GOP Joe Gschwendtner launches Gov campaign

By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Sounding like Superman, Castle Rock businessman Joe Gschwendtner this week announced his Republican candidacy for governor and vowed to rescue Colorado’s red-inked budget and revive the economy. The Douglas County entrepreneur and small businessman said he’s experienced in saving failing businesses and is willing and ready to take on the challenges facing the state.

Joe Gschwendtner

“Make no mistake — the economy of Colorado is still at great risk. We can’t afford another politician who lacks the skills to fix this crisis and we certainly don’t need politics as usual,” said Gschwendtner during his campaign kickoff under the gold dome on Thursday.

First, Gschwendtner will have to hurdle several skyscraper-sized obstacles — starting with establishing name ID and petitioning onto the ballot. The Republican candidate has invested $100,000 in his campaign — and hired Patrick Davis, a political consultant formerly with the Republican National Committee, and Kyle Fisk, a savvy marketing specialist.

“Challenging name for demanding times,” states Gschwendtner’s super-sized campaign card. “We have the wrong people running the show! The last thing we need is more them.”

“Joe G. is NOT a career politician; he doesn’t trivialize issues with sound bites or taglines… Joe Gschwendtner is more than an interesting name. His skills and experience make him the smart choice for Colorado Governor.”

During his campaign kickoff on Thursday at the state Capitol, Gschwendtner expanded on that marketing message and his experience in turning around underperforming and mismanaged businesses, nonprofits and governments.

“It is Ge-schwent-ner for those of you trying to figure it out. But we can just be friendly and you can call me Joe G,” he told reporters.

For those who still can’t pronounce Joe G.’s last name, the campaign Web site — joegforcolorado.com — welcomes folks to push a button to hear the name Gschwendtner.

Gschwendtner and his wife of 41 years, Barbara Gschwendtner, live near Castle Rock. The candidate said that he learned to value freedom and opportunities from both of his parents. His father was 16 years old when he fled Germany to live in America.

“I’m the son of a butcher and my parents never let me forget what it means to live in America, the privilege of the freedoms we enjoy,” said the candidate. “I’ve personally experienced the advantage of the opportunities this country offers — the blessings of Capitalism, the value of hard work, the rewards of the American entrepreneurial spirit.”

After serving eight years as a U.S. Army officer and serving in Vietnam, Gschwendtner earned a degree in accounting. Over the next decade, he rose from an entry-level job to become senior vice president of a company. He later established a consulting business that specialized in profit-recovery services for large publicly traded companies as well as smaller businesses.

“In my life I have worked behind the counter selling 90 cents worth of bologna and was the Treasurer of a corporation responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars. I know what it means to work hard and I know what it takes to make Colorado stronger,” he declared. “I know numbers, accounting, and business and I know the economy.”

The candidate and his political team are very aware of the challenges in entering the race this late in the season. Fisk said the campaign has roughly 90 days to push Gschwendtner into the spotlight and overtake Republican opponents Scott McInnis, former Congressman, and Evergreen businessman Dan Maes.

Fisk predicted that Gschwendtner will breathe new excitement into the GOP governor’s contest. With two businessmen in the race, Fisk thinks Maes will be the first casualty. He noted that Gschwendtner can afford to invest his own money to startup the campaign; Maes has struggled to raise money and finished the last quarter with little more than $5 cash on hand.

Maes, however, said he has built a core of loyal supporters and volunteers, including 9-11 and Tea Party activists — and this week locked in nearly 30 county campaign coordinators.

“We met with Joe Gschwendtner two months ago and asked him point blank what is different about his campaign platform from ours,” said Jordan Maes, who works on her father’s campaign. “He said, ‘It’s not any different.’”

“He doesn’t have any advantage in this race. Voters want you to work for their vote — Dan Maes has worked to earn the grassroots support for the past 14 months,” she said. “2010 is different than past election years — it’s the time of the people.”

Jordan Maes said the campaign has had a surge in fundraising since the March caucuses — garnering nearly $70,000 — and added 700 new contributors.

“We have no comment,” said Josh Green, McInnis campaign deputy director of communications.

Davis, however, is convinced that Gschwendtner has the best shot at getting on the ballot and winning the Republican primary to take on Democratic candidate Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

“Joe will quickly become known in Colorado. I fully expect that he will be our next Governor,” said Davis.

“I’m not a conventional politician who is looking to avoid problems or makes decisions with an eye on the next election. I’m the guy willing to make bold decisions, take sensible risks, and lead with confidence, passion, and integrity,” he said.

If elected, Gschwendtner promised to cut $1 billion of “waste and inefficiency” from the state budget and reduce unemployment to 4 percent or less by 2014.

That sounds like a “Super hero” task — but that’s what “Joe G.” vowed.

Leslie@coloradostatesman.com