Primary winner Bailey now faces Democrat Polis

By Jimy Valenti
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Stephen Bailey emerged as the Republican nominee in the 2nd Congressional District over Bob Brancato, but Bailey has his work cut out for him in challenging incumbent Democrat Jared Polis in this historically Democratic district.

Bailey, surrounded by his family and supporters, watched the favorable results pour in from Harpo’s Sports Grill in Boulder on Aug. 10. In the end, Bailey, a marketing director from Niwot, garnered 69.3 percent to Brancato’s 30.6 percent.

“I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people this year,” Bailey said. “This year there are tail winds for Republicans and head winds for Democrats across the country and especially for incumbents.”

Stephen Bailey

Bailey, 50, received a call from first term Congressman Polis congratulating him on his primary victory, but never got a call from Brancato to concede the election. Bailey said he hasn’t heard from Brancato in the last few months.

“Had he not had so much hate rhetoric that we see so much of in the press lately I believe it would have been a lot easier to reach out to him,” Brancato said. “It got a little bit mean on his end.”

“I’m sorry that he has a little bit of sour grapes and bitterness on what happened with the campaign, but I refrained from making any negative comments about him and I also tried to stay on message throughout the campaign,” Bailey said.

Brancato briefly suspended his campaign in June after a news inquiry was made about a police report filed in Firestone because of a “domestic problem” at Brancato’s home last year. Brancato was arrested on suspicion of false imprisonment on Sept. 29, but the Weld County District Attorney’s Office dismissed the case a day later. Brancato and his wife denied there was any domestic abuse.

Jared Polis

In an email, Brancato announced that he was suspending his campaign after he learned that “liberal media outlets intend to share personal information concerning my family matters, which in turn will jeopardize their privacy and safety.” Brancato resumed his campaign on July 21.

Despite his disillusionment with his Republican rival, Brancato, 42, a private investigator from Firestone, said he isn’t bitter about the primary process. He is now exploring options for a run at public office in 2012 and is continuing his advocacy work for preventing child abuse and helping victims of sexual assault. Brancato says he was sexually abused by a priest when he was a child. He won a 2008 confidential settlement from the Archdiocese of Chicago and now volunteers for victims’ groups.

Brancato said the primary results were unfortunate, but he is proud of the 30 percent who voted for him because those voters believed in true Republican principles, he said.

“As we see in the news some of the tea partiers are bringing that ‘hatriot’ type of attitude and taking over the Republican Party and I have the firm belief that we need unity as opposed to separation,” Brancato said.

Bailey will continue his “liberty is prosperity” campaign theme moving towards the general election. The economy and rising unemployment rates are his main concerns. According to Bailey, the poor economy is directly related to Americans’ loss of liberty and freedom.

Bailey’s path to unseating Polis is lined with Democrats. As of August 1, there are 142,464 Democrats, 98,141 Republicans, 123,787 unaffiliated, 1,663 Libertarians, 996 Green Party and 16 Unity Party of America active registered voters in CD 2.

The district’s largest population center is Boulder and the district includes Broomfield County and parts of Adams, Weld and Jefferson counties. It extends west to Eagle, Grand, Clear Creek, Summit and Gilpin counties as well.

The last Republican to hold CD 2, which was demographically different, was Don Brotzman in 1966. Polis won the seat handily in 2008 with 62.6 percent to Republican Scott Starin’s 33.9 percent. Starin, the current chair of the Boulder County Republicans, is an advisor to Bailey’s campaign.

“The pendulum is starting to swing our way,” Starin said. “It starts with the tone set in Washington. Republicans, unaffiliated and fiscally conservative Democrats are extremely concerned with the wasteful spending and continued debt that keeps pilling on to our children and grandchildren.”

Starin and Bailey agree that Starin’s 2008 loss to Polis was actually a positive sign for the district. Both men said that in 2008 Polis should have won by 80-percentage points due to national Democratic momentum and discontent with the Bush administration.

“People don’t like what’s being done to this country,” Bailey said. “People are losing freedom, giving half their paycheck to the government and even qualified people can’t find work. When you put all of that together Republicans are going to have a big year. It will be bigger than ‘94, bigger than ’06.”

National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Greg Blair said Republicans are poised to make a strong showing in unconventional districts like Colorado’s CD 2 as the political climate worsens for Democrats across the country. Blair spoke to Bailey in Washington D.C. last April and said the NRCC is always open to help candidates build the infrastructure needed to run a competitive campaign.

Bailey also met with political action committees during his trip to Washington D.C. and said the overall response to his campaign was reserved. He said people were interested in his candidacy, but with analysts forecasting as many as 60 house seats up for grabs this November, it is hard to break the conventional wisdom that CD 2 is safe for Democrats.

“It’s a chicken and egg thing,” Bailey said. “You have to prove that you’re competitive and then the money comes, but it’s hard to prove you’re competitive without the money.”

As of July 21, Bailey had raised $64,971 with $14,437 cash on hand while Polis reported $594,292 and $180,330. Polis, an Internet entrepreneur, is reportedly worth $160 million according to Forbes Magazine. In 2000, Polis spent over $1 million of his own money during his successful bid for the State Board of Education and spent $6 million during his 2008 congressional run.

“People know that Polis essentially bought his election,” Bailey said. “People realize that he is really not accountable to anybody. He believes that as long as he spends a lot of money he will have his election.”

“The Congressman has always gone out there and talked to voters,” said Polis campaign manager Lisa Kaufman. “He doesn’t just sit on the sidelines and spend money. He actively campaigns and will continue to actively campaign.”

Bailey said he cannot compete with Polis financially, but that he can compete with him with volunteers. Bailey organizes weekly precinct walks where he and volunteers discuss deficit spending, increased government interference and looming tax increases. Bailey has also inspired a group of out-of-state volunteers called the “Bailey Brigade” who call registered voters throughout CD 2.

Eagle County GOP Chair Randy Milhoan plans to canvass the town of Minturn with Bailey on Saturday. Milhoan said this election cycle feels less hostile for Republicans than in 2008 when he said campaigning in CD 2 could feel awkward.

“It will be real tough to defeat Polis, especially with all the money he has,” Milhoan said. “Now is the time if there is ever a year to do it.”

Launching his reelection campaign last February, Polis has campaigned heavily throughout the district. Wednesday he announced new land protections near the Snow Mountain Ranch Wilderness in Granby, toured the Confluence Energy Pellet Plant in Kremmling and met with small business owners in Grand Lake. He participated in a phone bank in Adams County on Thursday and canvassed Boulder on Saturday.

Kaufman said constituents primarily talk with Polis about his work in education and the economy as well as how the health care bill affects Coloradans. Polis has also been highlighting three bills he introduced that encourage private capital investments into the economy.

Libertarian candidate Curtis Harris is also targeting voters in the 2nd District. Harris’ campaign slogan is “Harris Against Congress.” He said people must stop evaluating their individual congressmen and recognize that congress is a failed institution. Republicans and Democrats are equally responsible for this failure, according to Harris.

“The Republican Party has no credibility at the federal level,” Harris said. “The 2nd District is absolutely gerrymandered to prevent a Republican victory… The math works so a Republican would never win. I’m the real choice for voters in CD 2 who want economic and personal liberty.”

Starin said he believes gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes and senate hopeful Ken Buck atop the Republican ticket will fuel Bailey’s candidacy.

“Both Buck and Maes were severely underfunded compared to their competitors,” Starin said. “They were not considered the front runners. It just shows the passion that has come out in this election, a passion Bailey supporters share.”

Jimy@coloradostatesman.com