Mr. Wadhams sees clear skies for GOP

By Jason Kosena

FORT COLLINS — The Republican Party is on its way to the top again.

That was the message Colorado State GOP Chair Dick Wadhams delivered to the Larimer County Republicans during a speech in Fort Collins on Thursday at the group’s monthly luncheon.

Colorado GOP State Chair Dick Wadhams talks at a Larimer County GOP luncheon on Wednesday in Fort Collins.
Photo by Jason Kosena/The Colorado Statesman

Wadhams told the 100 or so party faithful that the GOP is ready to rebound in 2010 after suffering bruising electoral defeats in 2004, 2006 and 2008.

“Many times, it’s in the midst of chaos that our greatest moments occur,” Wadhams said. “I’m optimistic about the 2010 campaign. I’m optimistic because we are having the important discussion within our party that we needed to have after three successive election defeats in Colorado. I’m optimistic because of the quality of candidates that we have.”

The message was well-received by the gathered group, who questioned Wadhams after his speech on topics ranging from the impact the youth vote in 2010 to whether it’s better to donate money to their local party or the state’s effort.

Following talking points he has reiterated since the end of the 2008 election, Wadhams invited Republican primary contests in Colorado this year, welcoming multiple contenders in the race to challenge U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and in the effort to defeat Gov. Bill Ritter.

Wadhams added that — despite the urgings of some Republicans who requested a back room meeting of GOP elders to determine the 2010 candidates in each race — he has pushed instead for an “open, fair and honest” approach that will allow the state’s 1.1 million registered Republicans to make the decision instead.

“We have a free and open process for our nomination, and that is the way it should be,” Wadhams said. “Nobody is owed our nomination for U.S. senator or governor or any other nomination. You’re looking at someone who thinks primaries are good.... I think primaries bring out the best in people. I think they make candidates sharper.”

Despite recent GOP primaries between Pete Coors and Bob Schaffer in 2004 and Marc Holtzman and Bob Beauprez in 2006 — which many politicos viewed as divisive affairs that did the Republican Party more harm than good — Wadhams pointed to primaries endured by former U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard and former Gov. Bill Owens as examples of contests that helped the candidates sharpen their message.

Colorado GOP Chair Dick Wadhams tells the Larimer County Republican luncheon that upcoming primaries will be good for the GOP and bad for the Democrats.
Photo by Jason Kosena/The Colorado Statesman

“There are many reasons why Republicans lost elections during the last couple of cycles, but it was not because of primaries,” Wadhams said. “Everyone will have a free and open and fair shot at our party’s nomination.”

Ironically, Wadhams predicted the only Democratic primary in Colorado thus far — between former Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff and Bennet — would do everything but help either candidate.

Using his trademark political tactic to label his opponents, Wadhams referred to Bennet as the “accidental senator” while calling Romanoff the “jilted one.”

“Andrew Romanoff — the jilted one, as I call him — the poor guy wanted to be secretary of state, and Bill Ritter appointed Bernie Buescher. Then Ken Salazar resigned, and Bill Ritter appointed the accidental senator, Michael Bennet,” Wadhams said.

“Poor old Romanoff has been jilted by Bill Ritter so many times... and now he is pursuing a grudge match against Bennet and the guy who put him there. That is going to be a very intense primary.”

Wadhams contrasted the Democratic primary to the GOP’s civilized affairs, painting the Bennet-Romanoff match as a mission of political bloodsport.

“The Republicans have seven candidates for U.S. Senate. They are all very different. They all have strengths and weaknesses. But they all like each other,” Wadhams said.

“What we do not have is the vendetta factor, the grudge factor, that is on the Democratic side,” he continued. “This is personal for Andrew Romanoff. He is going to go after this with a vendetta that is rarely seen in Colorado politics.”

At the tail end of his speech, Wadhams touted the upcoming Republican candidate forum at the state Central Committee meeting this weekend in Keystone, acknowledging that nearly every GOP candidate for statewide office is planning to attend and promoted the straw poll that will take place. He did not specifically reference Scott McInnis, who won’t be coming to Keystone until the straw poll and candidate forum are finished.

“We’re a party that is coming together,” he said. “We’re a party that is ready to head into 2010, and I think we’re going to have a lot of success.”