Ballot certified for governor’s race

By Jody Hope Strogoff & Ernest Luning

With high stakes developments continuing to pop up in Colorado’s high drama race for governor, it behooves us to step back a moment and look at where things are since last week’s ballot certification of Republican nominee Dan Maes.

Increasing pressure on Maes to withdraw from the race was met with a defiant ‘no’ from the candidate last week. Maes said he was “proud to say I’m in it to win it” despite having lost the support of numerous influential Republicans, including Senate candidate Ken Buck, who withdrew his endorsement of Maes on the same day as the Sept. 3 ballot certification.

Third-party gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo pretty much brought down the barn at his kick-off party Sept. 4 at the Erie home of his running mate, Pat Miller.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Tom Tancredo, a former Republican congressman, bolted the GOP in July and launched a run for governor on the American Constitution Party ticket. As recently as three weeks ago, Tancredo offered to end his campaign — and avoid splitting the conservative vote — if Maes would drop out and allow Republican officials to name a replacement candidate.

With Maes officially staying in the race, so is Tancredo.

The third-party challenger held a campaign kick-off party last weekend at the Erie home of his running mate, former state Rep. Pat Miller, where he introduced his campaign team, his wife Jackie, and Sasha, his 15-month old Goldendoodle who he said is running for First Dog. A few days later he (Tancredo, not the dog) challenged Democrat John Hickenlooper to a series of debates, minus Maes, whom he called practically irrelevant. Hickenlooper and Maes responded a couple days later by announcing 10 debates — minus Tancredo.

The Colorado Republican Party officially abandoned its support of their nominee meanwhile, with State Chairman Dick Wadhams saying he was “very disappointed in the decision by Dan Maes to continue his candidacy for governor. Revelations before and especially after the August 10th primary have raised serious questions about the veracity of how he has presented his professional background and career and have virtually destroyed any possibility of running a viable campaign.”

This followed a speech before the Jefferson County Republican Men’s Club about a week and a half prior at which Wadhams firmly asserted to partisans that he “wanted to make sure there was no mistake about it, I supported our candidate for governor and I still do.” At the same meeting, Wadhams lampooned a young Tancredo supporter who simply asked him a question during the Q&A session. Wadhams said it was “highly inappropriate” for her to even show her face at the GOP meeting in light of her abandonment of support for Maes, the party’s nominee. “We’re done with you, we’re done with you,” he admonished the aghast Tancredo volunteer.

In other developments, former chair of the Denver County Republican Party, Mary Smith, has come out officially in support of Denver’s Democratic mayor John Hickenlooper in the govenor’s race and is co-hosting, along with Republican businessmen Larry Mizel and Greg Maffei, a bipartisan fundraiser for him later this month with other well known Republican and Democrats.

Prominent Republican businessman Steve Schuck, who twice ran for governor in the 1980s, confirmed last week that he is throwing his support to Tancredo and he expected other business leaders and Republicans across the state to follow suit.

Schuck, a longtime Colorado Springs real estate developer, said he is terribly disheartened and disappointed that Maes refused to drop out of the race, especially since it has become clear that his candidacy hurts other GOP candidates down the ballot.

He also expressed gratitude and appreciation to Tancredo for intervening in the race to try to get Maes to withdraw.

“He’s the hero in this whole thing,” said Schuck. “His move to the ACP was a noble gesture to salvage all that could be saved for our party. I am committing to him for governor.”

Schuck added that the latest developments in the race provide an opportunity for other Republicans to demonstrate support for “the one guy who put his body in front of the tank,” referring to Tancredo. And for those who might think Tancredo’s entrance into the race had to do with ego or a sense of narcissism, Schuck quickly doused such speculation.

“Everything that Tom did was as a patriot and a conservative,” Schuck said. “He warned us of the shortcomings of the nominee and chose to do something about the problem. I’m prepared and committed to go down the line for him.”

A barrage of Republican officials, current and former, subsequently endorsed Tancredo’s candidacy late this week.

“To those who have withdrawn their support for my campaign, I am confident that the truth will be revealed,” Maes said. “I hope you’ll hear my side of the story and help our party regroup and unite to beat the Democrats.”

He also thanked the handful of prominent Republicans — including former U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, former Aurora Mayor Paul Tauer and state Sen. Dave Schultheis — who hadn’t abandoned him.

Reached by telephone last week, Tauer said he was “absolutely” sticking with Maes and had some harsh words for Republicans who have withdrawn their support of the candidate.

“I think it’s atrocious that some of the people are doing what they’re doing,” Tauer said, “in my mind, helping to damage the Republican Party by abandoning the candidate, whoever the candidate might be — in this case Dan Maes.”

Tauer said he was “delighted” Maes had decided to stay in the race and had encouraged as much.

“I sent him an e-mail to that regard last night,” Tauer said, “hoping he would decide to stay in the race and not bow to the pressure.”

Colorado’s top election officers were required to make the fall ballot official and send it to county clerks on Sept. 3. Department of State spokesman Rich Coolidge confirmed the ballot had been certified late Friday afternoon.

In a statement issued last Thursday, Secretary of State Bernie Buescher said that, “(any) last minute changes to the ballot after tomorrow’s deadline will need to be addressed on a county-by-county basis.”

Maes’ decision to stay in the race has been met with varied reaction from Republicans. Most stunning, perhaps, was the announcement issued by the Colorado GOP just minutes after Friday’s ballot certification deadline. The statement, signed by Wadhams, didn’t include Maes’ name on the list of Republican candidates that had the official support of the state party.

“Colorado Republicans are firmly committed to the election of Ken Buck as U.S. Senator over the accidental senator, Michael Bennet. We will reelect John Suthers as Attorney General and also elect Scott Gessler as Secretary of State and Walker Stapleton as State Treasurer,” Wadhams said in the release.

Likewise, Wadhams continued, “Congressmen Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman will be reelected and we have strong candidates in the other five congressional districts. In fact, recent public polls show Scott Tipton leading John Salazar in the Third District, Cory Gardner leading Betsy Markey in the Fourth District, and Ryan Frazier over Ed Perlmutter in the Seventh District. Dr. Mike Fallon and Stephen Bailey are running spirited campaigns in the First and Second Districts respectively.?I am proud to stand with Ken Buck, John Suthers, Scott Gessler, Walker Stapleton, Doug Lamborn, Mike Coffman, Mike Fallon, Stephen Bailey, Scott Tipton, Cory Gardner, Ryan Frazier, and our outstanding candidates for the state legislature.”

Wadhams said Maes’ continued candidacy in the race practically ensures that Hickenlooper will become Colorado’s next governor.

“The only way Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper could win this election for governor is by being handed the kind of race he was today by Dan Maes and Tom Tancredo,” Wadhams said.