By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
COLORADO SPRINGS — A heavyweight brochure with a photo of a woman cuddling a sleeping baby recently arrived in the mailboxes of thousands of registered Republican voters. Its “vote pro-life” message hit some recipients like a ton of bricks.
“Please complete the attached Vote-By-Mail Application — And when you vote, please vote Pro-Life,” was boldly printed on the cover. Beneath that statement was the disclaimer, “paid for by Colorado Republican Committee” and the printed indicia, “U.S. Postage Paid Colorado Republican Party.”
Pro-choice Republicans were stunned because — in a pragmatic effort to promote party unity and turn out the vote for its candidates — the Colorado Republican Party had taken a stand to remain neutral on the abortion issue.
“It’s a very divisive issue,” said Amanda Mountjoy, chair of Colorado Republican Majority for Choice. “Where is the big tent?”
“The party is a big tent,” countered Ryan Call, state GOP legal counsel and political director.
“I didn’t authorize that mailer. Had I seen it, it would not have happened,” said state GOP Chair Dick Wadhams. “It was paid for by the Republican National Committee and had the wrong disclaimer on it. I did not authorize this mailer, and it will not happen again.”
Apparently Wadhams wasn’t in the loop. Call and state GOP executive director Mike Britt knew about the pro-life mailer, said Mountjoy, adding that the RNC may be sending the mailers in every state.
Call said the mailer had been sent only to pro-life Republican voters. He said a different mailer had been directed at Republicans who are more concerned with “pocketbook” issues such as the economy, taxes and the federal budget.
“The message is tailored to what we perceive the voter cares about,” Call said, adding that the pro-life mailer had been developed and approved by an unnamed committee. “It’s a technique to turn out voters.”
Call said the message was geared to motivate Republicans whose names were in a pro-life database.
However, several pro-choice Republicans received the mailer and complained to Mountjoy.
The mailer read:
“Our vote can reduce the number of abortions in America. The next President will likely have the opportunity to appoint as many as three Supreme Court Justices. Those of us who vote Pro-Life know the importance of supporting candidates pledging to appoint Justices to the bench who will protect life.
“Vote Pro-Life because the unborn are depending on you.
“Vote Pro-Life to continue the ban on partial-birth abortions.
“Vote Pro-Life so that every child can experience the blessing of a family’s love.”
The mailer contained two applications for mail-in ballots that could be used by either unregistered or registered voters. The printed return address was for the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder.
The mailer struck a sensitive nerve among pro-choice Republicans. The Republican Majority for Choice e-mailed a copy of the “vote-Pro-Life” mailer and urged its members to complain to Wadhams.
“If you are as outraged as we are with the state party taking a position on one of the most divisive issues for Republicans, and paying for a mailer, please contact the state party and let them know how inappropriate you think it is to use contributions to further divide our party!” stated the e-mail.
Call said the mailer was paid for by federal funds that can be used to turn out the vote and promote federal level races. He said that the message was not geared toward state races or issues such as Amendment 48, commonly known as the “personhood amendment.”
(At this point in the interview, Call went off the record, saying he’d prefer to have the state GOP issue a formal statement.)
Amendment 48, which would define life as beginning at conception, has become another source of contention for the GOP. Colorado has become the test state for the ballot initiative because it’s easier to get an issue on the ballot here than in many other states.
“Republican voters know that the presidential ticket is pro-life,” said Mountjoy. “John McCain and Sarah Palin have made it abundantly clear. What’s the real rationale behind this mailer?”
“I’m suspicious about this mailer,” she said, contending that it could be part of an effort to mobilize pro-Amendment-48 voters.
Mountjoy added that Republican U.S. Senate candidate “Bob Schaffer would not support Amendment 48 — even the Catholic Church does not support it.
“When the party sponsors a mailer that is offensive and turns off traditional Republicans, it’s a waste of money,” said Mountjoy.
Is the state GOP planning a mailing targeted to pro-choice Republican voters?