‘The Herminator’ revs up Denver Republicans

Republicans raise Cain and bucks in traditionally Democratic domain
The Colorado Statesman

It’s hard to be a Republican in Denver — at least according to Denver Republicans, who gathered for their annual Lincoln Day Dinner on March 18 at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

A parade of elected officials and party leaders applauded the several hundred Republicans — along with a handful of Libertarians and even a few Democrats — for standing tall in a city dominated by the opposing party.

“It’s easy to be a Republican in Colorado Springs, in Douglas, in Weld County,” said Secretary of State Scott Gessler, a Denver resident. “But it’s not so easy in Denver. It’s very brave for people to be Republicans here — to fight the fight, carry the flag, to do it unabashedly with integrity.”

Potential presidential candidate Herman Cain fires up the crowd during his keynote speech at the Denver County Republicans’ Lincoln Day Dinner on March 18 at the Museum of Nature and Science.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
Former FEMA Director Michael Brown and Christine Burtt are overjoyed to run into each other at the Denver Lincoln Day Dinner.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
Old friends Andy Divine, left, and Herman Cain are glad to see each other at the Denver Lincoln Day Dinner at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
Art and Ellen Foss of the Adams County Republicans celebrate Ronald Reagan’s 100th year with vintage Reagan buttons for sale at the Denver Lincoln Day Dinner.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
“This will sink your campaign!” former FEMA Director and 850-KOA radio host Michael Brown jokes as he poses with Denver City Council at-large candidate Josh Davies and his wife, Lara, at the Denver County Republicans’ Lincoln Day Dinner on March 18 at the Museum of Nature and Science.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
Denver mayoral candidate James Mejia, right, visits with Jennie Virgilio and and Chrissie Faraci at the Denver Lincoln Day Dinner.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
Lifetime achievement honoree Carolyn Metzler visits with Denver GOP counsel Harry Arkin after he announced her award at the Denver Lincoln Day dinner on March 18 at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
Mayoral candidate and Denver City Councilman Michael Hancock, left, visits with Cathy Smoorenburg at Denver’s Lincoln Day dinner.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
Beverly Henry shows off her Republican- themed outfit at the Denver Lincoln Day Dinner.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
Hats off to Denver County Republican Party Chairman Danny Stroud at the Denver County Republicans’ Lincoln Day Dinner on March 18 at the Museum of Nature and Science.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Far from being a Quixotic effort, Gessler said, revving up the Republican vote in Denver can tip the scales statewide, simply because there are so many voters in the city-and-county. Statewide GOP candidates who win more than 30 percent of the vote in Denver, Gessler said, have a pretty good chance of carrying Colorado.

“The truth is that if we in Denver can move that needle five percent — because Denver is such a big city and so important here in Colorado,” Gessler said, “if we do our job, if we start it now until the election,” Republicans can claim the state’s nine electoral votes in the 2012 presidential election.

Gessler threw down a challenge: “It’s easy to speak to the choir. Where we win elections is when we speak to people who aren’t the choir — the independents, the unaffiliated, people who aren’t necessarily already drinking our Kool Aid, as it were.”

In recognition of Denver’s vast bloc of Republican voters — in sheer numbers if not in percentage — a passel of candidates in the upcoming nonpartisan municipal election who happen to be Democrats mingled with the crowd. Mayoral hopefuls Chris Romer, James Mejia, Michael Hancock and Theresa Spahn along with Clerk and Recorder candidate Tom Downey shook hands during the reception, while At-large City Council candidate Josh Davies, Clerk and Recorder candidate Debra Johnson and Auditor Dennis Gallagher not only pressed the flesh but stayed for dinner.

Another statewide winner in the last election with deep Denver roots, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, said he echoed what Gessler had to say about the importance of the Republican vote out of Denver, though he tempered his point with a quip. “You’d think with the name ‘Stapleton,’ you might have done a little bit better in Denver county — fortunately, I did just well enough to win statewide,” he said.

Newly elected Denver County Republican Party Chairman Danny Stroud termed the night a resounding success, though he said this week party officials hadn’t finished tallying receipts from the fundraising dinner and silent auction.

“We knew if we did this event right, we would raise consciousness and enthusiasm, which would open doors down the road,” Stroud said after the dinner. “If we made money, I am happy, happy, happy, because that was a secondary goal for us. The primary goal was to kick off this campaign cycle with a monumental event.”

Denver Republicans honored party stalwart Carolyn Metzler with the lifetime achievement award. Officials lauded the longtime legislative aide and past chairwoman of the Denver County GOP for her indefatigable efforts, including providing tireless guidance and “moral support” for Denver Republican candidates — “no easy task,” Stroud cracked.

“One person cannot possibly achieve what many can achieve, and there are many people in this room that, if I have achieved anything, it is with their help,” Metzler said. She added a friendly warning to the crowd: “If we don’t figure out how to work together, together we will fail. So let’s work on working together instead of in opposition where we don’t all agree on the issues.”

The Lincoln Day Dinner — an annual Republican tradition in every Colorado county — wasn’t held at the museum by accident, Stroud pointed out. Because Democrats are treating Colorado as a crucial swing state, even bringing President Barack Obama to the very room where Republicans dined to sign the $787 billion federal stimulus bill, Stroud said he thought it was important to plant the Republican flag in the same place. “We wanted to make it clear, ‘Not in our backyard,’” he said.

Possible Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain — dubbed “The Herminator” by 850 KOA talk show host and former FEMA Director Michael Brown, who emceed the dinner — underlined the point in the dinner’s keynote address. Standing just a stone’s throw from the spot where Obama signed the American Reinvestment And Recovery Act of 2009 just over two years ago, Cain vowed to return to do some bill-signing of his own.

“It’s highly likely that if you all nominate the right person for president for the Republican nomination, and the right person becomes president of the United States, I’ll sign the repeal of the healthcare law right here — where (Obama) signed the stimulus bill — right here in this building,” Cain said to thunderous applause.

Noting that he’s “been to a heckuva lot of Lincoln Day dinners,” Brown said it’s rare to have as powerful or prominent a speaker as Cain.

“He actually had to run a business,” said Brown in his introduction. “And when he took over Godfather’s Pizza, they were on the verge of bankruptcy — much like the United States Of America. And I thought, he’s exactly what we need in this country because he is not a community organizer.”

Cain’s booming voice and up-from-poverty story had the crowd on its feet more than once, and his conservative message drew sustained applause.

“The American Dream is under attack,” he said. “That’s the bad news. But the good news is, we are fighting back to take back the American Dream!” Cain said the way to fix the economy was to overhaul the tax code by making the Bush tax cuts permanent, cutting the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, doing away entirely with the capital gains tax and instituting a “real” payroll tax holiday.

He ended his 30-minute speech with a call for Republicans to take seriously the freedoms they intend to pass on to future generations.

“I have a breaking-news announcement for the people that are trying to destroy this country, and all the liberals in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “The United States of America is not going to become the United States of Europe — not on our watch.”

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com

Full coverage of the Denver GOP Lincoln Day Dinner in the March 25 print edition of The Colorado Statesman.