Mesa County’s Ruth Ehlers still involved in politics

Looks forward to GOP unity
The Colorado Statesman

At 75 years old, Mesa County Republican Ruth Ehlers still has a lot of political spark in her.

The former chairwoman of the Mesa County Republican Party recently sought the state party’s nomination for vice chair. But the Western Slope candidate lost on Sept. 21 to Mark Baisley, former chairman of the Douglas County Republican Party, when the state party’s central committee met to fill a vacancy left by outgoing Vice Chairman Don Ytterberg.

Ehlers is pleased with Baisley as the new vice chairman, who has vowed to balance Chairman Ryan Call’s agenda by bridging gaps within factions, such as liberty groups. But Ehlers had hoped to offer the state party a greater Western Slope presence.

Ruth Ehlers

“I really felt that the Western Slope has never been represented on the executive board, and I thought maybe this would be an opportunity where I might be able to represent the Western Slope,” Ehlers explained.

She said that when she first ran for the vice chair position, she wasn’t even aware that Baisley was running. But she is hopeful that the new vice chairman will help to advance conservative issues, as he has promised.

“I feel pretty confident that his heart is definitely in the right place,” said Ehlers. “I feel that he definitely has that goal in mind, I have no doubt about it.”

The Republican Party has been working on unity, bringing together more mainstream established Republicans and grassroots tea party members who have been bolstered recently by recall elections in which two Senate Democrats were ousted from office. The state party had not at first supported the recall efforts, which has caused some ire within its membership.

Ehlers believes she has done a good job bridging those divides in Mesa County. She was also instrumental in addressing controversy within the party surrounding Rep. Jared Wright of Grand Junction.

It was revealed last year during the campaign for House District 54 that Wright, a former police officer, had filed for bankruptcy in 2011 and that he was the subject of a Fruita Police Department internal investigation that revealed a pattern of dishonesty.

The revelations caused controversy within the Mesa County GOP, as some called for Wright to bow out of the race. But Ehlers explained at the time that Wright had been endorsed for the seat, and that without him stepping down, there was little to do.

She also encouraged Wright to work to restore his credibility with voters, which became a priority for him.

“That stuff is always going to be there; everybody is going to have a difference of opinion,” explained Ehlers. “But the main thing is that we all look at the things that we agree on; look at the fact that we have got to work together to get this state turned around, to get this country turned around, and we need to all step back and look at the things that we agree on, and know that we have one common opponent, and that is not each other. That is the liberals.”

Ehlers said that in her 75 years, she couldn’t remember a time when the differences between Republicans and Democrats were more apparent. She said the ongoing government shutdown by Congress is a clear example.

“This points out very vividly the difference between the conservative ideas and the liberal ideas,” she said. “The liberal ideas of completely controlling everybody’s lives, the conservative ideas of opening up everything to allow people to attain the best thing they can by giving their own abilities and to take away restrictions so that people are able to attain their best goals.”

Where Ehlers splits with some in her party is on the direction it should go. She rejects a moderate approach, suggesting that U.S. Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina don’t lean enough to the right. Instead, Ehlers believes in an approach like that of U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

“The Democrats have gone way far to the left, I think the Socialist Party has definitely taken over the Democratic Party, and the Republicans, in trying to get along, have shifted too much to the middle,” opined Ehlers. “That’s where the Republican Party might be having a little bit of a correction right now.

“The people who are the constitutionalists, the conservatives, they’re saying, ‘Wait a minute, we’re off on the wrong track, we need to bring this back to what we really believe in,’” she continued.

But Ehlers also believes that her party needs to shift away from social issues that are dividing the GOP and discouraging young voters from joining.

“Our constitution says nothing about the social issues,” explained Ehlers. “Our constitution says our government is there to protect us. There’s a couple of things that our government is supposed to do, the rest of the stuff the government is supposed to stay out of.

“I don’t care what somebody does in their bedroom,” Ehlers continued. “If somebody thinks they want to have an abortion, that’s between them and God. Not me. I’m not the judge. God didn’t appoint me to take care of anybody.”

Peter@coloradostatesman.com