One sentence from this Rocky Mountain News story jumped off the page:
[Governor Bill] Owens has endorsed [Kiki] Traylor in the Tuesday primary.
What is a sitting Republican governor doing endorsing a candidate in a competitive primary? Or more specifically, what is he doing endorsing the least conservative (by far) of the candidates in a three-way race for a safe Republican seat? The anticipated answer is that only the conservative wing of the GOP can be divisive – and frankly, I’m sick of hearing that fabrication. So let’s dispel that argument right here and now.
None of the three candidates (Traylor, Mike Kopp, and Justin Everett) has ever won an election, though Traylor was appointed by a hand-selected insider committee of so-called “moderates” to fill the seat from Senate District 22 when the decidedly unconservative Norma Anderson stepped down in January. When it came to the gathering of the party faithful at the county assembly, Traylor couldn’t even win enough votes from delegates to get on the ballot! She was forced to petition on, but it must be nice to have the governor intervene on your behalf against fellow Republicans.
After once being named “the best governor in America” by the eminently conservative National Review, Owens has taken one of the longest backslides in political memory. I don’t need to spell out each step, suffice it to say he can hardly be considered the conservatives’ best friend anymore.
Nor can he be said to be looking out for the best interests of his political party, any more, after the debacle that Owens made of the special session. I usually try to abstain from using the term “RINO,” but the governor is making it awfully difficult. (For the take of someone with no such self-restraint, read To the Right.)
When searching for an explanation of Owens’ active campaigning for the Referendum C tax increase or for his signing of the recent special session legislation – both which made Democrats look like they had “solved” the problem, the word legacy is one that comes to mind. But the endorsement of Traylor doesn’t fit into that box. Someone has to ask whether he is cozying up for a job after his administration ends in less than 5 months. Or does someone out there have a better explanation?
This blogger remembers sitting down in the Governor’s office on one occasion and hearing Owens explain how his role as leader of the party requires him to unify the conservative and moderate factions. Of course, he shouldn’t be an ideologue, and he should work toward building his party as the majority. But what excuse is there to endorse Traylor in a heated primary in a safe Republican district? Or to endorse the less conservative Dale Hall in his race against Scott Renfroe? I could go on, but I think my point has been made clearly.
Rather than the understandable and well-respected position of neutrality in a Republican primary, Owens has by all appearances told the party’s faithful foot soldiers – its conservative wing – to take a hike. And if the GOP fails to regain the majority in either or both Colorado houses this autumn, you just know the blame will be tossed at the “divisive” conservatives. If that transpires, I will be here struggling between laughing and saying “I told you so,” and shaking my head in disgust.