By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
LOVELAND — Republican frontrunner state Rep. Cory Gardner stormed the 4th Congressional District GOP assembly last Friday — winning 60 percent of the delegate vote and shutting out University of Colorado Regent Tom Lucero and businessman Dean Madere, the two other Republican contenders.
If Gardner’s victory didn’t shock the socks off the 591 Republican delegates, they were surprised when political newcomer Madere edged past Lucero, garnering 20 percent and 18 percent of the delegate vote, respectively.
Gardner was nominated by Diggs Brown, who dropped out of the Republican CD 4 race and endorsed the legislator after the caucuses in March. The nomination was seconded by Katie Hewitt, Republican National Committeeman Mark Hillman and Weld County Sheriff John Cooke.
The candidate introduced himself as a fifth-generation Coloradan and recalled working with his father and grandfather on the family-owned farming implement dealership. Gardner said that his wife Jaime and 6-year-old daughter Alyson live in a home in Yuma that had been owned by his great-grandparents.
Gardner stressed his legislative experience and conservative values — defending gun rights, fighting taxes, stopping illegal immigration, upholding state’s rights and protecting the unborn. He vowed to defeat Democratic incumbent Congresswoman Betsy Markey and fight for conservative principles on Capitol Hill.
Madere was nominated by Leslie Hollywood, who described herself as a “wife, mom and ‘Tea Party’ activist,” but it was the candidate’s 16-year-old daughter Kayla whose seconding speech drew rave reviews. Kayla assured the delegates that her father doesn’t lie and knows how to say “no” — citing his refusal to bend when she pleaded to be let off restriction.
In an impassioned speech, Madere vowed to uphold the U.S. Constitution, protect state sovereignty, turn back the “liberal” tide in Washington, D.C., defend gun rights and promote pro-life legislation. At one point, the candidate nearly choked up and paused to catch his breath.
Although Madere fell short of his goal to win 30 percent delegate vote, the threshold to be placed on the primary ballot, several Republicans said the “tea party” and “constitutionalist” candidate had distinguished himself as a future contender in other races.
Lucero’s lengthy list of nominators — including 6th Congressional District CU Regent Jim Geddes — consumed so much of the allotted 12 minutes that the candidate’s speech was cut short. Some observers said the rambling seconding speeches hurt Lucero’s chances.
Another factor might have been negative campaigning. Lucero mailed a flyer to delegates in which he attacked Gardner and disseminated a handout at the assembly that portrayed the legislator as a political “insider” with a moderate record.
Gardner countered the attacks with a flyer that denounced Lucero’s assertions as “fallacies and fabrications” that was signed by prominent Republicans including former U.S. Senator Wayne Allard and former 6th District Congressman Tom Tancredo.
Lucero had also criticized Gardner for having been an “active Democrat” who had campaigned against former CD 4 Congressman Bob Schaffer and seconded the nomination of his Democratic opponent, Susan Kirkpatrick in 1998. Two years later, Gardner became a Republican-affiliated voter.
Christian Family Alliance of Colorado distributed a flyer to delegates that reported the three candidates’ positions on several conservative issues that included public funded abortions, the personhood ballot initiative, gay rights, and posting the 10 Commandments in public buildings. Gardner scored perfect responses, Lucero missed the mark on two issues, and Madere had “refused to respond.”
By the end of day, Lucero stepped on stage and joked, “Since I didn’t get to give my speech, I’m going to do so now.” Instead, he announced that he would not petition onto the primary ballot and heartily endorsed Gardner.