By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
The toss of dice determined the order of candidate speeches and positions on ballots that will be cast by 594 delegates at the Republican 4th Congressional Assembly, Friday, May 21, in Loveland to determine which candidates — state Rep. Cory Gardner, University of Colorado Regent Tom Lucero and businessman Dean Madere — make the primary ballot and in what order.
“We had the candidates roll the dice and hit the wall. The one who rolled the highest number won the first pick of either speaking or ballot placement,” said Republican CD 4 Chair Ron Buxman.
Long shot contender Madere of Loveland won the lucky high number and chose to speak last — he’s hoping it’s an omen of his ability to overtake competitors in this Republican race. Lucero of Berthoud threw the second highest die and chose to be named first on the ballot at the assembly.
Gardner of Yuma wound up with the leftover slots — speaking first and being listed second on the ballot that will appear on touch screen voting machines loaned by Weld County.
Most political strategists would agree that the ballot position won’t make or break a candidate — speaking first, however, is disadvantageous because a candidate can’t respond to attacks or misrepresentations by opponents.
The delegates — and potentially 594 alternates — are eligible to attend the assembly; however, Buxman noted that the Embassy Suites Piñon Pine Room only holds 900 folks. The chair won’t know if there will be an overflow crowd until after delegates and alternates are credentialed, a process that begins at 12:30 p.m. and ends when the assembly begins at 2 p.m.
Gardner, Lucero and Madere will be allotted 12 minutes for nominating, seconding and candidate speeches — and floor demonstrations. According to the assembly bylaws, other Republican candidates can be nominated at the assembly, but they must be present to either accept or reject the nomination.
“We have a long list and a wish list of people to nominate Cory and second the nomination,” said Gardner’s campaign manager Chris Hansen, who added that plans have not been formalized.
“Diggs Brown will definitely be one of the nominating speakers,” said Hansen. Brown abandoned his 4th CD race after Republican caucuses in March and endorsed Gardner.
Over the past year, Gardner said, that he’s held meet-and-greets with Republicans in every county in the district.
“People understand what is at stake,” said Gardner, who emphasized his concern about the federal debt that will be paid by voters and future generations.
Gardner said the core of his message to the delegates would be that he’s not only a native Coloradan but also “a conservative Republican. I embrace that label, and I have the record to back it up. I have an unassailable pro-life record. I have been awarded the Guardian of the Taxpayer Award by the Colorado Union of Taxpayers, and I am the only candidate in the race to receive an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association.”
Lucero said he hasn’t determined the number of nomination speakers or who they’ll be. The candidate said that his speech would hammer home “why I’m the best candidate to take out Betsy Markey.”
Raising money has been a struggle for Lucero, but the candidate said he’s assured delegates that money will be forthcoming.
“I’ve told people that it only takes $200,000 to win the primary… and after that national groups targeting (Democratic Congresswoman) Betsy Markey will give us a couple of million on August 11,” said Lucero.
The candidate likens his campaign to Republican U.S. Senator Scott Brown who won the seat that was held by former Democratic U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts who died earlier this year.
Lucero said the well-funded groups include organizations that are individually headed by former Alaska Governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Fox News show host Sean Hannity and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Hansen countered that “the national party and other groups do not have endless money, and even if they did, they would not spend it in Colorado.”
He said the NRCC and other national organizations might be repelled by the cost of Denver metro media versus other states where the costs are 90 percent lower and “make bigger a bang for the buck.”
Lucero said he’s also billing himself as a “political outsider” although he’s spent the past 11 years in elected office. That “outsider” moniker might better fit Madere, who is a “Constitutionalist” and member of Tea Party and “9-11” movements.
Madere, who entered the race as a political neophyte to make a difference, said that his nominators would include his 16-year-old daughter Kayla who has spoken for her father at previous political events. The remaining three speakers have not been selected.
