Candidates woo Springs Central Committee

By Leslie Jorgensen

COLORADO SPRINGS — Candidates running for statewide and local offices courted votes - and campaign volunteers - at the El Paso County Republican Party Central Committee meeting. None took a higher profile than former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton's U.S. Senate campaign.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck greets Jeanne Lamborn, wife of 5th District Congressman Doug Lamborn. In the background is Robin Coran, who managed Congressman Lamborn’s campaign last year, and now is steering Buck’s campaign in El Paso County.
Photo by Tatianna Gruen/The Colorado Statesman

Norton swept into the Cheyenne Mountain High School auditorium with her husband, former U.S. Attorney Mike Norton, and a campaign entourage that included her communications director, Cinamon Watson. The campaign’s presence and its flyer, which listed 114 members of the Norton campaign’s “El Paso County Grassroots Leadership,” seemed a bit intimidating to some of her competitors.

Norton’s “who’s who” list of supporters includes El Pomar Foundation Chairman Bill Hybl, University of Colorado Regent Kyle Hybl, Colorado Springs developer Steve Schuck and his wife, Joyce Schuck, Bill Schuck and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and his wife, Janet Suthers.

The grassroots group for Norton also lists numerous Republican elected officials, including state Sen. Keith King, former Sen. Ron May, Reps. Bob Gardner, Larry Liston, Amy Stephens and Mark Waller; El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Bob Balink, El Paso County Commissioners Amy Lathen, Dennis Hisey and Wayne Williams, Fountain Mayor Jeri Howells and Fountain City Councilwoman Lois Landgraf.

El Paso County District Attorney Dan May, left, GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis and El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark join ranks to meet and greet folks at the early morning meeting of the El Paso County Central Committee in Colorado Springs.
Photo by Tatianna Gruen/The Colorado Statesman

“She brought six campaign staffers. One guy just Twitters!” gasped Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who is also seeking the party’s nomination to unseat the Democratic incumbent, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Wiens, who waited along with Buck and Norton to speak to the committee, was surprised by the low turnout. About 230 of the 400 anticipated Central Committee members had been certified.

“I’ve seen more people turn out for Tea Parties,” said Wiens, referencing the rallies protesting government bailouts and the proposed health care reform package. He wondered whether the low turnout signaled that folks were frustrated with status quo party politics or that they were just getting an early start on Thanksgiving holiday travel.

Other Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate missed the opportunity to shake hands and speak to the most ardent activists in this conservative GOP bastion.

GOP gubernatorial candidates Scott McInnis and Dan Maes pitched their campaigns — and earned thunderous applause.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes, of Evergreen, left, and U.S. Senate candidate and former state Sen. Tom Wiens, of Castle
Rock, wait in the wings to speak to members of the El Paso County GOP Central Committee.
Photo by Tatianna Gruen/The Colorado Statesman

Like Norton, McInnis arrived with his campaign posse, which included political consultant Mike Hesse and deputy communication director Josh Green. The McInnis crew looked like Cheshire cats grinning over a super-secret coup — one whispered that former gubernatorial contender state Sen. Josh Penry would endorse McInnis for governor the following morning in Grand Junction.

Scott Gessler pitched his campaign for the Secretary of State’s Office. Ali Hasan delivered boxes and boxes of Daylight Donuts and told folks he’s running for state treasurer. Hasan’s Republican opponents, Walker Stapleton and J.J. Ament, missed the meeting.

Campaign speeches were peppered throughout the six-hour meeting, which tackled the serious business of revising bylaws and adopting 16 resolutions.

In House District 17, Mark Barker and Kit Roupe pitched their bids to unseat Democrat Dennis Apuan. Barker, a law firm partner of Waller, campaigned on traditional family and fiscal conservative values.

“We will win!” vowed Roupe, who needed 271 votes to beat Apuan last year. She did some homework and found that after a surge in voter registration in last year’s election, nearly 2,000 mailed ballots were returned as “undeliverable” in the local election this month.

Republicans are targeting the Senate District 11 seat held by Democratic Sen. John Morse. They’ve recruited fresh-faced candidate Owen Hill, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and financial manager for Compassion International.

The GOP also is courting a candidate to snatch back House District 18, stolen by Democrat Rep. Mike Merrifield, who will be term limited after 2010. The Republican candidate will run against Democrat Pete Lee, an attorney in Colorado Springs.