Dem, GOP, Libertarian chairs tell how parties work

“Election 2009,” a unique project sponsored by Business Leaders for Responsible Government and headed up by John Brackney, president of the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, recently kicked off its series with a panel discussion among the chairs of the state’s Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties.

Backney hopes this novel chamber program — which runs through November and culminates with a mock election — will provide chamber members with a “master’s level” education on politics. Having the state chairs of Colorado’s major political parties at the onset, Brackney said, showcases the importance of the political process in Colorado.

The panel was moderated by Jeff Wadsen, owner of PROformance Athletic Apparel and a main impetus behind the project. Wadsen, a former candidate for Douglas County Commissioner, emphasized that having the state chairs inaugurate the discussion was an excellent way for the business community to hear firsthand about the parties’ views and learn why each believes it’s the best option to address business concerns.

Questions were asked by participants in the program, which was held at chamber headquarters in Centennial.

The second part of this article will be published next week.

Pat Waak is the first person in 54 years to be elected to serve three consecutive terms as chair of the Colorado Democratic Party. She is a Democratic National Committee person and sits on the State Democratic Chair Leadership Group. Waak has been involved in politics since 1964. She has run campaigns, she has been a candidate for Congress in the 4th Congressional District, and also served in the Peace Corps.

Pat Waak: Usually, somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 people go to the Democratic caucuses. The largest number we’ve ever counted was about 12,000. Last year, 128,000 people came — many for the very first time.

Pat Waak of the Colorado Democrats

This last campaign cycle got people out in a way that they’ve never gotten out before. So how do we keep that momentum and that excitement going and teach people about the process?

Right now, we have approximately 20 people working at state Democratic Headquarters, and 16 of those people are from Organizing For America, which is the network Barack Obama set up during the campaign last year.

It doesn’t mean they’re going to get involved in the next campaign, or the one after. They’re there because there are particular things they care about.

But the easiest way for you, as an individual, to get involved is to find out where your local party headquarters is and what precinct you live in and what activities are going on. That’s the most basic thing people can do.

It’s not uncommon for me to get a phone call from someone who wants to run for the U.S. Senate.

And I say, “OK. Let’s talk about that.” (Laughter.)

It turns out they’ve never been involved in a political campaign. They don’t know what precinct means. So it’s a process of setting a tone of reality.

If you’re involved in your community, that’s where we look for candidates. If you’re a member of the City Council or you’ve been head of your PTA…

But we’re not looking for you to run for U.S. Senate. We are looking for you to start the long process to build up your own political credentials and your political knowledge so you can be involved.

Our members are businesspeople. They are union people. They are nurses. They are doctors. They’re the whole spectrum of the community, (and they) have gotten involved for one reason or the other.

It’s why we run. It’s why we get involved in politics — because we have a passion for something.

When I first got involved in politics, the single passion was health care. I was a nurse. I was getting ready to go into the Peace Corps. It’s still one of the most important passions for me.

But passion comes out of your own interest. It can be the economy. It can be how the local traffic lanes are set up. It can be the river that’s running through your area. You get passionate, and you want to make a difference. And the way you make a difference is through becoming a public servant.

I just want to say a couple more things about candidacy, because I think it’s really important. What I look for in a candidate, first and foremost, is authenticity. I don’t want someone I can just feed a bunch of lines that they’re going to go out and parrot. People see through that. They want to know this is a real person who has a real commitment to their community and is a real public servant.

Secondly, I want to know what their passion is. Do they really have one? Because that’s the fuel that gets you up out of bed every morning.

Campaigning is hard. In the end, it’s knocking on those doors. It’s talking to people. It’s people who get your home telephone number and call you on a Sunday afternoon. And maybe you don’t want to run for office.

If you just want to affect the policies, there are many, many ways to do that. For example, there’s the Democratic Business Coalition. It meets once a month. Business leaders from all kinds of areas listen to elected officials.

They will often invite a state senator or a state legislator to come in and talk about a piece of legislation. These are very vigorous discussions. It’s a real opportunity to make your voice heard.

I have had the great fortune in this long life to work in a number of developing countries where democracy did not exist. We are extremely fortunate we live in a place where we can make our voices heard. You may get frustrated sometimes because there are not enough of you to make your voice heard on one particular thing. But one of my messages to everyone is, “Find a way to get involved.”

