By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
PARKER — The Douglas County GOP Lincoln dinner — billed as “Circle the Wagons” — was fittingly held at The Wildlife Experience museum and drew about 300 Republicans, mostly clad head-to-foot in western wear. The number of cowboy hats worn during the auction and reception in the lobby rivaled the National Western Stock Show.
“We’ll set a plate at the table for you and water your horse,” promised the dinner invitation. The dinner tables were decorated with lanterns that conjured memories of the Bonanza television series and a prayer written by Roy Rogers, who starred in a series of western films.
Joy Overbrook provided a list of “Cowboy Wit and Wisdom” quotes made by famous folks such as Will Rogers, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood for the diners to read. One that seemed to hit the bulls eye for Republicans in this year’s election was a quote from the 1993 movie, Tombstone.
“You gonna do something or just stand there and bleed?” asked Kurt Russell, who play legendary lawman Wyatt Earp.
The horses might have survived on water, but the dinner guests thrived on servings of a two-inch thick fillet of beef, baked snapper with lemon dill crème, jalapeno cheddar mashed potatoes, green beans, baby carrots, a wedge salad and choice of apple crumb pie or chocolate toffee mousse cake for dessert.
The invitation didn’t mention checking guns at the door, but there were a few guns being auctioned — the hottest item was a Ruger Mark 111 collector’s pistol that was donated by Republican candidate Chris Holbert.
Holbert is running against Republicans Polly Lawrence and David Casiano for the House District 44 seat being retired by former House Minority Leader Mike May.
The pistol fetched $750 — the highest bid of all auction items — from Paul “Pauly” Weishapl. The Republican, who described himself as a “real cowboy,” was surprised when he pulled out a wad of cash to pay for the pistol and several other auction items, but was told the party couldn’t accept cash. Weishapl galloped home to grab a credit card.
Among the hot items was a “Don’t tread on me” Gadsen flag that was autographed by several candidates and elected officials including 6th District Congressman Mike Coffman, state Attorney General John Suthers, gubernatorial candidates Dan Maes, Scott McInnis and Joe Gschwendtner, state treasurer candidates J.J. Ament and Walker Stapleton and state secretary candidate Scott Gessler.
Up for auction was a weekend at the 8th Annual Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Party on July 17 at Kiowa Creek Sporting Club in Bennett, Colorado.
“Alcohol, tobacco and firearms should be a retail store — not a federal agency,” quipped Republican National Committeeman Mark Hillman, who gave the keynote address.
During dinner, Douglas County Chair Mark Baisley went around the room and invited individual candidates to pitch their campaigns.
State Rep. Carole Murray gave an impassioned plea to Republicans to give time and money to elect their candidates. She noted that the Republicans dominate Douglas County; however, Democratic-affiliated voters have climbed from 13 percent to 22 percent in recent years.
“I hope we do not tear up one another in the primary,” said Murray, who added that if the Republicans fall into that trap, they’ll turn off voters.
McInnis said that Murray sounded so excited that perhaps she’d bypassed the chocolate cake and apple pie desserts and instead, downed a Red Bull.
The diners burst into laughter when candidate Lora Thomas pitched her primary campaign against incumbent Republican county Coroner Carter Kimball Lord.
“I want you to vote for me because you don’t want to be caught dead without me,” said Thomas.
Nearly all of the Republican candidates vowed to stop illegal immigration, curb government spending and uphold conservative values and principles.
Hillman invited the Republicans to participate in his new program to “adopt a candidate.” He said that this is a critical year for the party because if the Democrats win the governor’s race and maintain majorities in the state House and Senate, they will have control over reapportionment based on the 2010 census.
“If that happens, the past four years will seem like a picnic,” said Hillman.
He said that under Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter’s leadership, the state has passed nearly $1.2 billion in taxes and fee increases and eliminating tax exemptions.
“Will Colorado taxpayers ever be asked again to vote on a tax increase?” Hillman asked.
The answer to that question won’t be known until the General Election in November.