Former Denver Republican Party Chairman Danny Stroud crushed opponent Richard Murphy in Tuesday’s Congressional District 1 Republican primary, paving the way for an uphill general election challenge against incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver.
The relatively tame campaign between Stroud and Murphy, nicknamed the “mystery trucker” for his profession and sudden emergence onto the Colorado political scene as a true neophyte, resulted in Stroud receiving 11,781 votes, about 65 percent, compared to Murphy’s 6,353 votes, about 35 percent.
Stroud, a 59-year-old Denver businessman, now faces a daunting campaign against DeGette, who has already raised $696,049 and has $116,893 cash on hand. Stroud has raised $6,708 and has $1,100 cash on hand, according to the latest campaign finance filings with the Federal Election Commission.
He is hopeful that he stands a better chance since redistricting last year gave CD 1 a few more registered Republicans by expanding into neighboring Jefferson County. The district also includes portions of Adams and Arapahoe counties, and Denver County.
Before redistricting, Dems had 51 percent of the registered active voters compared to the Republicans’ 20 percent, according to the secretary of state’s office. The latest voter registration numbers indicate that the district is comprised of 47 percent Democrats, 23 percent Republican and 29 percent unaffiliated.
Stroud characterizes his performance in Arapahoe and Jefferson counties as having “overwhelmed.” In Arapahoe County, he received 1,391 votes, accounting for about 64 percent. In Jefferson, he received 3,105 votes, about 68 percent.
“If you look at my numbers for tonight and you look at the margins that I won in Arapahoe and Jefferson counties, they’re not perfectly surrogate of what will happen in the general, but I basically overwhelmed in those counties, so we’re seeing that those are super heavy concentrations that are likeminded to me,” Stroud said.
He did acknowledge an uphill battle in the general election, aware that DeGette has held the seat for eight terms since 1996 — earning her the title of “dean” of the Colorado delegation. But Stroud believes he can win.
“I’m not doing this for my health, I’m doing this because I think it’s a calling and a duty,” said Stroud. “I think that messaging is important… but when you come right down to it, principles and moral courage and stuff like that, that is really what’s going to drive this train here.”
Murphy might explore other political avenues
Murphy, 61, had been bolstered by a showing of support from Ron Paul enthusiasts who helped to secure his place on the primary ballot, though Stroud still won the top line designation at the CD 1 nominating assembly on April 13 with 81 votes, or 56 percent. Murphy secured his place on the ballot after being nominated from the floor, and received 64 votes, or about 44 percent.
Murphy believes that not being top line on the ballot played a role in his defeat Tuesday night. Had he more time to rally voters, he says, he could have taken top billing and won the primary.
“That would have been a little bit of a deciding factor, because like it was pointed out to me… a lot of people, they don’t know who in the heck is involved, and they take the first name on the top of the list and mark that person,” he said.
Murphy also did not raise much money for his campaign, failing to collect even the bare minimum of $5,000 to trigger a campaign finance disclosure statemennt with the Federal Election Commission. He pointed out that because his job requries him to spend time on the road, he was unable to raise money and attend many of the CD 1 pre-primary events that Stroud attended.
“[Stroud] had a job, too, but he has a business to run, which keeps him in town — mine kept me away,” Murphy said. “That’s just the nature of the beast.”
Murphy says his campaign was not a symbolic run. He believes he actually had a chance to beat Stroud and legitimately take on DeGette. For those who questioned whether he was serious about the race, Murphy points out that he and his wife usually take an annual vacation, but they cancelled the trip so that he could campaign instead.
Murphy believes that he benefitted in his effort because he isn’t a typical politician.
“The atmosphere of the electorate is volatile. People look at me and say, ‘Are you sure you’re a Republican, you don’t sound like a Republican,’ which tells me I had crossover ability,” said Murphy.
“The Colorado Statesman nicknamed me the ‘mystery trucker’ — well, that’s not a bad deal because being an unknown factor, you end up blindsiding your opponent. I had some very good ammunition that I had over Dan.”
Murphy says that now that he has gotten a taste for politics, he is going to explore other political avenues.
In the meantime, he is endorsing Stroud in an effort to oust DeGette.
“My real object was DeGette, and the way I saw it was Dan and I both had about the same goals, we just had a difference on how to go about getting those goals,” said Murphy.
Stroud applauded his opponent, agreeing that many voters are looking for an atypical candidate.
“My opponent and his supporters worked extraordinarily hard, they were everywhere doing everything, they worked really hard, and so I was impressed,” said Stroud. “In fact, they made me nervous for awhile because they were working so hard.”
Stroud believes Murphy fell short in his messaging, pointing out that a large focus of his opponent’s campaign was spent criticizing American war efforts.
“I just think he missed the boat on the message and the objectives — the anti-war thing, it’s important, but I don’t really think that’s what’s driving the country, and even if we were to do everything that he wanted us to do, it’s still not going to solve our problem,” Stroud said.
For her part, DeGette says she is ready to hit the campaign trail again to reconnect with voters. In a statement emailed to The Statesman, she offered this response:
“I’m excited to get the campaign into full swing, meet all the new voters we’re welcoming into the First District, and talk to families about the issues that matter to them, like getting Coloradans back to work; protecting our air, water and land, while driving a clean energy technology future; bringing quality, affordable health care to all our families; and standing up for our shared Western values to create a brighter future for Colorado and our nation.”