Challenge is likely to GOP State Chair

Douglas County GOP Chair Mark Baisley leaning to run against incumbent Call
The Colorado Statesman

In the wake of a solid thumping at the polls that has left Colorado Republicans trying to figure out what went wrong, state GOP Chairman Ryan Call could face a challenge from the head of one of the state’s most conservative county parties if he seeks a second term early next year. Mark Baisley, chairman of the Douglas County Republicans, told The Colorado Statesman this week that he’s leaning toward a bid for the top spot after receiving numerous calls from Republicans urging him to replicate the suburban county party’s successes statewide.

“I’ve got an overwhelming amount of support,” Baisley said on Wednesday. “It’s shocking to me, I’m receiving phone calls daily from around the state, people calling me up saying, ‘I’m hearing this rumor and if it’s true, count me in, we’re going to get behind you.’”

Baisley said he planned to spend the rest of the month considering his chances and will announce his intentions at the beginning of January, but he sounded like his mind was all but made up.

“The driving force to me is the sense of responsibility if folks are calling on you to do it,” he said. “Sometimes you respond to the call, so I likely will.”

Douglas County Republican Chairman Mark Baisley addresses the county central committee in this file photo. Baisley is considering a run for state GOP chairman.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Call hasn’t declared whether he’s seeking a second term but told The Statesman that he’s inclined toward a run. State party spokesman Justin Miller said on Thursday that Call is reaching out to Republicans statewide and hasn’t yet made a decision but expects to by the end of the month.

The state GOP elects officers at its biennial reorganization meeting in March. Before that, county parties convene to pick their own officers and so-called bonus delegates to the state central committee, awarded based on each county’s turnout for the top race, which was the presidential contest this year.

Democrats also elect state officers this spring. State Chairman Rick Palacio told The Statesman earlier this month that he believes he’ll seek a second term but hasn’t made a final decision yet. So far, no other candidates have emerged for that spot.

Call won the GOP helm in early 2011 against a crowded field, garnering more than twice the number of votes won by his closest competitor, state Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, who had mounted a conservative challenge to two-term Chairman Dick Wadhams before he withdrew from the race. Incumbent state Vice Chairman Leondray Gholston, Clear the Bench organizer Matt Arnold and former Michigan congressional candidate Bart Baron trailed.

Also in early 2011, Baisley easily fended off a challenge from a more moderate candidate for a second term running the county party. At the county central committee meeting, he described Douglas County as “the center of gravity of the Republican Party in Colorado and perhaps the nation” and touted the party’s ability to turn out reliably Republican voters. He made similar points this week describing why he’s considering the state position.

“We executed a well planned-out and well managed ground game,” Baisley said, noting that 97 percent of registered Republicans in the county voted. “‘Can you carry that program statewide?’ That’s the call that I’m getting.”

Baisley boasted that it was Douglas County’s heavy Republican turnout that returned U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman to office against an unexpectedly strong challenge from state Rep. Joe Miklosi, a Denver Democrat who moved into the redrawn, newly competitive district earlier this year.

“The most contested race outside the race for president was Congressman Mike Coffman’s reelection campaign,” Baisley said. “The redistricting was aimed at defeating Mike, but we turned out such a high number of votes in the portion of the county in the 6th District — it’s just factual that Douglas County carried him to victory.” (Miklosi won the more populated Arapahoe County portion of the district but lost to Coffman by just over 7,000 votes, or around 2 percentage points, district-wide. Coffman won Douglas County by roughly 13,000 votes.)

“Every county does not have the registration advantage that Douglas County has,” Baisley said, “but a high turnout in every county — getting folks fired up and feeling they can take responsibility for driving out the vote, that translates everywhere.”

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won Douglas County with 62 percent of the vote, ahead of 36 percent for President Barack Obama. Romney won conservative stronghold El Paso County by a narrower margin, taking 59 percent of the vote to Obama’s 39 percent. Obama carried the state by roughly 5 percentage points.

“We’re pretty bold here in Douglas County,” Baisley said, touting the party’s involvement in shaping the county’s ultra-conservative school board and its push for vouchers, merit pay and “living without a teacher’s union.”

“We’re driving the conservative life in Douglas County,” Baisley said. “People hear about that.”

Baisley also pointed to his management style as a potential advantage running the state party.

“I’ve been managing professional folks for 20-some years and I’ve arrived at a philosophy of expressing a vision and then enjoying watching folks fulfilling the mission in ways you never would have dreamed,” he said, describing his approach as “a decentralized calling on talents of everybody across the state.”

That would be in contrast, Baisley said, to the “much more top-down approach from the state party and the Romney campaign, which said, ‘Here’s how we’re going to run the election in Colorado.’ I think if we would have pushed out to the county leaders, we could have carried this state. I’m so impressed with the folks that are driven to recapture the conservative message. I love executing a real good plan like that.”

Baisley, who lost a bid against Harvey in a primary for an open state Senate seat in 2006, said his experience as a candidate would help him manage the nomination process.

“One case I will bring to the central committee is showing a deep respect for candidates,” Baisley said. “I learned how rough it can be when you put yourself out there. All of our candi-dates in primaries need to be treated with deep respect.” He added that he is “driven to ensure the highest of integrity when it comes to our as-sembly and primary process, having gone through a good smack-down myself.”

Should he run for state chair, Baisley said he would bring the same approach to a contest against Call.

“I’m not setting out to beat down Ryan,” Baisley said. “I think Ryan is an incredible guy who has contributed to the party. I like the guy, I hope our friendship remains solidly intact, even after this race, whichever one of us were to come out ahead.”

Baisley is the president and CEO of Slipglass, a Littleton-based cyber-security firm. He worked as an engineer at Raytheon and Martin-Marietta and handled information security at Hughes Aircraft and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratories. He was involved in the founding of the Colorado Nanotechnology Initiative. Baisley and his wife of 32 years, Maryann, live in Roxborough Park and have four children and five grandchildren.

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com