“My message is that this is an opportunity to do something we haven’t done often — especially those of us who want to take our country back — to elect someone who is not a politician,” said Madere. “I’m running to represent the people because of my ideals — not because I’m term limited and need to seek another political office.”
A latecomer in the race, Madere has also struggled to raise campaign funds, but estimated that he’s now raised more than $5,000 since December.
“People are waiting on the sidelines — on the edge — just waiting to give money to my campaign,” said Madere. “If we get on the ballot — the money will come in and it will be a helluva race.”
Madere said he is aiming for 30 percent of the delegate vote to make the primary ballot, but will certainly get the 10 percent required to petition onto it. He said it’s next to impossible to measure the delegate preferences because too many say they’re undecided.
The district, which covers the state’s eastern plains, includes Baca, Bent, Cheyenne, Crowley, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Larimer, Lincoln, Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Prowers, Sedgwick, Washington, Weld and Yuma counties, and portions of Boulder and Otero counties.
Nearly 65 percent of district’s Republican delegates are allotted to Larimer and Weld counties, which overwhelmingly favored Gardner in caucus preference polls. Diggs Brown placed second followed by Lucero and Madere.
In the category of fundraising, Gardner also wins the high mark — he has raised more than $865,000 in this election cycle, and reported $539,328 cash in the campaign coffer at the end of this year’s first quarter. Lucero raised about $125,000 for the cycle and reported having $11,600 cash on hand and a $746 unpaid obligation at the end of March.
If those numbers are indicators, Gardner might be able to avoid a primary contender — but even his campaign isn’t banking on that scenario. It’s highly unlikely three candidates could each capture 179 delegate votes — the required minimum 30 percent to be placed on the primary ballot.
“I can promise you that there won’t be three candidates on the primary ballot, and the delegates might decide to elect Cory Gardner as their nominee and avoid a primary,” said Hansen. “That would enable Gardner to immediately focus his campaign on Markey.”
Gardner’s campaign last week launched ebetsy.com — a spin of Ebay.com – and invited supporters to fund his campaign in equal amounts to the “special interests” financing the Democratic incumbent.
According to the campaign, the Web site features the major special interests that filled Markey’s campaign coffers after she switched her health care vote and shows exactly how much they gave… (and) voters can track groups like Act Blue that gave Markey more than $4,000 after she switched from voting against to for the federal health care bill.
Meanwhile, state and national Democrats are criticizing Gardner in press releases and on blog sites for having missed some votes in the Legislature in order to campaign.
Gardner, according to the state Democratic Party, “skipped out on his elected duties six times and developed the not-so-illustrious record of being one of the state representatives with the most absences.”
Democratic State Chair Pat Waak listed key votes that Gardner missed, including a vote to allow victims to be made whole before insurance companies get repaid; a vote to appropriate money to health clinics; a vote to make health care costs more transparent; a vote on renewable energy incentives and jobs; a vote to encourage renewable energy; a vote on a key water issue; and missed votes on Military Appreciation resolutions he sponsored.
“He has missed some preliminary votes, but nothing that was a final and determining vote,” said Hansen.
Colorado Pols, a left-leaning political blog site, recently accused Gardner of not securing the privacy of his campaign Web site information.
“Want to know who’s on CD 4 candidate Cory Gardner’s email list? We’re going to take a wild stab in the dark and guess that he doesn’t want you to know with any kind of specificity, but we were surprised to discover a short while ago that we can give you a number: 4,920.
“That’s the signup page for Gardner’s website… presumably the full contents of Gardner’s email database, information which — in terms of numbers as well as the names themselves — his opponents are glad to have. It’s not like a simple list of names represents an identity theft threat or anything, any more than a phone book does, but it’s just so marvelously stupid. Counterproductive, too,” the site said.
Hansen said that the candidate’s list of supporters has been an open record; however, the donor information has remained private and never subject to piracy or even public scrutiny.
As for Gardner, Lucero and Madere — their political future in this campaign is in the hands of the Republican delegates’ domain.