The process is not closed. Our doors are open. And if you go into a political office and someone shoos you out — you call me. Because I will make sure we find a place for you to do volunteer work, to get information, to do whatever you want to do. That’s what this party is based on. I think it’s what all the parties are based on.

And, finally, I would say that although the process is intricate, we just spent the last several months doing six regional trainings all over the state. We invited anybody who wanted to come so they could understand how things work. We — and, I think, people in any of our parties — are more than willing to spend time explaining how to get involved and how to stay involved and, most of all, listening to you.

About 24 percent of the people in Colorado know who their state legislators are. I went to a focus group recently of people who were basically either Republican or unaffiliated. None of them knew who the state legislators were. Few of them knew anything about Governor Ritter. They did know about the two U.S. senators, but they weren’t even sure about their congresspeople.

You’re here because you’re active in your association, you’re trying to accomplish things in your community, you’re trying to make your businesses work. So you become well informed. But we have a responsibility to make sure everyone is well informed, that they know how the system works.

David K. Williams Jr. chairs the Colorado Libertarian Party. He attended the University of Northern Carolina at Chapel Hill on a prestigious Morehead scholarship, obtained his BA in economics in 1989, and stayed at Chapel Hill and received his doctorate with honors from the University of Northern Carolina School of Law.

He has been active in the liberty movement for many years. He is a member of Freedom Works and the Independence Institute, among other pro-liberty organizations. He graduated from the Leadership Program of the Rockies in 2009 and was a speaker at the April 15, 2009, Tea Party on the West Steps of the Capitol. He currently runs his own law firm, the Williams Law Office, in Denver.

David K. Williams: Barry Goldwater said, “It’s okay to disagree without being disagreeable.”

David Williams of the Colorado Libertarians

That’s something I try to live by and do my best to live up to. Some of my best friends are Democrats and Republicans, so it’s possible. Now, having said that, it’s great to be up here with the two leaders of the two parties that are in control of the state, because we know who’s responsible for our current mess. (Laughter).

Everybody can see that Republicans and Democrats argue all the time. I’m glad to be here, hopefully to give you a completely different way of looking at the political spectrum.

It’s a dichotomy. You’ve got the left, and you’ve got the right, and you’re on that line somewhere.

Well, Libertarians completely reject that. It doesn’t work for us. The way we look at it, it’s not the left versus the right. It’s the government versus the individual. And you can look at almost any issue that way.

Generally speaking, we’re going to be over here with the Republicans or the people who are called conservatives on fiscal issues. We think you ought to be able to keep your own money because you’re smart enough to know what to do with it — better than any elected official.

But, over here — as far as what you do in the privacy of your own room that doesn’t affect anybody else — we’re going to be more on the Democratic side or more on the liberal side.

Again, the individual should have the right to decide how to live his or her life, and not the government.

You look at what the Democrats are generally considered to be — kind of the champions of the civil rights of the gays and lesbians. Well, Obama has said specifically he’s against recognizing those marriages, and he hasn’t done away with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy.”

So a lot of the gay and lesbian community kind of felt left out or betrayed by that.

And, then, over on the right side — this doesn’t apply to the gays and lesbians so much, but just in general — the Republicans are supposed to be the fiscal conservative people. And they talk about that, and sometimes they do it.

It was George Bush as president who started the TARP bailout, and John McCain continued it. So those aren’t exactly fiscally conservative ideas. And you go back and you look at the last Republican governor, Bill Owens. He fought against TABOR, so that’s another thing where we think we are at least ideologically a little more consistent.

If there’s an issue about money, we want you to keep it, not the government. If there’s an issue about how you live your life, we want you to decide, not the government.

And some people say, “Well, doesn’t what you believe in help to lead to anarchy?”

Well, no it doesn’t. We’re not anarchists. So let me clear that up.

The government has legitimate purposes. No Libertarian will disagree with that. But it’s just gotten so far from those legitimate, limited purposes, especially if you look at the federal government and the listed powers the federal government’s supposed to have.

There’s a Department of Education. That’s not in the Constitution. There’s no power listed. It’s not one of the enumerated powers. Department of Energy, same thing.

The federal government is all over your life, and, to a lesser extent, the state government. We want to peel that back both on the personal level and on the fiscal-responsibility level.

