Attack ads by Dems attempt to influence results of GOP primary

The Colorado Statesman

A Democratic committee began running TV ads on Thursday attacking the two leading GOP gubernatorial candidates in a move Colorado Republicans blasted as meddling and manipulative.

Protect Colorado Values, an independent-expenditure group funded by the Democratic Governors Association and liberal Colorado groups, is on the air with an initial ad buy estimated at $250,000 attacking former U.S. Reps. Tom Tancredo and Bob Beauprez, two of the four candidates running in a June 24 primary to take on incumbent Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. The messages, Republicans claim, are meant to help Tancredo get the nomination.

One 30-second ad criticizes Tancredo as “too conservative for Colorado” and rips the gubernatorial candidate for his strong opposition to President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform legislation, dubbed Obamacare — a denunciation likely to attract voters in the Republican primary. The second ad tags Beauprez with the nickname “Both Ways Bob” and portrays him as a big-spending D.C. politician who supported Obamacare’s individual mandate, associations that could repel conservative primary voters.

“Even as it’s starting to work, Republican Tom Tancredo is still one of the country’s strongest opponents of Obamacare. As governor, Tancredo would do everything in his power to undermine the law,” the first ad says.

Calling Beauprez “another Washington politician that Coloradans can’t trust,” the second ad intones: “He says he’s for cutting spending, but as a D.C. congressman he voted for earmarks and spending bills while the national debt ballooned $2 trillion.”

Most Republicans immediately condemned the ads, which were first reported late Wednesday night by Complete Colorado’s Todd Shepherd.

“While the Colorado Republican Party will not endorse or oppose a candidate in a contested primary, the fact that Colorado Democrats and East Coast liberals have decided to influence our primary is unacceptable,” Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call said in a statement.

“John Hickenlooper is again hiding in the shadows and ordering his liberal attack dogs to do his dirty work,” said Beauprez. “Together, they have produced deceptive and underhanded political ads intended to do one thing — take away the right of honest Republicans to choose their own nominee for Colorado governor.”

For his part, Tancredo had praise for the ads, though he noted they “failed to mention… how extreme and out of control John Hickenlooper and our Democrat legislature have become.”

“Coloradans are witnessing history with these amazing ads in that Democrat party bosses are finally telling the truth about my strong opposition to their Obamacare fiasco,” Tancredo said, adding, “Grassroots Republican voters know I’m the one guy who can win over Independents needed to win in November and restore balance to Colorado.”

Invoking last fall’s unprecedented recall elections as evidence that “both the Democrat and Republican party bosses are out of touch with the people of Colorado,” Tancredo said, “That’s why I keep fighting hard for the people of Colorado to give them what they want, a proven limited-government leader who won’t let the political elitists get away with fooling us again.”

The ads are reminiscent of previous attempts — mostly successful — by Democratic politicians and interest groups to sway the outcome of Republican primaries, usually by steering GOP voters toward more conservative candidates considered easier to beat in a general election.

The strategy made one of its first appearances in Colorado in the 2010 gubernatorial primary when a group called the Colorado Freedom Fund spent an estimated $500,000 targeting scandal-plagued Scott McInnis, who lost the GOP nomination to political neophyte and Tea Party favorite Dan Maes. That year, Hickenlooper romped in the fall, with Maes getting just over 11 percent of the vote after Tancredo jumped in on a third-party ticket. In the 2012 election, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, prevailed easily in what was considered an uphill race after ripping Republican Todd Akin for his conservative
views, propelling him to the GOP nomination.

Secretary of State Scott Gessler and former state Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp are also on the Republican primary ballot. Beauprez, Tancredo and Gessler are on the air with their own ads, although their reported spending so far is dwarfed by the ads coming from the Democratic groups.

Another new independent expenditure committee — also formed to influence the Republican gubernatorial primary — denounced the ads on Thursday.

“Republicans shouldn’t be fooled by the same underhanded tactics by Democrats that brought us Dan Maes in 2010,” said Mark Burris, spokesperson for Republicans Who Want to Win, a group backing Beauprez. “John Hickenlooper is inherently a weak candidate, and the fact that the DGA is coming in to pick its preferred general election opponent only speaks to how nervous Democrats are about running against Bob Beauprez.”

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com