decision.

    If the GOP wants to ban independents or independents and non-MAGA Republicans from participating in candidate selection, so be it. Frankly, I think it would be cheaper and less disingenuous for the state party to simply send a list of potential candidates to Mar-A-Lago, and let Orange Jesus cross off the names of the unacceptable.


  6. I am one of the biggest haters of the caucus system. There are no controls on it so it becomes something of a free-for-all that only serves to piss off the largest number of people possible. As an elections person, it makes my skin crawl thinking of all the fudged vote counts, questionable math, and even uncounted votes (horrors!!!!).

    On top of that, they are horribly expensive and that is money that the parties have to raise and spend that would be better used for getting their people elected, rather than simply on the ballot.

    I do think the parties need a mechanism to select their own candidates. That is their principle purpose after all. But I have long advocated the complete removal of the caucuses (no it is not Caucusi, it’s not a Latin word) and leave the nominating abilities to each district central committee (or the state central committee for state-wide office). These are people who were selected in the odd years, when we we not in the heat of an election, and are generally there to promote what they think the party as a whole should be doing, vs. there for the sole purpose of supporting one candidate, which is what we get with the current system. Using this process would also make it easier for parties to fill those precinct committee people slots that are never completely filled since they come with the ability to vote in the nominating assemblies.

    Now along with this, I want to keep the petition process for those who think any party system is rigged or they feel petitioning gets them “closer to the people” – yeah, not really, but it makes a good soundbite. I do like the idea of having a fee which skips all of this for those with enough money. (Again just get to the part most voters care about – what are going to do if elected?). In the end, most voters don’t care how a candidate got on the ballot, they care about that candidate’s positions (and in recent elections, mental capacity). Unless they are an attractive celebrity, then they often care more about that.

    If I was in the legislature I would not support the Thiry-Kirkmeyer proposal because it takes all decisions out of the parties’ hands. So in a nutshell, yes party’s should be able to pick their candidates, but there is no need for the expense and drama of a caucus, and we have to keep a process in place for partisan candidates to achieve the ballot outside of the party structure.

    The IRV comments are a completely different conversation, so I’ll stop here.

  7. Now Mr. Thirey can put his $$$ where his mouth is and finance another ballot initiative to do that which the state affairs committee declined to do.

    Or Kristie Burton Brown and her successor can move the GOP state central committee to vote to close its primaries from participation by independents and non-MAGA Republicans, then sue the Secretary of State to enforce the party's bylaws change. 

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