By Kate Melvin
Colorado Springs resident Tom McDowell has announced he will challenge state Sen. Dave Schultheis, a Colorado Springs Republican, for Schultheis’s seat in 2010. McDowell has never sought office before, and his candidacy comes as a surprise to many, including McDowell himself, who maintains that a political run has never been a part of his career plans.
McDowell is a retired Army officer and former business owner who blogs at TheColoradoIndex.com. He views himself as a “strong fiscal conservative” but one who also supports legalized abortion. After a controversial 2008 election in Colorado Springs’ House District 17 between Republican Kit Roupe and since-elected Democrat state Rep. Dennis Apuan, McDowell decided to get involved.
“I never, ever intended to run for office,” McDowell said. “It was never my goal in life. But I think that the events in HD 17 have forced it. I am going to do what I think is best for the public good and for the good of the Republican Party.”
Schultheis says he finds a primary challenge in Senate District 9 “surprising,” and confirmed he plans to defend the seat in 2010.
“I have no plans not to run again,” said Schultheis. “It’s unfortunate to me that we have individuals that are going to drain resources from the party, but it’s a free country, and people can do whatever they want to do. [McDowell] has never spoken to me in terms of dissatisfaction, and I believe my values and my votes reflect the conservative district that I represent.”
In addition to abortion, immigration policy also divides the two candidates. Enforcement of existing immigration laws is one of Schultheis’s most passionate policy stances, a position McDowell alleges has cost Republicans Hispanic votes and alienated members of the business community who employ immigrants.
“Right now, we have a situation where we cannot get control of the Legislature,” McDowell added. “Somebody has to stand up and say something, and if I have to do that by running for state Legislature, then that’s what I will do.”
McDowell also says the tension between social conservatives in Colorado Springs and more liberal members of the Republican Party there has cost the party seats statewide. McDowell referenced disagreements between Focus on the Family, a Colorado Springs-based evangelical Christian organization, and more moderate factions of the local party.
In 2008, it became clear that Roupe was pro-choice, representing a generally unpopular stance on abortion in the socially conservative district. “Some elements of the social conservative faction of our party believe that they can take over the party by denying ballot access to moderates,” McDowell wrote on his blog. “If a moderate does make the ballot, they prefer to see a Democrat elected. This happened in HD 17. The biggest offender is Dr. [James] Dobson [of Focus on the Family] and his ‘values voters,’ but there are others.”
Schultheis dismissed McDowell’s strategy. “There’s an awful lot of evangelicals in that district, so he can make that an issue, but it’s not going to play,” he said. “There’s a lot of strong Christian influence, and they’re not, for the most part, liberal Christians.”
Under Colorado term limits law, Schultheis can serve two consecutive terms in the state Senate. He was
first elected to the chamber is 2006, and previously served in the state House.
“I don’t detect any real shift in Senate 9, I can tell you that for sure,” Schultheis said. “We should be defeating those who don’t hold our values. That’s what we should be spending our energies in doing, not fighting amongst ourselves.”
McDowell sent The Colorado Statesman the following response following publication:
As a candidate, I was pleased to see the article on my candidacy in the Statesman, Much of it, beginning with the title, was misleading enough that I hope to get equal time.
While I am pro-choice, that isn’t the driving force behind my candidacy. Indeed, in the past two election cycles, I have put in over 1000 hours trying to get Bob Beauprez and Bob Schaffer elected.
Not many pro-life conservatives can make that claim. To now imply that my race is driven in any way by pro-choice politics is more than unfair. It is inaccurate.
My candidacy is driven solely by political misconduct. In the past five election cycles, a small number of social conservatives or their allies have sabotaged seven Republican candidates, six successfully.
While they hope that they can replace those Republicans with social conservatives who will enact a social agenda, they have not once succeeded. Instead, they have handed those seats over to Democratic incumbents that they can’t beat.
In 2007 I established a party unity blog, thecoloraoindex.com. I wrote often about and against the self destructive elements of the Party who don’t much like moderates 22 months out of every 24 month election cycle.
HD-17 wasn’t on my radar before the election. The description of that district provided by the Statesman is short, but grossly inaccurate:
“In 2008, it became clear that Roupe was pro-choice, representing a generally unpopular stance on abortion in the socially conservative district”
Mark Hillman wrote:
“I served on the reapportionment commission that drew district lines after the 2000 census… It was a conscious decision by the Democrats who held the majority on the commission to combine Fort Carson with Democrat-leaning or swing precincts in order to make it “winnable for them.” Had they combined it with 20 or so active precincts, the Republican advantage would have taken that district off the table …”
So, in 2008 we had a moderate district with a moderate Republican candidate who didn’t win. But why?
There was a rumor that Focus on the Family had threatened candidates and office holders that they would have trouble if they helped her. Candidates and office holders avoided helping. Precinct packets were prepared without including her literature. The El Paso Republicans had $20,000 that they chose not to spend on her district. After the election, the Executive Director of the local party resigned and announced the formation of a fundraising organization whose purpose was reported to be to keep candidates like Roupe off the ballot. Roupe was mentioned by name in a Gazette editorial reporting on the new fund.
I’m running against this kind of self-destructive political misconduct. Voters always punish misconduct, especially when it can be shown that they are paying much higher taxes because of it.
And Schultheis’ response:
Schultheis dismissed McDowell’s strategy. “There’s an awful lot of evangelicals in that district, so he can make that an issue, but it’s not going to play,”
Apparently Schultheis believes that evangelicals can’t read their tax statements and don’t mind paying for every fee, tax, and spending program the Democrats he and his allies have helped put in power can dream up.
Because the annual taxes and fees being imposed can’t be reversed, the cost of this political misconduct isn’t a few hundred dollars a family. It is more likely to be thousands or tens of thousands of dollars over a lifetime. And that is only at the state level.
Much as some would like, this election won’t a pro-life/pro-choice referendum. It is about misconduct and the exorbitant costs of that misconduct to each and every voter.
Thomas R. McDowell. Paid for by McDowell for Senate 9, James Hustad, treasurer, 5915 Bay Springs Ln, Colorado Springs, CO 80918. (No Cost)