Partisanship prevails at Ft. Morgan GOP Dinner

By Jody Hope Strogoff
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Lest there be any doubt about it, partisanship is alive and well on the eastern plains of Colorado. And Republicans in Morgan County wouldn’t want it any other way.

Morgan County Republican Chair Anita Cornwell, left, recites the Pledge of Allegiance led by state Rep. Cory Gardner and his daughter, Alyson.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

On the same day that the birthdays of American presidents was celebrated, Fort Morgan was the site of another kind of holiday: the annual Lincoln Day Dinner. Although this is technically not an election year, Republicans seemed truly fired up to retaliate after last year’s crushing defeats that saw, for example, the ousting of their popular hometown Republican hero, Rep. Marilyn Musgrave.

Musgrave, who lost decisively in a particularly nasty race to Democratic challenger Betsy Markey, was in attendance at this year’s dinner, held at the Country Steak Out restaurant close to town. She was first mentioned during remarks by former Rep. Bob Beauprez, who served in Congress with Musgrave.

“No one worked harder, smarter or more honestly than Marilyn Musgrave,” lauded Beauprez. “The talent pool on Capitol Hill diminished greatly” when Musgrave left office, he added.

State Sen. Greg Brophy, of Wray, credited his first legislative victory to Musgrave who also served in the Colorado General Assembly, both as a state representative and state senator before being elected to Congress in 2002.

State Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, and Morgan County GOP activist Vickie Edwards exchange pleasantries.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

Brophy said that more than $18 million had been spent throughout the years against Musgrave, the most ever against a member of Congress.

Musgrave, who described her time in politics as ‘an incredible ride,” said she would be guided in the future by her family, God, country and values. She did not detail future plans but assured everyone that everything would work out fine.

While there was genuine affection expressed for Musgrave, there was, in contrast, far reaching disdain for Democrats, who were criticized repeatedly by numerous Republicans that night. State Rep. Cory Gardner, Republican from Yuma who is expected to challenge Markey in 2010, called the economic stimulus bill “the most massive spending bill passed in the history of the United States.” He pointed out what he said were examples of pork in the bill, and stressed that Republicans will win in the future by going on the offensive.

Attorney General John Suthers, the only statewide Republican official in Colorado, told Morgan County Republicans that he was lonely and hoping for more Republicans to join him in office. He said that the Republican Party has not picked up the votes of unaffiliated voters in the past because “we haven’t lived up to the principles of our party, including fiscal discipline.

Suthers also mentioned how he’d been invited to attend the signing of the stimulus bill by President Barack Obama in Denver the following day. He declined the invitation, he said, because he did not want to give credence to any notion that the economic package had bipartisan support. “They wanted me up front and center so they could maintain bipartisanship,” Suthers scoffed.

Former state Sen. Mark Hillman, member of the Republican National Committee for Colorado and the main Lincoln Day Dinner speaker, shows off the specially crafted bumper sticker which proclaims, “Governor Ritter Welcomes You to Taxorado.”
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff
The Colorado Statesman

“I will be speaking to a group of boy scouts,” Suthers said to laughter

Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, who may be eyeing higher elective office in 2010, implored his fellow Republicans “to start being Republicans again.”

“We will work with Democrats on compromise,” Frazier said, “but we will not compromise our principles... Now is our time.”

Beauprez, who is also looking at running in 2010 for possibly Senate or governor, cited the importance to “recommit ourselves, not change our values.”

Mark Hillman, current member of the Republican National Committee for Colorado and former state senator who has served in both the minority and majority at the Legislature, was the keynote speaker at this year’s Lincoln Day Dinner. He blasted the stimulus bill. “How many of you feel stimulated?” Hillman sarcastically asked his fellow Republicans.

Answering the question himself, Hillman decried that “the era of big government is back and back with a vengeance.”

By signing the stimulus bill, Hillman said, Democrats and President Obama will spend more in one month than the whole Iraq war. He added that the long term effects of the bill will do more harm than good, and suggested that if Congress hadn’t done anything in terms of the economy, the whole situation would have been sorted out by itself. He likened the Democrat-supported bill to a “resurrection of the welfare state.”