Romney campaign finds a home in Jeffco

Lakewood office just one of several to open in Colorado
The Colorado Statesman

With just over four months to go until the November election, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign finally has an office of its own in Colorado.

“It is an exciting day because today we have the opportunity to kick off the Romney campaign in Colorado officially, with the opening of the statewide headquarters for Romney Victory,” said state Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call, welcoming roughly 200 supporters on Saturday to the campaign’s spacious digs in the Denver West office park in Lakewood.

Surrounded by candidates for offices ranging from county commissioner to Congress, Call said that the office will serve as headquarters for Republican campaigns from president all the way down to the local level.

State Romney campaign director James Garcia and former state GOP vice chair Leondray Gholston chat at the opening of Romney’s state headquarters on June 16. Asked why his pre-printed name tag reads “Leondray Gholstein,” Gholston joked, “If they get one of them right, I’m happy.”
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“This coordinated victory strategy is going to help us not only win Colorado for Mitt Romney but also make sure we give him a Republican Congress and that we have local Republican leaders that are in a position to keep the lights on” — Call quipped as the overhead lights dimmed then sprang back to life — “that’s right, local Republican leaders are able to keep the lights on, keep the thing moving forward, help create opportunities for economic growth and development.”

“It is an exciting day because today we have the opportunity to kick off the Romney campaign in Colorado officially,” state GOP chairman Ryan Call tells the crowd at the opening of the presidential candidate’s Colorado headquarters on June 16 in Lakewood.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Promising that state Republicans would assemble “a world-class campaign operation,” Call said the Lakewood office was just the first of “quite a number” of regional field offices that will open throughout Colorado in coming months, but added that the location of the flagship operation was important.

Former state Rep. Frank DeFilippo and former Colorado First Lady Frances Owens pause in front of a wall of photos picturing Mitt Romney’s visits to the state at the opening of the Romney campaign’s statewide headquarters on June 16 in Lakewood.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“There’s a reason that we put the Romney Victory headquarters right here in Jeffco, because we understand that Jeffco is going to be a really critical (county),” Call said, noting that the state party’s vice chairman, Don Ytterberg, also chairs the Jefferson County GOP.

Former Gov. Bill Owens, a national co-chair of the Romney campaign, emphasized the importance of Colorado in the presidential race and predicted that the contest here could come down to the wire.

“I think as you look at the national issues that are resonating well here in Colorado, it’s going to be a battleground state, it’s going to be 50-50 right until the end,” Owens told The Colorado Statesman. “And if we run the right campaign with the right message and also, given President Obama’s failure to launch, then I think we’re going to win this state.”

Members of the Owens clan, from left, Kristen, her husband Mark, his sister Monica and their mother Frances gather in front of an “Ann for First Lady” poster at the Romney campaign's state headquarters on June 16.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Between posing for snapshots with volunteers, the popular former two-term governor checked out the mostly spare office occupied by his daughter Monica, who is the campaign’s Women’s Coalition Director, and talked about his impressions of Romney, who chaired the Republican Governor’s Association immediately after Owens held the post.

Broomfield residents Romney and Alecia Williams join in the festivities at the opening of Mitt Romney’s state headquarters on June 16 in Lakewood. Romney’s grandfather was a first cousin of Mitt Romney’s father.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“We were friends and colleagues. I was his co-chair four years ago and am proud to be his co-chair now,” Owens said. Although he said he has found that “the political process starts to diminish people,” he noted that Romney was among the rare politician who grows in stature campaign after campaign.

Volunteers call voters at the Romney campaign’s Colorado campaign office on June 16 in Lakewood.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“Mitt Romney in particular is the type of guy who could be a great president,” Owens said. “He has life experience, he’s been a great governor, he’s been a successful businessman, he’s a father and a husband. He’s actually the type of person you would normally look to serve as president.”

Characterizing the battle for Colorado’s nine electoral votes as crucial to winning the presidency, Owens rated Romney’s chances as “excellent” to carry the state.

Arapahoe County GOP chair Joy Hoffman embraces Pitkin County GOP chair Frieda Wallison as congressional candidate Joe Coors looks on during opening celebrations for the Romney campaign’s state headquarters.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“I’m really optimistic,” he said. “It’ll be a long, tough, hard-fought campaign, but I expect we’re going to win Colorado in November, and I expect that whoever wins Colorado is going to win the presidency.”

