Jefferson County Republicans filled the Lakewood Elks Lodge to overflowing on Saturday for an unconventional Lincoln Day Luncheon and Candidate Roundup that featured a full slate of optimistic candidates and energized activists. The bellwether county is represented by Colorado’s three Democratic members of Congress and a number of swing races that could determine control of the state legislature.
The all-day event included rotating speeches on three levels from a host of Republicans, including congressional candidates Danny Stroud, Joe Coors, Eric Weissmann and state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud. Stroud is facing off against U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, whose Denver-based district includes a sliver of Jefferson County following redistricting. Coors is taking on U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter in the north- and central-Jeffco 7th CD. And Lundberg and Weissmann are in a primary (along with a third Republican hopeful, Tom Janich, who an-nounced his run last week) for the chance to run against Boulder-based U.S. Rep. Jared Polis.
Acknowledging that the GOP has often thrown in the towel when it comes to challenging DeGette, who has served in Congress since 1996, Stroud said it’s the job of Jeffco Republicans to “talk to our neighbors and foment that dissatisfaction with Congress,” which he noted is at an all-time low.
“We’ve given up on our ability to oust her,” he said sanguinely, and then turned enthusiastic. “I say, that with the dissatisfaction at the federal level, with what the federal level is doing to our state, with the continued out-of-control spending, the continued imposition of regulations and control that’s caused by and abetted by Diana DeGette, that people are going to say they’ve had it up to their eyeballs, and they’re going to say, ‘We regret DeGette, we want someone new.’”
Coors said the future of the nation is at stake and he laid blame for the danger on liberal policies promoted by Democrats like Perlmutter. “Our family has thrived on the American dream, and prospered, and that’s fading fast,” he warned.
“We all have our differences about things,” he told the crowd. “But this is a year, if we don’t come together, we’re going to lose Washington, D.C., and maybe the country as well. So stick together on this. Kind of overlook some of our differences on this, and let us take victory away from the liberals.”
Then Coors cracked an ear-to-ear smile and revealed that his campaign had snagged the lease of Perlmutter’s longstanding campaign headquarters in Applewood and would be throwing open house celebrations there this week. “It was divine intervention,” he cracked.
“We took away his campaign office in the district, and this November we’re planning to take away his office in Washington,” said campaign spokeswoman Michelle Yi with a grin, adding that she was trying out a new slogan for the campaign.
Making their cases for the nomination to run against Polis, conservative legislator Lundberg and Boulder businessman Weissmann offered a contrast for the crowd.
“We need a vision for tomorrow that I don’t see in Washington today,” he said, adding that he believes President Barack Obama instead offers a “Jimmy Carter-esque despair” for the nation. “Congress cannot take us there. The best thing Congress can do is get out of the way and let the American people be the land of the people, the home of the brave, and the people who can build the economy, who can find the energy we need, who can seize that vision we have.”
He made no bones about the stakes, in a refrain common to Republican gatherings: “This is the most important election of our lifetime. Are we going to continue to rush down the road to oblivion, or are we going to assert those values that are so necessary?”
While the wealthy Polis — who has poured some $7 million into his campaigns since 2008 — was viewed as occupying a safely Democratic seat, Lundberg said, the redrawn 2nd District gives Republicans an opening. Under the new maps, Lundberg’s home county, Larimer County, now makes up over 40 percent of the district.
“I believe we have some opportunities,” he said, noting that partisan registration numbers still slightly favor the Democrats. “In an average year, with an average election, they win. I don’t believe this is an average year, and I will not be an average candidate,” he promised.
He touted his success growing businesses — including one he said exports products to China, drawing cheers from the crowd — and endorsements by prominent Republicans such as former Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry and former state Rep. Rob Witwer.
Though he has cautioned that he can’t “out Polis Polis,” the wealthy Weissmann suggested that his self-made fortune gives him an edge challenging the Internet entrepreneur.
Polis, he noted, “is not a millionaire, he is a zillionaire, and he is a liberal zillionaire who is out of touch and cannot be trusted.”
He charged that Polis “talks like a Republican and wants you to think he’s pro-business and a fiscal conservative,” but the candidate said he plans to hold Polis’ feet to the fire over that image. “You give up your right to say that when you squander a trillion dollars of other people’s money,” he said.
Before he got in the race, Weissmann added, he commissioned a poll inside the district’s new boundaries, and that’s what convinced him to run. Just 34 percent of likely voters want to reelect Polis, he said, and 40 percent want “someone new.”
With numbers like that, he said, Jefferson County could play a hand in dramatically redrawing Colorado’s congressional delegation this fall.
Golden Republican Kathy Marvel agreed that voters are ready for a change.
Noting that she spends days working at the Jeffco Republican Party headquarters, she said it’s been easy to recruit volunteers, unusual so early in the election season. “I’m out there working and trying to get people to be fired up — I see a lot of optimism,” she said.