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October 12, 2007 06:05 PM UTC

No Room for Moderates in Colorado Republican Party

  • by: Colorado Pols

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

UPDATE: Check out the open letter to Stafford from a Republican reader of Colorado Pols.

It should perhaps come as no surprise that Rep. Debbie Stafford announced yesterday that she was switching parties from Republican to Democrat if you consider the move in a recent historical context.

As Stafford said in her remarks yesterday, the Republican Party does not well tolerate moderates:

I considered my options.  Ideally, I find myself a moderate and would be best suited for a third party.  However, the reality that our political system is not designed for a third party voice to be strong, my answer was to join a party that better reflects my values and respects my contribution.

Like many others in Colorado who want to balance the role of government, who want to protect business yet show compassion for those less fortunate, who want to stand up for citizens who have been lost in bureaucracy, I find that I am in the middle of the political spectrum.

I will spend my last year as an elected official serving the constituents that elected me to public office.  My ability to affect change for my constituents and the state of Colorado has been impacted by the fact that I am a moderate.

Like many others in Colorado, I feel this way:
I am not leaving the Republican Party as much as the Republican Party left me.

No one pushed me or pulled me:  I decided it was time to place myself, and my self-respect, with the Democratic Party.

Former moderate Republican Mark Larson was the first to publicly highlight the Republicans’ intolerance of moderate voices when he abruptly walked away from a state Senate race that he almost certainly would have won. As it was reported in early 2006:

Recent sniping between state and local Republican power brokers is exposing a bitter rift in the party, as GOP officials struggle to replace state Rep. Mark Larson in the 6th District state Senate race…

On Monday, conservatives, rankled by the maverick lawmaker’s history of bucking the party line, responded with guarded glee. But disenchanted moderates lashed out at local party brass and close-knit GOP leaders, who Larson said are cloistered in the right-wing power center of Colorado Springs.

Larson may have been the most vocal, but he was not the first Republican to be cannibalized by their own party. Ramey Johnson lost her general election race in 2004 when a group led by Bob Schaffer and Alex Cranberg attacked her because she wasn’t strong enough on school vouchers. Months later, the ultra-conservative Republican Study Committee of Colorado promoted itself as a group dedicated to purging the GOP Statehouse of those who aren’t true to the party’s “core values.”

The Denver Post outlined this rift in greater detail in January 2006, but apparently another bad defeat at the polls last November hasn’t swayed Republicans from the idea that there is only one “true” Republican. Unfortunately for the GOP, “true” Republicans aren’t winning a lot of races these days.


51 thoughts on “No Room for Moderates in Colorado Republican Party

  1. But good for her.  All one has to do is take a short journey over to the website “” and read their headlines to quickly understand why  the mass exodus of people like Debbie from the party.  If this website is the “voice” of “core Republican values”….they can have it.  Be sure to keep the door open behind you Debbie…I can hear a stampede coming behind you … and those of you at “ToTheRight” .. you better get accustomed to having the description “minority” before all of your hard-earned titles.

  2. I know Rep. Stafford pretty well, both personally and professionally. As much as I like her I have never considered her a moderate. That she would be forced from today’s GOP speaks volumes about how far right the party has gone. I also have to believe that the private attacks from within the Republican caucus were just completely over the top.

    1. …any “voice” of the Republican party who thinks it’s appropriate to call an ordained minister “Crazy Bitch” pretty much says it all….

      1. far be it from me to defend a “voice of the Republican Party”–and I certainly don’t agree that the description fits Rep. Stafford, but the fact that a person is an ordained minister does not automatically shield them from being a “crazy bitch”.

        One need look no further than The Rev. Fred Phelps to see that…

  3.   IIRC, someone posted on here some months back that Dottie Wham had switched parties.  Of course, there’s Eric Eidness.
      I know she works for Ritter, but did Marcy Morrison change party affiliation along the way?  Maybe she decided to stay a Ritter Republican.
      My guess is Al White has at least thought about possibly switching.

  4. You have the battle you have going on in every other state.  The Dems are picking off the Mod seats cause they can.  It’s a shame we dont have a true 2 party system.  Because there are no swing voters in the parties anymore.  No Pro choice repubs or any anti choice dems… ( ect ect)

    1. I don’t see many antichoice Dems in the sense of actively pushing to make abortion a crime.  But there are quite a few who personally oppose abortion (like Reid and Ritter as mentioned above).

