Can Colorado GOP avoid permanent minority status?

Editor: Cliff Dodge, a former state senator from Denver and now president of the Arapahoe County Republican Men’s Club, wrote this shortly before the 2012 election. It has only become more relevant since then.

Being a mere mortal, I cannot see or predict the future. Several religious sects and their leaders have tried to predict the end of civilization and life as we know it, but to no avail. On December 21st, 2011 it was predicted the world would end. I knew something was not quite right when I went to my Safeway store and a sign at the Customer Service desk, read … The Colorado Lottery drawing will be held despite the end of the world.

Religion and politics are very different animals, however. Eight years ago a group of Colorado Democrats came together and decided that they would rather have Democrats of any and every stripe elected to the Colorado House and Senate, despite whatever their core beliefs. They tapped into the fortunes of Jared Polis, Rhett Bridges, Tim Gill and Pat Stryker, checked their egos at the door and decided to change the political landscape here in Colorado, by taking control of all of the levers of power … the Governor’s office, the State Senate and the State House of Representatives.

Granted, as a group they overreached, and were not as disciplined as they could have and should have been, and actually lost control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 election, but by a single vote. That is a mighty slim margin to try and hold off the angry hordes at the gates.

Former State Representative Rob Witwer and former Channel 9 Political Reporter Adam Schrager detailed how all of this was accomplished in their book, The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado. Their book points out what everyone knows but pays little attention to. The Democrats created “infrastructure.” Here in Colorado a group of progressive (liberal) donors created a network of stand–alone (but working together) non–profit organizations dedicated to winning elections. The title of the group was simple enough, the Colorado Democratic Alliance.

This is old hat to many active Republican Party members. You all have heard of ProgressNow, a non–stop, 24/7/365 political machine that has a direct link to the people who decide these elections. As stated by the Huffington Post, “To ProgressNow, every day is election day.” The stable of non–profits include technology, fundraising, strategy, opposition research, legislative research, gathering e–mail addresses, newspaper clipping services, e–mail blasts, direct mail, anything and everything that a political party needs to be successful. These people hire very motivated and very smart people to create hateful ads (radio, tv, e–mail, snail–mail, etc.) and tear down Republican candidates, the Republican party, Republican core values and whatever else they decide to attack.

This all started a number of years ago, but it continues to build and grow and is becoming progressively more destructive. The following chart was printed in the Denver Post on October 22nd. Even a cursory glance will tell you what you need to know regarding the effectiveness of the opposition.

Dist. Democrat Republican Unaffiliated Total Dem %
SD 35 C. Martinez Larry Crowder   $758,697 96%
HD 59 M. McLachlan J. Paul Brown   $248,796 93%
HD 50 Dave Young Skip Carlson   $196,723 100%
HD 18 Pete Lee Jennifer George   $189,501 100%
SD 22 Andy Kerr Ken Summers   $166,422 54%
HD 17 Tony Exum Sr. Mark Barker   $158,028 100%
HD 61 Millie Hamner Debra Irvine Kathleen Curry $141,093 100%
HD 3 Daniel Kagen Brian Watson   $118,200 100%
HD 33 D. Primavera David Pigott   $105,424 95%
SD 19 Evie Hudak Lang Sias   $87,555 81%
HD 40 John Buckner Cindy Acree   $78,260 100%
HD 28 B. Pettersen Amy Attwood   $77,799 92%
HD 29 T. Kraft-Tharp Robert Ramirez   $77,040 96%
HD 23 Max Tyler Rick Enstrom   $73,909 90%
SD 26 Linda Newell Dave Kerber   $72,572 34%
HD 47 C. Rodosevich C. Navarro–Ratzlaff   $17,296 100%

According to the story in the Denver Post, in 2010 Democrat super PACs—or independent expenditure committees—outspend Republicans nearly 150–1 and won 17 of 24 races they targeted with that money.

This year the two top races noted in the chart above are instructive. Two groups, The Coalition for Colorado’s Future and the Community Information Project have spent more than $725,000 supporting Democratic Costilla County Commissioner Crestina Martinez, who is running against Republican Larry Crowder, a farmer and rancher. In contrast, GOP backed PACs have contributed $28,925 into this race. Martinez’s candidate committee has raised $125,000 nearly twice the amount Crowder has.

Three independent expenditure groups have poured $230,698 into the race to unseat Republican Representative J. Paul Brown, who is being challenged by Democrat Mike McLachlan. Brown is one of three GOP incumbents specifically targeted by Fight Back Colorado for opposing civil unions. The other two targets are incumbent Republican Reps. Robert Ramirez of Westminster and Cindy Acree of Aurora.

The 527 groups backing Democrats have raised $5.6 million this cycle. When I ran for the Colorado State House in 1976 our campaign in South Denver raised $6,000 dollars, which I considered “big money” in those days.

So, what are we looking at? If things continue as they are now constituted, Republican candidates will not even be in the game. ProgressNow has changed everything. These people are united in one goal … control the levers of power in Colorado and govern accordingly. And its not just here, it is spreading to other states because of the success of the program here in Colorado.

One of the major Democrat points is that the Republican Party is the party of the rich. However, the facts tend to somewhat blur this line of argument. Why are we teetering on the brink of losing the one majority we still control, the state House of Representatives. A look at the chart will probably convince you that all is not well and we may again become the minority party.

Politics is a contact sport. Yes, this is a rough business, just ask any of our candidates who are being pounded daily by biased and unfair (untrue) mailings, radio and television/cable ads, blog posts, and every other means of communication. It is time to stop the bleeding.

A Plan of Action:

Create an umbrella group to manage the organization, and be accountable for the funds. The individuals selected to oversee the growth and development will have but one goal, to elect Republicans and defeat Democrats. A management group could be put together from the following list of potentials (or others):

Bill Armstrong Pat Grant Tom Norton Roy Palmer
Steve Durham Bob Beauprez John Andrews Bob Kirscht
Jane Norton Sandy Drago Monica Owens Lynne Cottrell
Mike Beasley Ben Campbell Mark Hillman Cliff Dodge
Frank DeFilippo John Tipton John Zakhem Tom Tancredo
Toni Winchester Cindy Acree Debbie Brown Jon Caldera

Fundraising Committee

Strategy Committee

Volunteer Gathering Committee

Technology Committee (On line fundraising, messaging, etc.)

Research Committee

Legislative Research Committee

Opposition Research Committee

House Elections Committee

Senate Elections Committee

Direct Mail Committee

Cable/Television Committee

Media Committee (earned–paid)

E–Mail Committee

I am sure there are more areas of interest that will need to be examined and created. This is off the top of my head, so much more diligent work is needed before such a project can be undertaken.

In order to be successful a budget must be established. I believe this to be in the neighborhood of $6 million to create the infrastructure, hire the staff, the equipment, etc., and begin the preparation … and be ready for the next election cycle.

The bottom line: We need to compete fiscally, organizationally, and strategically if we are to prevent the Republican Party from becoming a permanent minority party and being totally irrelevant.

The first step is to take the first step. Let’s hold an organizational meeting and begin the process.

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