Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call will face at least two challengers in his bid for a second term, which he made official this week. Douglas County GOP Chairman Mark Baisley plans to announce his run on Tuesday, The Colorado Statesman has learned, and Centennial-based grassroots organizer Lori Horn is also running for the top spot. State Republicans pick their leadership team in early March at the party’s biennial reorganization meeting.
Claiming the support of “over 200” members of the current state GOP central committee, Call unveiled a list of high-powered endorsements in an email sent to party leaders earlier this week, including every Republican elected statewide, all four Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation and both of the state’s Republican National Committee members.
Call cites strong fundraising, significant financial help directed toward legislative and congressional candidates and a powerful, statewide get-out-the-vote effort as major accomplishments of his first term.
“We worked harder and were more united than I’ve ever seen us as a Party,” Call writes. “We knocked on three times as many doors and called twice as many voters as we did in 2008. This effort succeeded in turning out 42,000 more Republicans than Democrats, compared to an advantage of just 15,000 in 2008.”
With the state GOP on sound financial footing, Call vows, it’s time to “dramatically [increase] the Party’s investments in technology, data collection, voter file and information management” so that the party can maintain year-round “voter registration, coalition outreach, and voter persuasion efforts.” In addition, he proposed that Republicans “play an appropriate role in helping to recruit, train and support candidates for every race — from school board to Governor.”
Call refers only obliquely to the massive losses Republicans sustained at the polls in November, handing control of the state House of Representatives to the Democrats and losing the presidential vote to Democrat Barack Obama by roughly 5 percentage points. Citing Margaret Thatcher, Call says: “First, you win the argument, then you win the vote.” Republicans, he says, believe “in limited government, fiscal discipline, personal responsibility, free markets and the Constitution,” and have to persuade voters that those conservative principles are the ingredients of the American Dream.
Horn didn’t hesitate to berate the GOP for losing big in the last election and told The Statesman that’s one of the reasons she’s running for state chair.
“We lost Colorado, we lost everything,” she said. “As Republicans, we lost everything.
Ryan did raise a lot of money, but the other part of that equation is, how do you spend that money? I would spend it trying to create more one-on-one connections with people (and on) better information gathering. Republicans need to start putting some of their money into a decent infrastructure.”
Horn, one of the founders of the grassroots R Block Party organization, said that her experience working with a broad array of Republicans positions her to help steer the state GOP out of the ditch.
“Leadership isn’t how many people you get to follow you, it’s how many other people you can make into leaders. I think that’s part of what we’re missing here. Let’s sit down and share some ideas between the Ron Paul people who want to be a part of the party, and truly listen to each other,” she said. She added that the state party hasn’t done a good enough job listening to “Ron Paul people, Libertarians, unaffiliated voters, women — you begin having conversations and you start talking to people.”
She also took issue with a fundraiser Call held this week to fill the coffers of a 527 organization — named after a section of the IRS code, it allows corporations, other businesses, PACs and individuals to make unlimited contributions — established to support his run for the party office.
Calling that level of fundraising “unprecedented,” Horn said she wants to know why a candidate courting such a small group of voters needs to raise vast sums of money and who thinks it’s a good idea to fund that kind of effort.
“The last thing that we need in this party is a lot of big money coming in for our state party leadership. I don’t think that’s healthy. It just goes against the grain, when people start talking about grassroots and organizing and reaching out. When there’s a 527 behind your campaign, it gives you pause,” Horn said.
Baisley, whose interest in the chair’s race was first reported by The Statesman a month ago, plans to make a formal announcement on Tuesday surrounded by a crowd of supporters that some of his backers suggested could include GOP heavyweights thought to be in Call’s corner. The one-time legislative candidate said he hopes to transfer some of that Douglas County magic — Republicans in the ultra-conservative suburban county turned out at 97 percent in the November election — to counties throughout the state.
Colorado Democrats also elect party officers in March but are less likely to face a contentious race. State chairman Rick Palacio announced this week that he plans to run for a second term, citing sweeping Democratic successes at the ballot box.
“I’m proud of our many successes in this past election, and I hope to help our party build on that success,” said Palacio in a statement. “Our momentum from the past two years is tremendous: a tipping-point win for President Obama, holding the state Senate while dramatically taking back the House majority, and successfully calling for competitiveness to help define our legislative districts. We have important elections in 2014 that will direct our state’s future, and Democrats will do everything possible to share our vision for moving Colorado and the country forward.”
There’s still plenty of time for either field to grow — candidates don’t have to announce before the reorganization meetings — though the last time a sitting GOP state chair ran for reelection he also faced just two opponents. In 2009, on the heels of a drubbing at the polls at the hands of Democrats, then-state chairman Dick Wadhams trounced challengers Tom Stone, a former Eagle County commissioner, and activist Christine Tucker. In the most recent reorganization, Call prevailed on the first ballot against spirited opposition from state Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, his closest competitor, and then-state vice chair Leondray Gholston, Clear the Bench organizer Matt Arnold and former Michigan congressional candidate Bart Baron.
State Republican leaders are elected to two-year terms by the party’s central committee, consisting of the current state chairman, vice chairman and secretary, the same positions from each county, the two national committee members, various elected officials and the chairs of each congressional district. In addition, counties that polled at least 10,000 votes for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney get two “bonus” members for every 10,000-vote chunk. County leadership and bonus members are chosen at county reorganizational meetings in February.