Springs GOP Lincoln Day Gala

Republicans dine, talk, sing and diss Obama

By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

The El Paso County Republican Party’s gala was billed as a celebration of President Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday — but much of the evening’s rhetoric was devoted to the denigration of President Barack Obama.

Former Congressman Bob Beauprez, a possible candidate for office in 2010, calls for the unity of the Republican Party to ensure future victories.
Photo by Tatianna Gruen/The Colorado Statesman

More than 300 Republicans attended the $80-a-plate dinner at the Antlers Hilton, where they dined on chicken breasts in Marsala wine sauce, sang patriotic songs and nodded their heads in agreement with speeches that ridiculed Obama’s economic recovery plan as socialistic voodoo.

As Obama inspired the majority of Americans for “change” in the election last year, the Democrats are inadvertently unifying Republicans in their march toward the next political battle.

The GOP unifier is fear — especially in these troubled economic times.

County GOP Chair Kay Rendleman said the party has been inundated with calls from people who want to get involved for the first time.

“They want to get involved because they’re frightened,” said Rendleman, who narrowly won the party leadership post last month.

People are motivated to join the GOP, she said, because their individual liberties are threatened by the massive debt of Obama’s economic recovery plan and by Gov. Bill Ritter’s “outrageous expansion of state government.”

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez of the 7th Congressional District revved up the crowd with pep talks in preparation for the keynote speech by former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown.

In addition to Brown, the party had attempted to hire an unusual guest to enthuse the crowd — an icon for what the Republicans deem the Democrats’ dangerous, hog-wild spending.

Unfortunately, not one 4-H Club member would allow his or her beloved swine to be paraded across the ballroom floor as a symbol of the “Democrats Gone Wild” splurge.

“They don’t want their pigs to be ridiculed,” said Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, who was asked to help find a huge hog by outgoing county party Executive Director Nathan Fisk.

“These kids are very serious about raising pigs — and they don’t want them associated with pork spending,” declared Looper.

An impassioned Beauprez called on Republicans to fight to save their country from being plundered by the Democrats.

“The battle that we’re in right now is really between the system that embraces the state and the system of self,” said Beauprez, adding that the long-range outcome depends on Republicans winning back majorities and defeating the Democrats.

Brown’s speech was more professorial. The president emeritus of the University of Colorado reeled off a list of countries that have succumbed to socialism — and suffered because their robust economies plummeted. Some — such as Cuba — have never recovered.

Despite the American stock markets’ plunging rollercoaster ride, soaring unemployment and escalating home foreclosures, Brown said that Colorado is faring well compared to other states.

“The other day, I heard that the economy was so bad in New Jersey that the Mafia laid off three of their judges,” quipped Brown.

The Republicans roared with laughter.

Congressman Doug Lamborn with his wife, Jeanne, attended the El Paso Lincoln Day Dinner.
Photo by Tatianna Gruen/The Colorado Statesman

Brown said the Democrats have gambled billions of dollars in bailouts and stimulus packages to mend the wounded economy — and that such profligacy is “very dangerous.”

The tax increases on those earning $250,000 or more a year and the tax breaks to those beneath that threshold, Brown said, “will set one class against another. It’s a mistake.”

Brown said that when Obama campaigned for the presidency, he’d vowed not raise taxes, not to have lobbyists in his administration and not be beholden to special interest groups, such as labor unions.

“Obama uses words to advocate his positions,” said Brown. “…But it’s not the truth. He uses words in the exact opposition of what he’s trying to do.”

“No one can fool the American people in the long run,” said the senator.

Brown called on Republicans to “put our differences aside. If we don’t stand up and unite, we will lose this country … We must stand together — come together to protect those freedoms.”

As revelers savored a trio of desserts — fruit tart, cheesecake and chocolate petit four — Rendleman and outgoing county GOP Chair Greg Garcia recognized volunteers and presented the annual awards.

The most coveted award — Republican of the Year — went to Andy Merritt, director of U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman’s 6th Congressional District office. Merritt previously served as state director of U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard’s office.

Rendleman and Garcia recognized “Mother” Mary Harold for her long years of party activism and presented the “Volunteer of the Year” award to Catherine Rice.

In closing, Rendleman told the Republicans that Buddy Gilmore, a bonus member and chair of the fundraising committee, was missing the festivities because he was at the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.

“He’s bringing back great and fantastic ideas to help our party,” said Rendleman, intimating that former presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and author Ann Coulter might be flying in to help Colorado Republicans reclaim seats lost to Democrats.

Aurora City Councilman — and rising GOP star — Ryan Frazier, left, and state GOP Executive Director Michael Britt.
Photo by Tatianna Gruen/The Colorado Statesman

“They understand how critical it is to win — and win big in El Paso County!” shouted Rendleman. “At CPAC, we got commitments of support for our efforts to reclaim Colorado. So watch for some terrific visitors!”

Rendleman declared that the Democratic Party leaders have put “our individual freedoms at risk!”

She implored folks to help the volunteer team at party headquarters take back Democrat-held seats, including House District 17, held by Rep. Dennis Apuan; House District 18 being retired by Rep. Michael Merrifield in 2011; and Senate District 10, held by Sen. John Morse. In addition, Rendleman asked Republicans to work hard to unseat Gov. Bill Ritter and appointed U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

“We can have fun helping people win back our country,” declared Rendleman. “As my husband likes to say, ‘Let’s go fight the Philistines!’”

This allusion to Biblical stories of the Philistine-Israelite conflict is now used to describe bourgeois people who devalue art, beauty, intellect and spiritual values.

The dinner drew several Republicans from outside the Pikes Peak region, including Scott Gessler, who is running for Colorado Secretary of State — a position now held by another Ritter appointee, Democrat Bernie Buescher — and Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, a rising star whose name has surfaced on the list of potential Republican challengers to Bennet.

Frazier emerged the winner of Rocky Mountain Right Web site’s unscientific straw poll of potential Republicans running for the U.S. Senate in 2010. He edged past Republican National Committeeman Mark Hillman, Beauprez and Bentley Rayburn, who ran unsuccessfully for the 5th Congressional District in 2006 and 2008. (Rayburn was discouraged from running for the statewide seat by GOP powerbrokers and his former campaign manager, Mike Hesse, as The Colorado Statesman reported on Jan. 16.)

Former Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone didn’t miss the opportunity to court votes in his bid to unseat state GOP chair Dick Wadhams at the Colorado Republican Central Committee meeting coming on March 21 in Douglas County.

“I talked with Dick Wadhams for a couple of hours in January,” recalled Stone, “and it became more and more apparent to me that what I really needed to do was run for the party chair myself so that people would have a choice in leadership style.”

Stone said he wants to rev up high-tech communications and run a bottom-up organization to empower county parties.

“Instead of top-down control leadership style, what I prefer is to go out and hear the ideas of people in all of Colorado’s 64 counties,” said Stone, adding that his approach is vastly different from “the state party leaders telling counties, ‘This is the way you’re going to do things.’”

“I believe in being a good community organizer — you’ve heard of that job in a recent presidential campaign,” chuckled Stone.

Several legislators predicted that Stone might tap into anti-incumbent sentimentalists, who are still seething over the Republican losses throughout the past three election cycles. They didn’t think Stone had a prayer of mustering enough votes to knock Wadhams from the GOP pulpit.

Leslie@coloradostatesman.com