Hopeful GOPs meet in smoke-filled room; seek senate takeover

The Colorado Statesman

So, you think the days of conducting politics in smoke-filled rooms have fallen by the wayside?

Not so, at least not on the evening of June 10 when the Senate Majority Fund held a reception featuring cigars, drinks and insight into the 2014 elections. The venue was the estimable Churchills at the Brown Palace Hotel, where the menu consists of an extensive list of vodkas, single-malt scotches, small-batch bourbons, and premium spirits and wines. And, according to the tony club’s offerings, more than 60 cigars — meaning something for every palate from their customized humidor.

Roger Hutson delivers remarks to the Senate Majority Fund as state Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, listens. In between them is Craig Koinzan, manager of business development at Noble Energy.

And partake they did. Republican state senators, candidates, lobbyists, a former governor, and members of the business community sipped and puffed away as they sated their political appetites with promises of a more friendly state senate with the addition of just one more elected Republican. Democrats currently control the upper chamber by one vote, and as co-host Roger Hutson, President/CEO at HRM Resources and a member of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association remarked, attaining that crucial extra seat would give Republicans the majority and help steer the state away from “the worst mess I’ve seen in this state for a long time.”

David Cardella, president of the Colorado Independent Automobile Dealers Association, and Todd O’Connell, the executive director of CIADA.

Hutson said that in his opinion, the “last great moment of sanity” the state experienced was back in the days when Bill Owens, former executive director of the Colorado Petroleum Association and executive vice president of the Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Association, served as governor.

Barry Hirschfeld, Josh Hanfling and Mark Soltes at the GOP Senate fundraiser on June 10. Hanfling, of Sewald Hanfling Public Affairs, said his appearance at the Republican event was “just business.”

Owens was equally to the point.

“We’re just one vote away as the industry and private sector stand perhaps $50 million, $60 million, $70 million to protect ourselves from some of our friends on the other side,” Owens stated. It would be a lot more functional and a lot more efficient, the former governor said, to simply have a majority pro-private sector, pro-free enterprise and pro-individual rights state senate.

Owens is optimistic. Similar to 2010 when Republicans picked up governorships, U.S. Senators, 70-80 House members and 400 state legislators across the country, Owens foresees a fruitful 2014 set of elections — and one more vote in Colorado’s state senate would go far in ensuring a better political environment in the state, he said.

“This is all about the opportunity to win elections,” Assistant Minority Leader Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, echoed.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, told guests at the $500-per- person to $2,500-per-company fundraiser that it would be a whole lot cheaper for all of them to elect one more new senate member. And there would be plenty of opportunities in the future for them to help out, he said, as this second event for the Senate Majority Fund was just one of many planned through Election Day.

And to feed their hopes, Cadman disclosed that secret national polling shows promising trends, with polling up 10 points and the “wind in the faces” of Democrats this year. And he whispered that this was true in all important Jefferson County, too.

Hosts of the event included the Bill Barrett Corp., Farmers Insurance, Resources for a Better Colorado, Glenn Jones, Larry Mizel, Rick Sapkin and Hutson. The reception was orchestrated by Monica Owens of Owens Public Affairs.

Dick Wadhams, former chair of the Colorado GOP, and SD 20 candidate Larry Queen.
Former Gov. Bill Owens and Mario Nicolais, a GOP candidate in SD 22 in Jefferson County.

State Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, with lobbyist Betsy Clark Murray.
Mark Soltes, government affairs rep for Centurylink, and Asst. Minority Leader Mark Scheffel.
Photos by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman


See the June 13, 2014 print edition for full photo coverage.