How does that apply to the chamber members? Well, generally, we want the government out of your business. We’re laissez faire. We’re unapologetic capitalists. We think capitalism is the only moral system for any society, and we’re not going to apologize for that. We believe the history and the numbers back that up. So any type of legislation that says a business should have mandatory leave or mandatory benefits — we’re going to oppose that. The government shouldn’t tell you how to run your business.

And we don’t believe in corporate taxes — specifically corporate taxes — because we realize corporations are legal entities. In law school, they call them legal factions.

They’re just a way for individuals to get together and conduct business. So if you tax a business, that’s either going to get paid by the owners of the business, the employees of the business or the customers of the business. Those are all people. The corporation doesn’t get taxed. You and I get taxed, one way or another. That’s how it applies to businesses — small businesses in particular.

We realize that, as a third party, we’re not going to win a Senate seat in 2010. But there are things everybody in this room can do, no matter what you believe. Pick fights on certain issues that are close and sometimes can be pushed one way or another, depending on public opinion.

That’s one thing the Libertarian Party has really tried to do. We’ve worked with Republicans and Democrats both, depending on the issue.

I like to say we don’t have any permanent friends or permanent enemies, but we have permanent issues. That’s the way we look at it.

There was a Public School Spending Transparency Act, which would have required every public school and charter school in the state to post their expenditures and their expenses online in a searchable database. The idea is, if tax money is being used, it might be reasonable to let the taxpayers see where that money is being spent. Well, that died — in no small amount due to the labor unions — the educational labor unions.

We worked with (Sen.) Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) on special district accountability. Prior to this bill — that did get passed — special districts could tax you. They could run up liabilities you’re responsible for as taxpayers. And before this bill was passed, they could hold elections basically without telling anybody, by (publicizing them) in a way nobody knew about.

This bill did away with most of that.

Now, special districts have to let everybody know when you buy a house what special districts you’re in and when the elections will be. So they’re much more accountable now.

We’ll work with either side of an issue, depending on the issue.

The Colorado Taxpayer Transparency Act was similar to the School Board Act, but it applied to the entire state government. We worked with (Rep.) B.J. Nikkel, (R-Loveland) to get that passed. She was the sponsor of that bill. Now the state government has to put all its expenditures into a searchable database so you can look at it and see where (the money) goes.

I actually heard someone say, “If people can look at where this money’s going, it’s just going to give them more reason to come out and complain.”

That was the reason they didn’t want people to know about it.

That’s kind of an imperial attitude. The vassals don’t need to know where their betters are spending their money. And we are very much opposed to that type of attitude.

We were part of the outcry against the Civil Forfeiture laws. Right now, if you commit a crime and you use a car or some piece of property in commission of that crime, the government can seize it. Well, this law would have said they can do that even before you’re convicted of a crime. And they can take the property, and it would be up to you to show that the property was not used in the commission of a crime.

That was actually introduced. And the outcry — including from the Libertarian Party — (caused it to be) pulled even before it went into committee, because they knew it wasn’t going to survive.

These are issues that get introduced at the Legislature. You don’t have to be Bill Gates, or Jared Polis, or somebody who’s rich, to have a say. If you call your state rep, e-mail, show up at a committee hearing if you can, that makes a difference — especially if you get enough numbers. So watch the issues.

It’s hard to keep up with all that because they introduce so many bills. But the chamber has a group that watches those bills and monitors how they would affect business owners. I would encourage people to watch what they do, because they monitor them for you.

If you do a Google search on Colorado boards and commissions, there’s a 64-page PDF of all the boards and commissions in Colorado, and that includes a little description of them. Many of them are looking for people to serve on them. Now most of them don’t pay anything. If they do, it’s maybe a small per diem. But they’re looking for people to be on those boards. So that’s a way to get involved directly.

And it goes back to what Pat was saying. You’ve got to build your resumé before you can run for Senate — and that’s a good way to do it.

And, also, every municipality, every county has got boards and commissions, and they’re looking for people to sit on those. So go to your city Web site, go to your county government Web site and do a search for boards and commissions, and you’ll see they’re looking for people to fill different spots. Those are ways that you can get involved individually, especially as it applies to business.

Dick Wadhams was elected the Colorado Republican state chairman in 2007 and recently won re-election. Wadhams worked for U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong from 1981 to 1991 and managed U.S. Sen. Hank Brown’s campaign in 1990 to succeed Armstrong. He was also campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard in ’96 and 2002.

