Newcomer GOP Maes saddles up for gov race

By Leslie Jorgensen

Political neophyte and credit expert Dan Maes is first to toss in his hat in the Republican roundup for gubernatorial candidates. The Evergreen businessman wasn’t dissuaded by political trail bosses such as state GOP Chair Dick Wadhams, who warned him about the “blood, sweat and tears” of campaigning.

Dan Maes

“Dick gave me more words of caution than encouragement,” said Maes. “He said the campaign will be physically, emotionally and financially draining. He was very candid, objective and fair.”

Maes also consulted former Gov. Bill Owens, who suggested the party would be better served by a fresh candidate with qualifications that included party activism and experience in elected office.

“I’ll put this in a positive way. He gave very good advice,” said Maes, who edited Owens’ “conventional” political view.

“The party needs a fresh, qualified and talented candidate … one with business sense,” said Maes.

The 48-year-old businessman first sought his political destiny in 1994, but was interrupted by business travel.

That year, Maes worked on Bob Bammerlin’s campaign for Jefferson County Treasurer and was introduced at the county GOP assembly as a “future candidate” for office.

“My enthusiasm for Republican Party activism was interrupted by my job,” recalled Maes, who spent the next decade traveling as a troubleshooter for Premiere Global Services, an employment agency.

As a regional manager, he successfully transformed struggling offices into profitable centers in states from New York to Hawaii. Now, Maes is a partner and vice president of ACB Credit Solutions, which provides an array of financial services to consumers.

“I have always wanted to perform a public service role that is bigger than me,” said Maes. “I want to utilize my business and leadership experience to make Colorado a better place than what it has become under Governor (Bill) Ritter.”

Since declaring his candidacy last month, Maes has traveled the state attending such Republican functions as the state GOP Central Committee meeting in Douglas County.

“Last week, I put more than 700 miles on my car — a 1993 Mitsubishi,” said Maes, adding that the car — paid off five years ago — is a symbol of his frugal lifestyle.

“What I hear from Republicans is enormous frustration, anxiety and anger about the way our lifestyles are under attack by Governor Ritter and President Obama. This is socialism!” declared Maes, who calls Ritter’s leadership, “Obama West.”

Creating jobs tops Maes’ list of goals. He said Ritter and the Democratic-controlled Legislature made a critical mistake in tightening oil and gas regulations.

“It’s resulted in a loss of jobs because the oil and gas companies find that it’s much easier to bypass Colorado and do business in Utah and Wyoming,” Maes said. “People on the Western Slope will tell you the
same thing.”

The loss of jobs reduces tax revenue on the state and local levels, he said. The candidate would loosen regulations on exploration and drilling, encourage new energy sources and carefully balance the environmental impact.

“Imagine an oil well with a wind turbine and solar panels in the same place!” Maes exclaimed.

To make a difference, Maes knows that he needs to survive the rough ride on the GOP primary election trail. The path is apt to be crowded with Republican candidates who might include Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, of Grand Junction; former 3rd Congressional District Rep. Scott McInnis, of Grand Junction; former 6th Congressional District Rep. Tom Tancredo, of Littleton; former Sen. Tom Wiens, of Castle Rock; and Marc Holtzman, vice chairman of Barclays Capitol and a 2006 gubernatorial candidate, who lives in Carbondale.

“We’ll know who’s serious about running by June or July 1,” said Wadhams.

The challengers have high name ID and a long history in the GOP in common.

“I believe I can overcome that through connecting with people,” Maes said. He plans to develop a rapport with Republican activists by sending direct mail pieces, making phone calls and attending meetings around the state.

“Party activism can be a positive or a negative,” Wadhams said. “Having a business background — without a political history — might be an asset. Republican delegates will decide.”

Maes said he’s putting together a finance committee and plans to hire a personal assistant next month.

“I won’t be putting a lot of my own money in the campaign,” he said. “I’m not a millionaire.”

Maes said he learned the value of hard work from his mother, who raised him and his five brothers in Rib Lake, Wis., without the help of a father, who died of an alcohol-related illness.

At the age of 13, Maes landed his first job — delivering newspapers on his bicycle. He played football in high school and college and earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminal justice from the University of Wisconsin.

Perhaps his biggest political fan is his wife of 19 years.

“When I talked about running for governor, Karen flattered me for the first time in 20 years,” Maes recalled. “She said, ‘I’ve always known that you’d do this someday!’”