GOP seeks new players from legislative 'farm teams'

By Jason Kosena
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

After a series of bruising election cycles, Republicans nationwide need to find new talent in order to create a new generation of strong leaders.

That talent — and tomorrow’s leaders — probably will come from state legislatures and other grassroots offices.

That was the message conveyed by Scott Ward, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, in Alexandria, Va., speaking this week in a conference call with reporters.

Ward started by noting that currently, “there is no obvious head of the Republican Party.”

“Secretaries of state, attorneys general and state legislatures must be a priority if we want to continue our success,” Ward said. “In a sense, we need to build a Republican farm team. We need to re-energize the party, and we need new solutions to modern issues because that is what the people want and demand.”

Ward said Republicans at the state level who stick to the core principals of the party can help the Republican brand advance opportunities in a global economy, provide affordable health care, develop alternative energy sources and solve other pressing problems.

“I think our answers are the people in the states who are doing really good things,” he said. “We believe they are the future of the party. They will become our farm team, and so we think we need to put some real resources into the states, using resources to elect these people and then helping them move up.”

Colorado Republican Chair Dick Wadhams agreed, saying that both parties have long used the state Legislature and statewide office as the breeding ground for politicians who eventually make their way to higher office. Bill Owens, Bill Armstrong, Ken Salazar, Mark Udall, Marilyn Musgrave, Mike Coffman and Ben Nighthorse Campbell were only a few who came up through Colorado state government.

“I think the reason for that is the state Legislature does afford candidates a place to hone their talents and their positions and an ability to articulate those positions,” Wadhams said.

“And I think one of the great features of the Colorado Republican Party right now is that we have some very dynamic young legislators who are ready to step forward.”

Wadhams mentioned Sen. Josh Penry, of Fruita, and Reps. Cory Gardner, of Yuma; Frank McNulty, of Highlands Ranch, and Amy Stephens, of Monument, by name but said there are many others who deserve to be in the same category.

“When you lose as much as the Republican Party has in the last three cycles combined, it’s easy to see this change coming already,” Wadhams continued. “The candidates in 2010 and beyond will come from a new generation of Republican candidates, and many of them will come from the state Legislature. Not all of them, but many. I think that is great because I like what I see from those guys.”

Jason@coloradostatesman.com