He managed Governor Bill Owens’ campaign when he became the first Republican governor in 24 years in 1998. Wadhams served as press secretary to Gov. Owens and managed the successful 1990 campaign to pass the $1.7 billion trans-highway bonding proposal by Owens that included the T-REX Project.

Wadhams managed the campaign for U.S. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota when he defeated Senate minority leader Tom Daschle, which was the first time in 52 years a sitting Democratic leader was unseated for re-election. He helped U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, of Montana, get re-elected in 1994 and 2000, and served as chief of staff to U.S. Sen. George Allen of Virginia in 2005-2006.

While serving as state chairman in 2008, he also was campaign manager for Bob Schaffer, who ran for U.S. Senate. Wadhams was born and raised in rural southeastern Colorado and is a graduate of Colorado State University.

Dick Wadhams: There will be no more exciting time to be involved in politics than 2010. It will be exciting here in the Colorado Republican Party, because after you’ve gone through what we have in the last three election cycles — 2004, 2006 and 2008 — we’ll essentially have a tremendous opportunity to rebuild our party for a new generation of leadership to step forward. And that offers tremendous opportunity in a political party.

Dick Wadhams of the Colorado Republicans

The Legislature gave both political parties the ability to move our precinct caucuses in 2008 to what was Super Tuesday. There were 24 states that had primaries and caucuses on Feb. 5. Both parties decided to do that. I encountered some resistance in my party to moving our caucuses to Feb. 5, but I prevailed in a vote in our central committee because I felt it would stir up interest in the caucuses. And we actually had about 80,000 people attend our caucuses — way beyond anything we had had.

One of the things I noticed as I went around the county central committees — which are kind of the governing committees for each county for the party — is that I saw a lot of new faces in 2009. This was an outgrowth of that influx of new people. A lot of young people are getting involved in the Colorado Republican Party, and it kind of underscores that really, one of the major things in politics is, just show up. Show up, and you’re going to be in a position of leadership. I know that firsthand, because that’s how I got involved in the Colorado Republican Party.

I grew up in a small county in southeastern Colorado, population about 4,000, in Bent County. I’d been involved in the ’74 campaign, the last time Republicans took a bath like we did in 2008, and actually ran a successful county commissioner campaign for a guy named Ken Kester, who’s now a state senator.

In 1975, the outgoing county Republican chairman didn’t want to be chairman anymore. The party was down probably at its lowest ebb in post-Watergate, post-Nixon. When I showed up at our meeting to elect the new county chairman in February 1975, five Republicans showed up and the outgoing chairman said, “I don’t want this job anymore. Nobody else will take it, but Wadhams here will take it.” (Laughter.)

And I said, “Okay.”

So he said, “How many are in favor of Wadhams for chairman?”

I raised my hand, and two other people raised theirs.

Two people were obviously dubious about a 19-year-old taking over. They didn’t vote. So I won, 3-2. Two voted for none of the above. (Laughter.)

But it underscores just how easy it is to get in politics and how easy it is to assume positions of leadership. It was a wonderful opportunity for a 19-year-old college student to be a county chairman, to be on the state central committee.

That’s the essence of politics. Show up and get involved.

Particularly in 2010, as a generation of leadership has now stepped aside — a generation of leadership that included Bill Owens and Wayne Allard and going back to Hank Brown. Because of the defeats we’ve had in the last few years, a new generation of leadership is stepping forward.

It is not a coincidence that we have a 33-year-old state senator who is running for governor of Colorado. It’s Josh Penry, our Senate minority leader.

It is not a coincidence that we have a 31-year-old city councilman from Aurora, Ryan Frazier, who is running for a Senate nomination. Now I don’t know if either one of those gentlemen will be our nominee for governor or senator, respectively. What I do know is this: A few years ago, a 31-year-old city councilman from Aurora would not have been taken seriously for the United States Senate.

Several years ago, a 33-year-old state senator from Grand Junction would not have been taken seriously to be our nominee for governor of Colorado.

Both of those individuals are very, very strong, serious candidates for governor and U.S. senator. Either one might be our nominee.

I don’t know. They’ve got competition. We’ve got great candidates in our party for these nominations. But Ryan Frazier and Josh Penry represent what is happening right now in the Colorado Republican Party.