      1. They are anti-abortion. I feel there must be made the distinction here. I consider myself anti-abortion. I have two children, neither of whom were born during a marriage, and both were conceived  in less-than-ideal circumstances. However, never once was the idea of an abortion even considered by myself or by their mother due to our personal feelings that the procedure is wrong.

        However, I will always defend the right of a woman to make that decision for herself based on her own belief system and free of government interference.

        I therefore consider myself anti-abortion but pro-choice.

        1. I’ve never met anyone who is pro-abortion, although the fundies talk like there are. 

          Despite 35 years of attempting to return to the coat hanger days, they have made surprisingly little headway outside of their own club. 

        2. I mirror your thoughts exactly.  I think both parties are ill-serving thier constituents by the way they frame/spin the issues.  Isn’t it ironic that under the Clinton administration, a pro-choice atmosphere, that abortions overall went down…while under the current, pro-life administration abortions are up?

  5. When a political movement sees that the tide is turning against it, it tends to do one of two things:

    1) It learns and adapts. This is what we Dems have done over the last 20 years. It has been slow at times and fitful at times, but we have learned, adapted, and are doing much better because of it.

    2) It gets in a downward spiral where the knives come out for each other in a battle for ideological purity. This is what the Repubs are doing. This happens when enough members are unwilling to face the fact that their core values won’t sell.

    In case (2) they must destroy any member that is a moderate because speaking the truth forces them to face the fact that their values are the cause of their defeat.

    ’08 is going to be a disaster for the Repubs…

    1. Maybe I have you all wrong, and the ideology you are attacking is merely the specific ‘ideological purity’ of Republican leadership and not something more general, but…

      You seem to not like any form of ideological purity.
      You talk about people’s ‘core values’ not ‘selling’.
      You even seem to say that having values leads you to defeat.

      So what are you arguing for?

      Abandoning core values for political expedience?
      Finding values that sell?

      There is a difference between being a Moderate, and having clear values that lie with the mainstream of opinion, and being a Centrist, and having values that lie between the two major parties where you think they will ‘sell.’

      Good luck with your ideological impurity and your willingness to discard core values. You can call that adapting and learning, but I think of it as something else.

      I don’t know about Wadham’s ‘values’, but I personally believe that the core values of the Democratic Party are actually worth the fight. While I welcome anyone who wants to stand in our tent, I think that everyone in this tent should stand for something.

      Stafford said:
      “My decision comes from my gut sense of right and wrong, and my heart’s deepest values.”

      “…my answer was to join a party that better reflects my values and respects my contribution.”

      She says she came to the Democratic Party to defend her core values. Not because there was too much ideological purity on the Right, but because of the ideological purity that she wished to maintain within herself.

      The Republicans are not faltering because of what they clung too tightly to. They are losing because of what they have let go. Bush’s disregard of honesty and the Constitution. The Republican leadership’s abandonment of fiscal sanity. A predilection to put loyalty to electoral victory over competence in appointments.

      You seem to be arguing for the same thing that Rove did to kill his party… He put winning electoral majorities above doing the right thing on policy.

      We will see if Stafford’s values and their expression are a good fit in the Democratic Party or not. I may be alone in this, but I do not think it is a given that they will. I do not think the Democratic Party should be the party of  ‘anybody who says and does anything they please so long as they contribute to our majority’. I think our party should and does defend certain principles.

      (Which interestingly enough, can be summed up as Truth, Justice, and the American Way; and I would be happy to write you a book on the policies that reflect those.)

      1.   The irony is that at the same time I welcome moderate Repubs abandoning the extremist base, for the first time in my life I am considering walking away from the Democratic Party–because of their failure to take forceful and principled action opposing Iraq War and upholding the Constitution (and coming soon, the Dem waffle on climate change policy).  I recognize the importance of compromise and bipartisanship in problem solving and effective governance.  But there comes a point where you either take a stand for your principles, or you are just trying to perpetuate your power structure.  And to me these issues are too fundamentally important in their present and future consequences to justify inaction for political advantage. 

        1. and I’m right there with ya.  I simplify the question to “can I really knock on doors for someone like Mark Udall?”  The answer’s been an easy no for two years now.

