By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
More than a thousand Republicans will swarm to the Adams County Fairgrounds on Saturday, April 3, for the county GOP Assembly where delegates will vote for candidates in several local contests and six legislative races. Republicans aim to nominate GOP commando candidates who will fight to capture elected offices dominated by Democrats.
“It’s going to be a very exciting election,” said Adams County GOP Chair Clark Bolser, who anticipates several unnamed Republicans to emerge as candidates during the assembly.
It is an uphill battle in this Democratic bastion. Of 194,325 registered voters, 68,045 are Democrats, 55,978 are Republicans and 70,302 are unaffiliated.
All of the county’s elected officials are Democrats. Rep. Kevin Priola, of Henderson, is the lone Republican legislator in the county’s delegation — excluding Rep. Cory Gardner in House District 63, which includes a small slice of Adams County.
In 2008, Priola won the House District 30 seat that had been held by Democrats for 25 years. It was a coup considering that 38 percent of the district’s registered voters are affiliated Democrats, 36 percent are unaffiliated and 26 percent are Republicans.
The battle begins at the crack of dawn on Saturday when 435 delegates and 864 alternates line up for credentials at the county GOP assembly to choose candidates in at least three local races — county sheriff, district 3 county commissioner and coroner — and House Districts 30, 32, 33, 34 and 35 and Senate District 24.
“The wind is at our backs in this year,” said former county GOP Chair Mary Dambman, who predicts voters will favor Republicans over Democrats in local and legislative races.
According to Dambman and Bolser, the wind is more like a storm brewing over dissatisfaction with Democrats on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., under the gold dome at the statehouse and in the Adams County Board of Commissioners’ chambers.
At the top of the grievance list is a ballot initiative to waive term limits that was driven by Adams County Commissioners Larry Pace and Alice Nichol, both Democrats, last year. The measure, which narrowly passed with 50.48 percent of 46,741 votes, allows all county elected officials to serve three terms instead of being limited to two terms or eight years.
“Shall your rights, as an Adams County voter, be restored to elect candidates of your choice to the offices of Adams County commissioner, sheriff, assessor, clerk and recorder, coroner, surveyor and treasurer by lengthening term limits for those offices by one additional term… as authorized by Article XVIII, Section 11(2) of the Colorado Constitution?” stated the ballot measure.
“It was sneakily worded,” declared Bolser. “It was very, very confusing. Some voters, who voted for it, thought they were voting to uphold term limits. There is a backlash.”
The controversial measure, he said, makes Pace as well as other county elected officials vulnerable in this election.
“There have been all kinds of mini and maxi scandals, but this is a prime example of power running astray,” said Bolser.
Republican delegates will choose a candidate to challenge Pace, whose campaign coffer held more than $13,000 at the end of December. Republican Bill Scebbi tossed his hat into the arena last year — but Bolser anticipates that a “very well known and viable” candidate will emerge at the county GOP assembly.
The GOP is also targeting Adams County Sheriff Douglas Darr. Mark Nicastle, a 30-year veteran of the county sheriff’s department, switched his Democratic voter affiliation to Republican to run against Darr. Nicastle has captured key endorsements from law enforcement and public safety organizations.
Republican Dr. Mark Arnall is campaigning for county coroner and Rebecca Lefebvre is running for county treasurer. Other Republicans may declare their candidacies for other county positions at the assembly.
“The outcome of the county races will be a referendum of the term limit measure,” said Bolser.
Priola has amassed more than $14,000 in his re-election bid and to fend off the winner of a Democratic contest between Laura Huerta and Mary Ellen Pollack, who filed their candidate affidavits on Feb. 18 and March 3, respectively.
In House District 31, Republican Tom Janich is seeking his party’s nomination to challenge incumbent state Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighten. Jumping in the race last month, Janich has just begun raising campaign funds; Solano has nearly $10,000 in her war chest. The district is comprised of 37 percent unaffiliated voters, 33 percent Democrats and 30 percent Republicans.
The Republican match to watch is in House District 32 where three candidates are competing to be the challenger facing incumbent Rep. Ed Casso, D-Commerce City, in the general election.
“It’s nearly mathematically impossible for three Republican candidates to each get 33 percent of the vote at the district assembly,” said Bolser. “However, I think a primary is very possible in this race.”
Vying for the nomination are Republicans Andrew Goad, an emergency medical specialist and former Marine; Alexander “Al” Jacobson, a standup comic and author; and Kaarl Hoopes, a small business owner and IT consultant.