If there was ever an opportunity for all of you to get involved on the ground level of a campaign for something major, like U.S. senator or governor, this is the time to do it. And I would say, “Pick a side.”

Under our bylaws, my officers and I have to stay neutral. But nobody else in our party has to be neutral. I tell everybody I encounter, as I meet with Republicans around the state, “Take a side.”

I would encourage you all to pick a side between Democrats and Republicans. You’re not going to find a perfect political party, believe me. I have more fights within my party than I do with the folks on the outside. That’s just the nature of politics. But pick a party that best matches you in the issues you care about, and get involved in that party.

I’m always amused by people who say they are “independent.” They’re registered “independent.” In fact, they are terribly dependent on the two political parties that actually put people on the ballot. They are dependent on the candidates of the parties that Pat Waak and I represent.

You need to select a political party and get involved in the nomination process. It’s going to be hard for me, as state chairman, to be on the sideline of this. I love primaries. I love debate in a party. I think debate and discussion and a nomination process are among the most exciting things we can have within a political party.

I’ve been involved in a couple of primaries. Wayne Allard versus Gale Norton in 1996, and Tom Norton versus Bill Owens in ’98 were great primaries and strengthened Wayne Allard and Bill Owens as they went on to win the Senate and governor seats in their respective campaigns. I think in 2010, the business community really is going to have a clear choice.

There is no doubt that the Republicans — both at the state and federal level — did lose their way in previous elections in terms of fundamental economic and fiscal issues. I have no excuses for it. But I do think there is going to be a clear choice both at the state level and the federal level for these public offices.

The Democrats have had control of state government for all intents and purposes for five years, especially the Legislature and the governorship for the past three years. The Democrats control the federal government, with the presidency and big majorities in both houses.

By the time we hit the 2010 election, there will be a strong contrast between those two political parties. We’re not here today to debate those differences. But I do know this: More than in any other election year, there will be strong contrasts between who we put up and who Pat puts up in her party. And that is good. And there will be a great debate. And it’ll be one of the most exciting election years we’ve ever seen in Colorado.

Question: I am a Libertarian. Currently, a vote for a third party sabotages (the Libertarian Party’s) philosophical allies. This could be easily rectified by what is called “approval voting” — letting voters vote for more than one candidate. As an example, in Florida, a Green in 2000 would have been able to vote for both Gore and Nader, and both votes would have counted. Some people here vote in city at-large elections in which more than two candidates are elected. Approval voting would have fewer spoilers, less sabotage and more civility. Would you endorse approval voting?

• Waak: I’m not sure it’s analogous to City Council races, because usually you have more than one position available, so when you’re ranking, ordering what the voting is, it’s because there may be four positions or three positions. In this case, we’re electing one person to one office.

My immediate reaction is that I wouldn’t support it, but I tend to be open-minded. I’d want to see all the pros and cons on it. I don’t see it working for a Senate race or a House race or a gubernatorial race or any of the races like that.

• Wadhams: In all due respect, it’s intriguing, and it’s fun to think about, but I don’t think it does anything to enhance the process. Elections are about choices. And, just like I said a while ago, you’re not going to find a perfect political party. You’re not going to find a perfect candidate. But, ultimately, it comes down to a choice. And I think (that would) diffuse the fundamental choice people need to make in campaigns and elections, which has worked well in Colorado for well over a hundred years and nationwide for well over 200 years.

• Williams: “Gaming the Vote,” a book by William Poundstone (offers examples of this in six presidential elections). The most recent were Nader helping beat Gore and, before that, Perot helping beat Bush. It talks about how if the Perot voters were also allowed to vote for Bush, Bush would have won the election.

If the Nader voters had been allowed to vote for Gore, also, Gore would have won the election. So it has its benefits as to who people actually want to see elected. I think it is analogous to the City Council. If you’ve got three spots on the City Council that are up for election and seven people are running, you get to vote for three. You might vote for one guy who wins and two guys who don’t, but all three of your votes still get to count. So even though you only voted for one guy who won, you got to vote three times.

It’s the same thing. You just have to apply it to a one-person race.

Instant Runoff Voting (or Ranked Choice) is the easiest of these systems to understand, and that (is used in some areas). When you go in to vote for, say, Nader, you vote for your first choice and your second choice.

