College GOP vows high profile in 2010

By Tatianna Gruen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

FORT COLLINS — A contest for the chairmanship of the Colorado Federation of College Republicans dissolved when the two candidates offered a leadership deal in a show of unity. It was derived from a long-winded coffee break between the vying candidates and a desire to follow the cue of the state party that aims to run seamless campaigns in 2010 — and avoid past contentious primaries that drained money and energy necessary to win elections.

The Colorado GOP’s future leaders, the newly elected board of the state’s College Republicans: Andrew Valle, left, Adam Hutchinson, Brett Bakemeyer, Kelly Carnal, Patrick “Casey” Goodman, Nathan Pesch and Gregory Carlson.
Photo by Tatianna Gruen/The Colorado Statesman

Patrick “Casey” Goodman and Gregory Carlson had campaigned for state chair. Goodman had run an aggressive e-mail and phone campaign; Carlson had ingratiated himself with some high level state party powers — even leading the Pledge of Allegiance at the dinner featuring Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele in Denver in March.

It looked like Carlson was a shoo-in until suddenly he nominated Goodman for chair — a move that shocked nearly 100 College Republicans gathered in the Colorado State University Lorry Student Center.

Carlson and Goodman said that they had met at Starbucks for a 30-minute coffee break to discuss the race, and that the chat had stretched into a four-hour dialogue that resulted in a political peace pact.

They decided that Goodman, a CSU senior, would run for chair and that Carlson, a junior at the University of Colorado in Boulder, would be named executive director.

“We found out that we’re both on the same page,” Goodman said in his acceptance speech.

Goodman pledged to give higher visibility to the College Republicans, to raise funds and to coordinate efforts to elect GOP candidates.

“I was hoping for a good debate,” moaned state GOP Chair Dick Wadhams, feigning disappointment in the back of the room.

James Garcia, state GOP Chair Dick Wadhams and House Minority Whip Cory Gardner, R-Yuma. Garcia worked on former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign and U.S. Sen. Saxby Chamblis’ successful runoff election in Georgia last year.
Photo by Tatianna Gruen/The Colorado Statesman

Earlier, Wadhams had told the College Republicans that he became involved in the party as a student at CSU-Pueblo. Wadhams was elected chair of the Bent County GOP when he was 19, making him the youngest person ever to hold that post. Wadhams claimed he was elected because “no one else wanted the job.”

“The Watergate debacle in 1974 provided the opportunity for a new generation of leadership to emerge in the Republican Party,” Wadhams said. “There was a void that we stepped in to fill.”

By 1980, Wadhams recalled, Republicans had reclaimed much of their ground, with Coloradans electing Bill Armstrong to the U.S. Senate and Americans electing Ronald Reagan to the presidency.

Similar opportunities are available to this generation, Wadhams said, pointing to the 2008 sweep that delivered President Barack Obama and Democratic majorities in the U.S. Congress and the Colorado Legislature.

Echoing the words of Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele, Wadhams told the students, “You are not the future of this party. You are the present — the here and now of the Republican Party.”

The Colorado College Republicans also elected Kelly Carnal, of CSU Fort Collins, as vice chair; Andrew Valle, of the University of Denver, as finance director; Adam Hutchinson, of Metropolitan State College of Denver, as treasurer; Brett Bakemeyer, of the University of Denver, as secretary; and Nathan Pesch, of the University of Southern Colorado, in Pueblo, as regional director.

Ryan Call, Colorado GOP legal counsel, is flanked by outgoing state College Republican Vice Chair Larissa Cain, left, and Chair Erica Castelo, right.
Photo by Tatianna Gruen/The Colorado Statesman

Savvy Republican candidates — both declared and undeclared — didn’t miss the opportunity to court the college students.

The big names included Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck and Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, both of whom are bidding for the GOP nomination to challenge U.S. Senator Michael Bennet in 2010.

The students also listened to speeches by Colorado Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Fruita; and Evergreen businessman Dan Maes, who are vying for a chance to unseat Gov. Bill Ritter; and by CU Regent Tom Lucero and House Minority Whip Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, potential candidates to battle Democrat Betsy Markey in the 4th Congressional District contest.

Gardner recalled being a member of the FarmHouse Fraternity at CSU — and being photographed face down in the mud at a football game. When the photo ran in the Rocky Mountain News with the caption dubbing him, “ram ham,” Gardner said he was grateful that his face was buried in the muck.

For the record, Gardner’s fraternity remains vastly different from “Animal House.”

“We defy the conventional college wisdom that students need alcohol for a good party. All events at our chapter are dry. A lady knows she can trust a FarmHouse man,” states the fraternity morality code.

Gardner and other speakers commended the College Republicans for their activism — and stressed the importance of their involvement in the party now and in the past year.