The race to chair the Colorado Republican Party got a little less crowded this week.
Grassroots organizer Lori Horn announced at a meeting of the Arapahoe County Tea Party on Tuesday night that she was ending her campaign for state GOP chair and instead would be running for vice chair at the biennial reorganization meeting in March. Her move leaves incumbent state Republican chairman Ryan Call and Douglas County Republican chairman Mark Baisley as the only two announced candidates. Current vice chairman Don Ytterberg — also the head of the Jefferson County Republicans — is the other announced candidate for vice chair.
Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo also delivered a barnburner of a presentation — asking whether the Republican Party was trying to commit suicide — at the conservative group’s regular meeting at the South Metro Fire Rescue Authority offices in Centennial.
Republicans pick state executive officers at a meeting of the state central committee set for March 2, likely at Cherry Creek High School. Over the next several weeks, county parties meet to elect officers and so-called bonus members, allocated based on the vote in each county for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, making up the bulk of the state central committee. (Elected officials also serve on the body.)
Democrats are looking at a similar process, culminating in their own statewide reorganization on March 2 in Denver, though incumbent state party chairman Rick Palacio is so far the only candidate for that spot.
Horn, one of the founders of the conservative “R Block Party” forums, said she plans to turn the GOP’s vice chair position into a more prominent one.
“What I want to do is make that vice chair position a full-time, all-hands-on-deck position. We don’t have time to fuss around with figureheads — we just don’t,” she said.
“The other thing I bring to the table is, I’m a girl,” Horn said, noting that state Republicans haven’t ever had a woman in the chair or vice chair slot. She said she planned to undertake intensive outreach to various communities, including joining the NAACP. “You’ve got to listen to everybody,” she added.
Horn said after the meeting that she isn’t endorsing either of the chair candidates — “People can make up their own minds,” she smiled — but added that R Block Party will likely invite Call and Baisley to a debate at its next meeting, because the organization will no longer be conflicted since she has dropped from that race.
Baisley also addressed the crowd — Call was out of state and unable to attend, organizers noted — starting with a preemptive answer to Tancredo’s topic. “Is the Republican Party trying to commit suicide?” he smiled. “I think they are.”
As evidence, he pointed to establishment Republicans more interested in staying elected than in treating all brands of conservatives with respect.
“There is a group of our Republican congressmen back in Washington who are circling the wagons around themselves, raising funds to protect incumbency against tea party folks who are running against them. That is an unhealthy organization. The healthy organization,” he said, “calls on all hands, especially all hands that are of like mind, and brings them all together.”
He added that outlier groups like the tea partiers, 9/12 groups and Ron Paul followers deserve a seat at the table, or else they’ll rightly understand that they aren’t welcome and sit on their hands when it comes to elections. “We need to hug each other, because the battle is phenomenally difficult. It’s huge,” Baisley said.
Call announced his run for a second term earlier this month in an email to GOP state central committee members that touted the backing of numerous county chairs and elected officials. When Baisley made his run official last week, Call told The Colorado Statesman that he was up for the contest.
“I’m always glad to see people getting involved and running for positions within the party and I’m pleased to have the endorsements of over 200 people who currently serve on our central committee,” Call said in a statement. His campaign manager, Republican political operative Monica Owens, added, “We always welcome vigorous debate on how we move the Republican Party Forward.”
At the Tea Party meeting, Baisley reiterated one of his central campaign pledges, to replicate the successes Douglas County has had on a wider scale. Statewide, he noted, active Republican voters turned out at a rate under 70 percent, paling in comparison to the 97.3 percent rate active Republicans in his home county voted. Baisley claimed that the high turnout was instrumental in returning U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman to Congress in a race he won by just 2 points against Democrat Joe Miklosi.
The county GOP’s involvement in Douglas County School Board races, Baisley said, has been among his paramount achievements. Since helping elect conservatives to every seat on the board, he said, the results have been profound.
“What have we got? We’ve got vouchers, we’ve got merit pay,” he said, and then told the cheering crowd, “We no longer have a teacher’s union in Douglas County.” In addition to ousting the union, Baisley said the move has cost Democrats some $850,000 in financial help that would have gone their way each year from union dues.
