Senate District 8 Democratic candidate Emily Tracy’s campaign is encouraging voters in the district to get to know her opponent and has launched a website inviting online visitors to “Meet Randy Baumgardner.” Only it isn’t as benevolent an offer as first presumed. The website attacks her mustachioed Republican opponent on issues such as supporting so-called “personhood,” housing a registered sex offender, and being indirectly involved with a campaign mailer that potentially exploited a gay New Jersey couple.
Those are just a few of the fringe issues highlighted at MeetRandyBaumgardner.com, which launched on the evening of Oct. 18. But you wouldn’t know that the attack site is the operative handiwork of the Tracy campaign itself, as there are no disclaimers, logos, or contact information on the site that show any such association with the Democratic nominee in the northwestern Colorado senate district.
The Colorado Statesman was able to trace MeetRandyBaumgardner.com back to its website administrator in Brooklyn, N.Y. A phone call to Richard Roberts led to a follow-up call from Tracy’s campaign manager, Lisa Straehley, who acknowledged that the website was created by Tracy’s campaign.
As for not disclosing that connection, Straehley said, “There was no reason in particular. It’s not required for state Senate campaigns to have that [disclaimer] affixed on them. If it was an independent expenditure committee, that would be on there. But if people might start to wonder who is putting the site up, we will take that into consideration.”
Straehley is correct. A spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, Rich Coolidge, confirmed that if the expenditure is less than $1,000, then no disclosure for the website is required. Straehley says the campaign expenditure will be filed on the next campaign finance report, due on Oct. 29. She could not cite a specific cost for the website, but said it was no more than $70.
Still, Coolidge says it is “good practice” for campaigns to disclose when they are responsible for a website, be it for supporting their candidate, or attacking an opponent.
Baumgardner, a state representative from Hot Sulphur Springs, agrees, telling The Statesman, “You… discovered that these attacks were coming directly from Emily’s committee to elect her… I am hopeful that when reporting this you include [The Statesman] as the one discovering where the root of the attacks are from.”
But Straehley says Baumgardner himself is running an “image-centered campaign,” which she says justifies the need for the attack site.
“He has this persona that he’s putting out there, and if that’s the game he’s playing, I think it’s fair to say, ‘Let’s look a little deeper into his persona,’” declared Straehley.
She added, “He would be an extreme member of the Senate if elected, and people should know about that.”
Straehley is not concerned about any backfire from the website. “The voters are getting overwhelmed with everything in the world… I don’t think it’s any greater factor with this website. This information just needs to be out there.”
Baumgardner attacked on seven issues
The Tracy campaign website attacks Baumgardner on seven issues.
Baumgardner did not want to ad-dress the attacks directly: “These are more antics by Emily Tracy who is so desperate to advance her liberal agenda that she’ll do or say anything to deceive others.”
“Thankfully, the voters of Senate District 8 are smarter than to fall for her stories and failed big government ideas,” he added. “It is unfortunate that she would use personal attacks on me and my family without knowing all the facts.”
The first question on the website asks, “Why did Randy Baumgardner support the Personhood Amendment in 2012, after voters rejected it by overwhelming margins at the polls in 2008 and 2010?”
The question is related to unsuccessful ballot initiatives that asked Colorado voters in 2008 and 2010 to ban abortion by giving constitutional rights to the unborn. A third attempt at the measure did not garner the necessary valid signatures needed to place the initiative on the November ballot this year.
The Tracy campaign says that Baumgardner signed a petition in support of personhood being placed on the ballot this year.
The second question asks, “Why did Randy Baumgardner house a registered sex offender in the same home as a seven-year-old kid?”
The question stems from reports last June that surfaced during his bitter primary against Sen. Jean White, R-Hayden, regarding Baumgardner having a registered sex offender living at his home in Grand County where his 7-year-old son also lives.
It was originally believed that Baumgardner had knowingly allowed the sex offender to live at his home unregistered, but those reports turned out to be false. Baumgardner said he housed the individual because he had paid his debt to society, and that he wanted to help give the man a second chance.
The third question wants to know, “Why did campaign operatives supporting Randy Baumgardner use the engagement photo of a New Jersey couple without permission and photo-shop it to mislead voters in an attack mailer?”
The question refers to a mailing sent during the primary, which featured a photograph of two men kissing, a swipe at the more moderate White’s consistent voting record in favor of same-sex civil unions in Colorado. The ad was paid for by Washington, D.C.-based Public Advocate of the United States, a conservative family values group.
The gay New Jersey couple featured in the ad has sued the political group for using their engagement photo, which was originally taken with the Manhattan skyline in the background. The photo was altered in the attack ad to remove the famous skyline and replace it with a Colorado theme.
The fourth question posed at MeetRandyBaumgardner.com simply asks where Baumgardner resides.
Tracy’s campaign points out that while Baumgardner reported his official residency for his Senate campaign as being in Cowdrey in Jackson County, his website lists it as being in Hot Sulphur Springs, in Grand County. As a state representative, Baumgardner has maintained that his residency is Hot Sulphur Springs.
Regardless, both counties and residences are in Senate District 8 following legislative reapportionment earlier this year.
The fifth question asks Raumgardner why he “resorted to lies” to win the Republican primary. It refers to comments made by White in The Denver Post and in other newspapers following her primary loss this summer. White had accused her Republican opponent of lying about his official residence, and his voting record.
White also told The Statesman at the time, “He was just misrepresenting my voting record; my stance on numerous issues… he lied to me; he lied about me; he lied about who he is, what he does, where he lives, who he votes for, and people believed the lies.”
The sixth question posed by the Tracy campaign website wants to know why the state representative “was willing to jeopardize western slope water projects in order to block a fair vote on another, unrelated bill.”
The question refers to a bill that died in the regular legislative session this year that would have authorized $61 million worth of loans and grants from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, was forced to call a special session to address several of the bills that died, including the water bill. It ultimately passed in the special session.
The final question put forth at MeetRandyBaumgardner.com asks, “Why was Randy Baumgardner the only western slope legislator to vote against the forest restoration program?”
The question takes a jab at Baumgardner’s vote against House Bill 1032, which continued the state’s forest restoration program for another five years. The bill passed the House by a vote of 57-6 — despite Baumgardner’s vote against it — and was signed by the governor.