          1.   I don’t know the answer, but another approaoch is to ask a different question:  If the Dems lose significant support, where will they go?

              There have been times in the past where the two party system has failed to address the concerns of the voters–most notable example I know is leading to the Civil War where neither Jacksonian Dems nor Whigs were addressing the demands to end slavery.  Result was that both parties were mortally wounded, the modern Repub and the offshoot Freesoil Dem parties arose from the ruins (and we had a nasty war-so yes, there are consequences to rejecting existing parties). In capitalistic terms, the marketplace of ideas will supply a political party to satisfy voter demand.

              It hasn’t come to truth-time yet, but as far as I am concerned all options are on the table.

      2. I think I would state it as being able to find compromise across the aisle more often than not. Yes there should be principles that you hold true to. Yes there will be items that you cannot compromise on.

        But for each of those, there should be places where you can find room to compromise. Ref C is a great example of people from both sides coming together to craft a compromise. No one was thrilled with it but they managed to find something they could agree on.

        I expect that from us Dems as well as from the Repubs. Different priorites, differen tpoint of view, different approach to solving the problem – but then hammering out a compromise.

        1. Heard on the radio a great exchange between Everett Dirksen and LBJ. I think Schlessinger might have been the observer.  The wit, respect, and parrying between the two was amazing.  They were looking for common grounds, ways to make deals.

          Can you imagine Reid and Bush doing that?

  6. Funny that someone mentioned Marcy Morrison. According to the books she is still as registered Republican in my home county-El Paso. As someone who has closely observed Republican politics for the past 15 years in El Paso County, these intra-party battles have been brewing since the early 1990s when Marcy Morrison first ran for state representative.Party officials did everything they could to dissuade and derail her campaign. It’s hard to believe, but the rhetoric  was even more vitriolic then it is now.

    1. I have always admired Marcy Morrison for the way she represented herself and her constituency.  I always votd for her and felt she held to her values without compromise for political expediency.

    2.   So when she, a bonafide RINO left, the seat went Democratic?
        Let me guess:  the El Paso GOP ran a red meat, full moon wing nut for that seat?

  7. While I am happy to say a “democrat” now represents me, as her opponent in the 2006 election I have a few questions for Debbie.

    Would she still consider herself a supporter of George Bush, or of the War in Iraq?

    Has she reconsidered her views on wire-tapping US citizens, providing basic healthcare to the children of illegal immigrants, or same sex marriage?

    While I like her strong views on cleaning up the healthcare system in general I cannot deny that I am skeptical of this change. 

    Just as when Ben Campbell changed parties in the middle of a term, I feel all the donations and time spent by those of the abandoned party should count for something.

    I look forward to discussing her views on these and many other issues at upcoming democratic meetings.

    Welcome to the party and please remember, it is not the label after the name that defines a representative, but the votes you cast on behalf of those that elected you (or didn’t in this case).

  8. As “a way of governing, conservatism is another name for disater.  And the disasters will continue, year after year, as long as conservatives find ways to perpetuate their power.  Antigovernment conservatives are bad at governing for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world class boeuf bourguigon:  If you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are not likely to do it very well.

  9. According to the Rocky Mountain News candidate questionnaire that she filled out 11 months ago, Debbie Stafford was pro-school voucher, pro-life, anti-gay marriage, against increasing the minimum wage, in favor of wire tapping terrorists, pro-Iraq war, pro-death penalty, and against embryonic stem cell research.

    At least that’s what she told voters.

    Here’s the link: http://cfapp2.rockym

    1. I don’t think her party left her, they chased her off dispite her staunch conservative views.

      What upsets me the most is the fact that the other elected democrats who wanted to see her replaced are now welcoming her with open arms.

      These candidates make me wanna vomit in terror!
      — Homer speaks

    2. See I recall very well how Debbie was very comfortable in the “Right Wing Wacko” crowd during the Coors-Schaffer fight.

      Then again, she is more in line with a moderate DEM than a moderate GOPer… Always has been now that I think of it. The GOP moderates are more often defined by being soft on social issues, but 9 out of 10 times, they are absolute nuts on the fiscal side. Never let it be said that our devout little Rev. Debbie was ever soft on some of the most pressing social issues of our day!