Baisley said he considers Call a friend and isn’t running against him so much as offering his own services to the party. “I’m not setting out to defeat Ryan Call, I’m setting out to defeat the Democrats, who are doing the real bad stuff legislatively,” he told a radio audience last week.
As for the difference between the two candidates, he said, “We have different skill sets. Ryan’s an attorney, I’m a businessman.” Baisley’s management philosophy, he said, “is to communicate the clear mission and to call on the talents of all those phenomenal people who are willing to step up and match their unique talents with the mission.”
Call lists strong fundraising, increasing the party’s donor base and sending more money to legislative candidates as among his accomplishments. Looking forward, he says he intends to invest in technology, maintain a year-round field staff “like the Democrats do” and recruit candidates at all levels, including city council and school board elections.
In other GOP developments at the Tea Party meeting, businessman Dave Bullock rose to announce that he had considered running for Arapahoe County chair but, after meeting with the incumbent, Joy Hoffman, decided to work with her if she is reelected to a second term at the county reorganization meeting in early February.
“Instead of running against Joy, I felt it was much better, instead of being divisive, it was better to partner with her,” Bullock said, noting that he was interested in working on improving the party’s methods of gathering and analyzing data, as well as involving more volunteers.
If we’re not able to bring everyone together and recognize that winning is most important — and that’s what the Democrats have done, they realize that they have to win to get what they want — and if we stay divided as a Republican Party, we will never take back the state, we will never take back the country.”
Hoffman thanked Bullock and said she was excited about the prospects of “adding more structure” to the party’s operations.
But it was Tancredo’s hour-long presentation on the GOP’s prospects that stirred things up and brought the crowd to its feet.
By refusing to enact truly conservative principles when Republicans hold power and by appearing prepared to compromise on immigration — Tancredo’s signature issue in Congress and during his brief run for president in 2008 — the GOP is quite efficiently digging its own grave, he suggested.
Just a day after President Barack Obama had been inaugurated for a second term, Tancredo said he feared for the country’s future and blamed longstanding trends in immigration and education for the predicament.
“There are two reasons we are where we are in America with this guy in the White House — the dictator in chief,” Tancredo said. “One, 50 years of massive immigration without assimilation. Two, 50 years of a public school system pumping junk into the minds of every kid in the public schools. That has created a nation of parasites, and that’s indeed, who, in fact, elected this president, this dictator in chief, and that’s what he is.”
Then Tancredo blasted the inauguration itself for a complaint that has been circulating since Monday in conservative circles, that the woman who gave the invocation “left out part of the Pledge of Allegiance — they left out ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance,’” he said, shaking his head in disbelief.
“Impeach him,” a man in the back of the room said matter-of-factly.
(Civil rights icon Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers, quoted a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance in the prayer but mentioned God and Jesus several times in the invocation.)
Tancredo, who joked that he’s been a Republican for “most” of his adult life — he briefly affiliated with the American Constitution Party for his gubernatorial campaign in 2010 but has since reregistered as a Republican — warned tea partiers against putting too much stock in political parties. “Your allegiance cannot be to a party — a party is a mechanism,” he said, not a collection of values.
Still, Democrats are much “more willing to join together and circle the wagons” so they can get elected and then “do the things they want,” he said. “We elect people, we win the majority,” an exasperated Tancredo said, but once the GOP is in power, it doesn’t put its core policies in place. “We have been petrified about moving an agenda. We want to be elected and then stay in power,” he lamented.
One example of Republicans shedding their principles, he said, is the recently unveiled Colorado Compact, a bipartisan agreement outlining fundamental principles underlying immigration reform. Tancredo described the document as “a lot of weasel words and a lot of platitudes leading toward some sort of amnesty — they won’t say that word, because they know it’s not acceptable,” and chastised high-profile Republicans for signing it.
Bowing to Democrats on immigration reform, Tancredo said, won’t endear Hispanic voters to the GOP, it will only produce more Democrats.
“It will not help us. Look, if there was one single thing in the immigration debate that I thought we could change — maybe tinker with, whatever — not really compromise but it would get Hispanic voters to become Republican voters, I’d listen. This isn’t it. There is nothing,” Tancredo said, that would crack that nut, because immigration isn’t the top issue for most Hispanic voters. The growing bloc votes for Democrats for the same reason other constituencies do, he said, listing jobs and the economy as their primary drivers. “Big government, that’s what they want,” he said.