Polls released over the past month confirm Owens’ contention that it’s neck-and-neck for Colorado’s nine electoral votes. An NBC/Marist poll released on May 22 showed Obama leading Romney 46-45 percent, a Purple Strategies poll released on May 31 had Obama ahead 48-46 percent, a June 6 Rasmussen survey showed the race tied at 45 percent each. And on June 18, a poll from Public Policy Polling showed Obama leading Romney in the state 49-42.

Colorado Victory Team Communications Director Ellie Wallace and Events Director Hillary Shoun welcome supporters at the June 16 grand opening of the Romney campaign’s Colorado headquarters, where Romney Road meets Main Street USA, in the Denver West office park in Lakewood.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Call said the campaign plans to hammer the incumbent over the economy.

“We’ve seen the results of three and a half years of Barack Obama’s administration, and I hope you agree with all of us that we don’t like it, we want to change course,” he said. “The president has failed to get the economy up and moving again, has failed to create jobs, has failed to fulfill those campaign promises he made on the campaign trail.”

Former Gov. Bill Owens, a national co-chair of the Romney campaign, and his son Mark tour the Romney campaign’s Colorado headquarters on June 16 in Lakewood.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

The choice, he said, would be clear to voters.

“The opportunity to change direction is what this election is going to be all about. To hold accountable those who made promises on the campaign trail and didn’t deliver, and to say, ‘We can do better.’”

The Romney campaign’s themes are no secret. Handwritten on a whiteboard inside the “bullpen,” housing the state effort’s political operation, were notations about the economy that the Romney team was emphasizing, including a rising unemployment rate among Hispanic workers and the number of unemployed Coloradans, juxtaposed with an Obama quote that “the private sector is doing fine.”

One volunteer at the opening shares more with the presidential nominee than just the belief that Obama should be a one-term president.

Romney Williams, a Broomfield resident who hails from Salt Lake City, said he inherited his first name because his mother wanted to pass on the family name despite not having any brothers. “They’ve always called me Romney from the beginning,” he said with a smile. “It so happens my grandfather, her dad, and George Romney, Mitt’s father, were first cousins. Small world.”

Though he stresses that his wife, Alecia, is “outdoing” him when it comes to political activity lately — she runs a blog that makes a case for Romney — Romney said he was planning on devoting plenty of time and energy to the campaign this year.

“I’ve had some interaction with Mitt on a personal level, and I’ve been extremely impressed,” he said. “He cares about people, he cares about the country and he’s a difference-maker, and he executes, he gets stuff done.”

Other Republican luminaries in attendance included former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown, former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, congressional candidate Joe Coors, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, state Senate candidate Dave Kerber, CU Regent candidate Brian Davidson, and the chairs of county Republican parties from Arapahoe, Broomfield, Fremont, Jefferson and Pitkin counties.

A couple months back, the head of the national Democrats chided Romney — then still embroiled in a bitter primary fight for the nomination — for taking his time opening a Colorado headquarters.

The same day in early May that the Romney campaign announced that state GOP veteran operative James Garcia would be its state director, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who chairs the Democratic National Committee, declared that Romney was “starting from scratch in one of the most significant battleground states that there is in this election” and had a lot of catching up to do.

“It’s very clear who takes the state of Colorado seriously and who doesn’t,” she said at an appearance at the Obama campaign’s office in central Denver. “Because, while Mitt Romney was busy trying to out-right-wing his opposition during the primary cycle and was engaged in a circular firing squad, we were organizing in Colorado, opening offices around the state.”

As of this week, the Obama campaign counts 13 offices in the state and a spokesman said that more would open through the summer.

Call promised that the Romney campaign would catch up quickly.

Urging volunteers to visit the campaign office regularly to staff the phone bank, he also pointed out that the campaign will be waged largely outside the walls, canvass neighborhoods, post to Facebook and Twitter, talk to co-workers and neighbors.

“You’re the most powerful tool this campaign has, you’re the most powerful tool America has to change. That is really what this election is going to be about, an opportunity to renew that promise of America, and you’re all part of it.

This campaign needs to be about the big issues, but it needs to also have the strength and energy that comes from volunteers like all of you.”

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com