      But pro-business? Right to work? One of the small Gov’mint pit bulls? No. I don’t recall that.

      So go ahead everyone, call her a moderate if you want… I think that is why she had to jump parties though. The real moderates in the GOP wouldn’t have her because her ideology in no way matched theirs.

      Personally, based more on what I have heard than I know, I think she jumped ship just so she could be the Colorado State Chair for “Democrats for Romney”. Now that is what you call irony.

      1.   And yet another piece to the puzzle falls into place.  I was wondering whether newly-minted Democrat Debbie Stafford had found a presidential candidate in her new party with whom she was comfortable.  You’ve answered my question.

    3. because last year, the anti-death penalty people got a bill out of the Judiciary Committee with her vote.  IIRC, they killed the bill on the House floor.

    4. …on the Emergency Contraception Bill in 2006.  She and Mark Cloer were the pit bulls against this common sense bill.  I think of that afternoon and scratch my head.

      “A Dem?”

  10. It is theocratic versus libertarian.  For a century, Democrats and Republicans have taken turns being the party of liberty.  In the last decade, the worm has turned, and libertarians are being asked to leave the big tent.  The Democrats are busy enlarging their tent-even nominating and electing a pro-life and Lisl Auman prosecuting governor.  The conflict is not between right and left, but between freedom and totalitarianism.  The right wants to tell me who I can sleep with, subsidize religious schools, and not let me smoke pot if I so choose.  Alternatively, the left wants to force me to purchase unsafe, expensive fuel efficient cars, pay high taxes for entitlement social programs, and take away 3.2 beer from 18 year olds.

    I want a government with low taxes and 3.2 beer for 18 year olds. 

      1. Drank at Pat O’Brians when, as part of the UF Air Force ROTC drill team, we marched in some parade in1 965.  (Also LBJ’s inauguration.) 

        It’s a sobering moment when one of your kids says that they drank at the same place.

        Hurricanes for everyone, on the house!

          1. …Joke, I presume.  🙂

            One could drink at 18 in LA then, so for us Florida kids it was a moment of passage. 

            Then many years later a kid mentions drinking in Pat Obrian’s.  Damn, can’t stop that clock.

  11. The Democrats tried to give Debbie Stafford back to the Republicans but they would not take her. Having Stafford in your caucus is not a good thing. 

  12. I heard former State Senator Bill Kaufman speak to a small group about 2 years ago.  Kaufman, a Larimer County Republican, bitterly recounted how Senate President John Andrews dragged the Party to the far- right extreme, and how Republican Part officials told him he couldn’t be a “real Republican” unless he supported the idea of Christianity as the official national religion and worked to pass and enforce a religious (Christian) litmus test for public office!  When Kaufman showed them the provision in the United States Constitution that prohibits religious litmus tests for public office, he was derided as un-American.

    What, exactly, happened to the Rockefeller Republicans ( other than our own poster here)?

  13. Doubtful that Stafford will be more accomodating of pro-choice views as a Democrat, though I do think she will be more supportive of gays and the environment and programs to help people.  Additionally, she occasionally stakes out crazy territory by running a bill that is solely based on a story from one constituent.  Every one knows that is a bad way to legislate, and she has to be talked down from that ledge periodically.  She will make Dem Caucus meetings interesting that’s for sure.  Wondering if bringing a fellow Auroran into the fold had anything to do with M Carroll becoming house caucus chair shortly before Stafford’s announcement. 

    1. …..from her efforts to impeach the Denver District Court judge who decided the two lesbian mommies case back in ’03 or ’04, to her vote this past session in favor of Employment Nondiscrimination Act.
        I seriously doubt that she’s seen the light on marriage equality.

        1.   A moderate could oppose same sex marriage while supporting civil union legislation, like numerous RINOs and nearly all Democrats have done.
            Can we send her back and have Al White or Rob Witwer come over to Dem side instead?

    2. The entire city of Aurora (but for some very small parts of David Balmer’s and Nancy Spence’s districts)is now represented by Dems in the legislature … at least until January 2009. Quite a change from the 1990s.

  14.   Former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey said in an interview with the Gazette-Journal of Reno that he believes Hillary will be elected president next year, and that for Republican, “it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
      There are only 464 days til January 20, 2009, and the beginning of the Clinton Restoration.

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