Maes taps Williams as running mate

Former legislator described as 'establishment conservative'

By Marianne Goodland

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes of Evergreen on Tuesday named Tambor Williams of Greeley, a former state legislator, as his pick for lieutenant governor for the November ballot.

Maes said her name came up a lot in conversations with Republicans around the state when he began looking for a lieutenant governor, and cited his growing support from party statesmen such as former U.S. Sens. Hank Brown and Wayne Allard, former state Senate President John Andrews and former state Treasurer and Republican National Committeeman Mark Hillman.

Republican nominee for governor Dan Maes introduces former legislator Tambor Williams as his lieutenant governor running mate on Tuesday.
Photo by Marianne Goodland/The Colorado Statesman

In announcing her as his pick, Maes highlighted not only her vast experience in state government but his lack thereof, a criticism levied frequently at his candidacy. “Her resume speaks for itself,” Maes said, citing her four terms in the Colorado General Assembly, an administrative executive position under Owens and work on the judicial performance commission. “The experience she’s gained by serving in the trenches…is the experience I want to complement myself with,” Maes said. “I have to be humble and say that I know what I lack…[Williams] will bring political experience to the table that I lack.” Maes noted that he has never attended a legislative hearing, sponsored legislation or run a government agency. “She has done all of that and earned her badge well,” Maes said.

Maes also cited Williams’ conservative record, stating that she is an “establishment conservative” and stands for “Tea Party conservatism. She will strengthen the weaknesses in my campaign without sacrificing the strengths that have gotten us here so far.”

Williams, a former high school counselor, served eight years in the Colorado House, rising to the post of Speaker Pro Tem. She also chaired two committees in her final term, which ended in 2004: Legislative Audit, and Business Affairs and Labor.

Following her legislative service, Williams spent two years as executive director of the Department of Regulatory Agencies under Gov. Bill Owens. After Owens’ term ended in 2006, Williams, who is also an attorney, was appointed to the State Commission on Judicial Performance, although that group’s website lists her as a non-attorney member. She also spent eight years on the 19th Judicial District Commission on Judicial Performance for Weld County. Williams said that her work for the state commission was concluded, with reviews completed for four Colorado Supreme Court justices and eight appellate court judges, and that she resigned her seat as of Tuesday.

Williams also said that tort reform is a subject close to her heart, and that “a Republican governor who will put conservatives on the bench is the best thing that could happen.”

To show off her conservative credentials, Williams boasted of her A+ rating from the National Rifle Association. She said she is proud of the opportunity she has been given to help Maes become governor, citing his work ethic. “There’s the showhorse and the workhorse, and Dan’s the workhorse,” she said.

Williams rejected the notion that she is a moderate Republican. “My record speaks for itself,” pointing out that she led the charge on parental notification for teen abortions. “I am pro-life with all the exceptions we’ve come to respect,” she said, citing the life of the mother, rape and incest. “I don’t support abortion on-demand.” Williams pointed out that her only vote on the issue as a legislator was to vote against a bill banning partial-birth abortions in 1997, saying that she did not support it because she believed the bill was unconstitutional.

She also mentioned that she’s been to Tea Party rallies in northern Colorado and that’s how she got interested in getting back into politics.

But her legislative track record includes votes for bills that might raise eyebrows among conservatives.

Leslie Hanks, vice-president of Colorado Right to Life, called for Maes to replace Williams in a statement Wednesday. “Maes told the voters that he was pro-life and now he selects for running mate one of the most aggressively pro-abortion Republican legislators ever, who fought for tax-funded abortions and even voted to continue late-term, partial birth abortions,” Hanks said. “Pro-lifers don't support pro-abortion candidates. So the question is, will he replace her?"

In 2003, Williams, a member of the House Education Committee, supported a bill to grant in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants. As introduced, HB 1178 would have granted in-state tuition to incoming freshmen. Williams got the committee to approve an amendment that stated that if the undocumented student had not filed for legal residency by the beginning of the second year in college, the student would have to go back to paying out-of-state tuition rates. In seeking the committee’s approval, Williams said “We are not giving a free ride to anyone” and that her community is home to immigrants who are “delighted when their children choose to go to college. It's good for the community and for all of us,” she said during the hearing. The committee adopted the amendment and passed the bill on an 8-2 vote; Williams was one of the eight who voted in favor of it. The bill was referred to several other committees and later died in the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

The front door of the Maes campaign office in Englewood shows a poster with the ideas Maes supports, including “Tabor” (sic). Williams supported Referendum C and D in 2004, but tried to walk that support back on Tuesday. “I supported it but that doesn’t mean I voted for it,” she said, explaining that she supported it at the time because she was hopeful it would make a difference in Colorado for education and transportation. “No one was more surprised when they didn’t pass together,” she said, referring to the failure of D. People didn’t support D because they didn’t trust government on how it would be spent, she said, and what has happened to Referendum C money is reflective of how government can go awry.

Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute called Williams’ choice “the wisest thing Maes has done so far in the campaign.” Caldara quipped that Maes needed someone “who could find the state capitol on the map,” but added that Williams, as an experienced legislator, has the experience Maes lacks. Caldara said he worked with Williams on health care legislation and tax issues and was “reasonable” about them, adding that while he didn’t always agree with her “I could always work with her.” But Caldara also called Williams’ support of Referendas C & D “a mistake.”

Williams’ ratings from the Colorado Union of Taxpayers started off high when she was first elected to the House in 1997. The highest rating she got was in 1998, at 73.68 percent. But from 2001 to 2004 her ratings dropped dramatically, 40 percent or below, reaching a low of 33.33 percent in 2003. In 2004, the Wilberforce Center for Colorado Statesmanship, which also rates legislators on conservative issues, gave Williams a 32.53 percent rating on 83 votes that aligned with conservative views regarding budget and tax policy.

As to her rating from the NRA, Dudley Brown of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners pointed out that it does not carry any weight with them and that Sen. Harry Reid, D-NV, also has an A+ rating from the NRA.

Brown said Williams was an extremely poor vote on Second Amendment issues while she was in the legislature, citing for example her opposition to RMGO-supported amendments to concealed-carry legislation she voted for in 2003. “Maes has shown he is neither a conservative or is far out of his league on political maneuvering,” Brown said. “Leftist Republicans are not a way to attract the base.”

Williams was also asked about her support for some of Maes’ more controversial statements of late, such as firing state employees en masse or that Denver’s bike-sharing program is part of a United Nations conspiracy. “I ride a bike,” Williams said with a smile. “I love my bike,” and said the Denver bike-sharing program is “great,” but added that “sometimes we don’t express ourselves artfully.”

Regarding Maes’ desire to pare down state government spending, Williams said there is “certainly waste in government and it’s a reasonable goal.”