Question: I’d like to know what (the state chairs) do for the party in general and how that has changed over the years.

• Wadhams: Well — and Pat would agree with me — first of all, we’ve received nothing but praise and honor from everybody we served. (Laughter.) Everybody loves us. It was an amazing thing. I had no idea of the love and affection I would be encountering.

But, seriously, first and foremost, we have to raise money to support the party. That’s on my mind every day that I go into the office.

Candidate recruitment is a big part. Not so much for U.S. Senate and governor, or the major offices. But finding good candidates for the state legislative races takes up a lot of my time. It is a sacrifice to serve in the state Legislature, to run and serve, because of the physical, financial and emotional toll it takes on candidates.

It is tough. And to get good quality candidates to run for the Legislature, you have to walk them through and lie to them and tell them it’s not that big of a deal, so they’ll get in the race. (Laughter.)

No, you don’t lie to them at all. But you do have to tell them what they’re getting into. And you have to appeal (to the sense that serving in the General Assembly is answering a higher calling).

I also referee a lot of fights within the party that are always fun to do. I don’t get involved unless I’m asked to get involved. But I also think an important role for the state chairman — and this is one of the things I’ve tried to do — is to be a spokesman for our party. I try to be the voice of opposition to our governor, Bill Ritter, and to our new senator, Michael Bennet.

I try to articulate a broad Republican message as the voice of the opposition. We are the minority party right now. It’s not going to stay that way. But right now, that’s where we are. They own the governorship. They own both houses of the Legislature.

I also work with our legislators to promote what they’re doing every day in the state Legislature.

And then there’s the process itself. We have our caucuses, county assemblies, the state assembly, the primary. A lot of work goes into the process that we have to oversee and implement as a political party.

• Williams: We do largely the same things that Dick and Pat do, except we do it completely with volunteers. We’re not that big. We don’t have enough money to pay for a staff. I coordinate the other volunteers in the party, and we raise money and recruit candidates.

Some people think Libertarians cannibalize the Republican vote. I think that’s overstated, for one very good reason. Most Libertarians — if they have to choose between a Democrat and a Republican — aren’t going to vote.

As I look at it, we’re getting the hardcore believers in the individual. For instance, if 1 percent vote for a Libertarian in a three-way race, to assume that all of that 1 percent would have voted for a Republican is misguided. A few probably would have voted for a Democrat. It’s not 100 percent transferable by any means.

• Waak: We’re in the process of updating a strategic plan we put together in 2005. And one headache Dick didn’t mention is we have to keep our nonfederal and federal campaigns separate. So one of the ways, the roles the party plays is that we can deal with all of these candidates even though they’re not supposed to be coordinating with each other.

Updating state strategy every year is the responsibility of the party, and I’m a strategic planner, also. I get my fingers into that because I really want to make sure it has the right things in it.

We’re the deliverers of the message. And I have to say I don’t want a negative message going out because I think that demeans the intelligence of people.

I try to put the positive message forward about why you should be supporting these elected officials. What have they done to merit your support and your interest? We spend a lot of time working on that.

There are two other really important functions that I’m sure Dick is doing, maybe David also. One is training and support of our county units. When I first took over, basically my predecessors had totally ignored the outlying counties. I felt that if we won, (it would be) by very, very narrow margins. In fact, (in some races), 73 votes would win a state legislative seat.

It was really important to make sure that every vote counted. So we have spent a lot of time in the last four years rebuilding that strength within the county parties.

The first year, I took 17 computers out into rural counties. They don’t always have a good, reliable system out there. (But I had some counties that didn’t have e-mail). I couldn’t reach them. Now everybody has a computer, but I don’t always get them on it, so we do rounds of phone calls. But things like that make them more effective. Every single county gets training in the voter file and on what we call “think precinct” — how to organize your precinct.

The voter file is a huge investment on the part of every state party, and we usually have a tech person who takes care of that. That becomes the most valuable resource we have, because we bought into a voter file system in 2005 and we have every single ID in there since then. So when any candidate is running and wants to come in and get access to that voter file, it saves so much time.

We recently set up something called “The Wiki Site for the Democrats,” where you can just go in and ask any question you want answered. It’s password protected, but people can get into it.