The three Republican candidates share fiscal conservative platforms. In answers to a 12-question survey issued by the Adams County GOP, they all listed the state’s most pressing issues as the need for jobs to lower the unemployment rate, eliminate “back-door” taxes disguised as fees and balance the state budget.
The trio criticized Casso for supporting tax and fee increases. The Democratic legislator’s rating by the Colorado Union of Taxpayers fell toward the bottom of the barrel last year — a mere 3.13 percent.
Goad blasted Casso’s “pro-union, anti-business stance” that, he said, circumvented the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR) and for having “supported in-state tuition for illegal immigrants while voting against in-state tuition for veterans.”
“I’m running primarily on an education platform,” said Jacobson.
If elected, he plans to propose legislation to enable high school seniors to take courses in medical fields so that they can graduate and secure “better jobs than bagging groceries or serving hamburgers at fast food restaurants.”
In keeping with his slogan, “I want to make lemonade out of the Democrats’ lemons,” Jacobson plans to serve lemonade and homemade brownies at the assembly.
Hoopes touts his community involvement and work experience in a number of industries — from real estate to information technology — as assets in understanding legislation, the state budget and the economy.
The Republican candidate cites his involvement in the Victory Church, Denver Rescue Mission, Habitat for Humanity, Finlandia Foundation, the Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol and the Republican National Hispanic Assembly.
If elected, Hoopes pledged to uphold the Tax Payers Bill of Rights, ease regulations on the oil and gas industry to help restore jobs and make government more transparent.
Republican contenders Hoopes and Goad have each raised several hundred dollars — but they’ll need more ammo to fight Casso, who has more than $3,000 cash in the campaign bank. Another challenge is overcoming the district’s voter makeup — 40 percent are registered Democrats, 37 percent are unaffiliated and 22 percent are Republicans.
In House District 34, Republican Brian Vande Krol is campaigning for the nomination to challenge Rep. John Soper, D-Thornton. Vande Krol has several obstacles to hurdle including raising money. The Republican has more than $800 cash on hand compared to more than $9,000 in Soper’s campaign coffer. The district has 39 percent Democratic-registered voters, 37 percent unaffiliated and 25 percent Republican.
In House District 35, Republican Ed Antillon is campaigning for the privilege of running against state Rep. Cherylin Peniston, D-Westminster, who is seeking a third term. Ed Mercer withdrew his Republican candidacy earlier this year. The district favors Democrats who have a 44 percent edge in voter registration compared to 21 percent Republican and 35 percent unaffiliated.
Assistant Senate Majority Leader Lois Tochtrop has amassed more than $17,000 to fuel her re-election campaign. The Senator was first appointed to the seat in December 2004, and won election in 2006. Tochtrop previously represented House District 34, from 1998 to 2004. To date, no Republican candidate has stepped to the plate to challenge Tochtrop.
The state Senate District 31 Republican assembly will convene April 10 at East High School in Denver to nominate a candidate to run against Democratic Senator Patrick Steadman. Steadman was appointed last year to replace former state Senator Jennifer Veiga who resigned in order to pursue a career opportunity.
Multi-county House Districts 33 and 63 Republican assemblies will be held Friday, May 21, at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Loveland.
Republican candidate Donald Beezley hopes to win the party’s nomination to challenge state Rep. Dianne Primavera, D-Broomfield, who is running for a fourth term. The district includes Adams, Boulder, Broomfield and Weld counties. This will likely shape up to be a very competitive race — the district has 37 percent unaffiliated voters, 32 percent Republicans and 31 percent Democrats.
Beezley, president of Tager Enterprises, Inc., is a guest writer for the Golden-based Independence Institute and serves on boards of the Tabor Foundation, Tabor Committee and the Leadership Program of the Rockies.
Republican contenders Jon Beck and Ron Graton are wooing HD 63 delegates in hopes of winning the nomination and the seat being vacated by state Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma. Gardner is campaigning for the Republican nomination to battle Democratic U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey in the 4th Congressional District.
The Republican candidate who wins the nomination will nearly be assured victory in the November general election because at least 50 percent of the voters in this district are registered Republicans. The district spans the Colorado Eastern Plains and includes Cheyenne, Crowley, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Lincoln, Morgan, Washington and Yuma counties and parts of Adams County.
Becker recently resigned as a Morgan County commissioner in order to campaign for the Legislature. A small businessman, he served as executive director of the Morgan County Economic Development Corporation.
Graton, a partner and manager of Graton Construction, was a member of the Otis Town Council and chair of the Washington County Republican Party. He ran unsuccessfully for the Washington County Board of Commissioners in a race that some Republicans recall as contentious.