It’s that kind of minutiae that you get into. You may not have to do it yourself, but you’re overseeing it, because it’s a part of your overall strategy for making sure things work.

I would say the thing I love the most is the people. The people who are involved, whether they’re candidates or volunteers, do this for next to nothing. They put in that time and energy, and so I feel that at the very least I should be supporting them as much as possible. It means I hear a lot of crazy stories and get a lot of crazy phone calls. But, you know, that’s what we’re there for.

The part I hate most is when you’ve got a fight going on (laughs) within the county party — which we very often do. When two people are trying to take each other out, and you’re the ultimate arbiter. In the end, you’re going to alienate somebody, somewhere.

Question: I’m very concerned about the black eye business has gotten, particularly in the last six to 12 months. Everybody blames Wall Street greed and executives who ran off with bonuses. Others blame the government. I, personally, believe the fault lies at the feet of American consumers, who overspent and undersaved, so I don’t think it’s either the government’s fault or business’ fault.

However, people are saying, “We can’t trust business to do this. We can’t trust the economy. We can’t trust the free market. Therefore, the government has to take over.”

I see business taking it in the shorts and government taking over massive parts of our economy. It’s a huge erosion of freedom and free market principles.

• Williams: We’ve got to quit apologizing for free markets and for making money, for one thing. When you hear, “The free market failed….” Well, that’s patently false. I think most of us here know that. It was the government that required the banks to make bad loans. Guaranteed Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac that if they went bad, you and I would pay for it. That’s the furthest thing possible from the free market.

Capitalism is the only moral system in the world. It’s not perfect. It’s not 100 percent fair, but that’s only because people run it. And any system you come up with, people are going to be involved in it.

So, to me, it’s massive arrogance to think there are some people smart enough and educated enough to run it, to be in government and tell everybody else how to do things fairly and correctly. That’s completely anti-freedom. It’s completely anti-liberty. And it’s so far away from the founding principles that it’s a scary.

• Waak: I think we’re in a situation we haven’t seen in a long, long time. There are experiments. We’re trying to figure our way out of this.

I had a really interesting conversation yesterday at lunch with a doctor who runs his own business. He’s a geriatrician, and I think very, very highly of him. He walked me through my father’s Alzheimer’s, and we collaborated to kind of figure this out. We talked about the health care system, and about how we’re already paying through the nose because (so many people rely on) emergency room care.

So I’m floored by all the legislation I see going through Congress, and I’m wondering, “Where are the sane hats?”

For somebody like me, who has spent a lot of time in developing countries, never throwing anything away because we wouldn’t get another one, to come back to this country and to see the waste we have! We just pitch it out — doesn’t matter. We’ve driven up the cost in part because of the waste, but the cost also has gone up because we don’t have a system to take care of the people who go to emergency rooms now.

I don’t think one sector or the other is being blamed at this point, although it sounds that way.

What I do know is that there are a lot of people hurting economically. They’re hurting because of health care. They’re worried, they’re anxious and they’re fearful. And we’ve got to figure out a system in which we don’t blame small business.

This is a mess. I hate saying we inherited it, but, in part, we did. The fact of the matter is, if we hadn’t spent all this money — and I’m a big supporter of the military. Everybody in my family has been in the military — but if we hadn’t spent all the money in Iraq in the last several years, we wouldn’t be in this shape, to some extent. We would have money to spend.

I don’t think government has all the answers. But you know what? My road that goes to my house is full of potholes, and I’m not going to be able to pay for that. It’s got to come from somewhere.

• Wadhams: I think you succinctly stated what the situation is right now in Congress and the state Legislature. We’ve already seen since January exactly where we’re headed as a nation under this new president and this new Congress.

There is an absolute agenda to blame business and to declare profit is evil. That agenda is in Washington, D.C., and, frankly, in the state capital right now. I do think there will be a sharp contrast in 2010 between the two major political parties and who we put up, and the kind of campaigns they run.

I was reading about a Rasmussen poll that showed that 60 percent of the electorate nationwide is saying they’re opposed to a second stimulus package.

We already know, from Gallup polling, that 55 percent of the electorate opposes the buyout of GM — now known as Government Motors — and Chrysler.

We’re already seeing that the public is getting onto this. President Obama’s personal popularity remains very high. He’s a very charismatic guy. But the more the details they start seeing out of his new administration, the more nervous they’re getting.