Colorado Republican State Assembly: Review of Winners and Losers

Today was the Colorado Republican State Assembly, and a lot of first-time delegates filled the floor and the seats. Energy and enthusiasm clearly were higher than I’ve seen in the past few election cycles. I spent much of my time today conducting more than two dozen videotaped interviews of officials, candidates and delegates for the People’s Press Collective (check back later for the video).

The balloting results already have been posted by El Presidente, Lynn Bartels and Don Johnson. So in the meantime, before the videos go up (as well as a few photos I snapped), I’ll share my list of winners and losers from this weekend’s festivities, based on my personal assessment:

Winners
1. J.J. Ament:
Very few doubted that Ament could win the most votes to lead the pack in the Republican nomination for state treasurer, but to come up with nearly 80 percent and shut competitor Ali Hasan off the ballot reveals a highly efficient campaign organization and sends a powerful message — to fellow Republican Walker Stapleton, who bypassed the assembly process and has been circulating petitions, and to incumbent Democrat treasurer Cary Kennedy.

2. Dan Maes: Edging out the party establishment’s favorite Scott McInnis, even by the narrowest of margins, gives an added boost to his campaign. Having given a great speech and recorded a strong showing today, Maes knows he has a lot of ground to make up in fundraising. But he’s in the game at least until August.

3. Ken Buck: Once Jane Norton decided to skip the assembly and petition on, a Buck victory was a slam dunk. But the Weld County D.A. put on an impressive showing of 77 percent despite the undervotes and protest votes. Primary race? Game on.

4. Cory Gardner: Clearing the 4th CD Republican field with 60 percent is a big relief for Gardner, as the GOP unites strong in its best chance to take back a Colorado Congressional seat from the Democrats.

5. Tea Party / 9-12 Project: The growing influence and focused energy of these groups was on display in Loveland. Besides the medium-sized sea of red shirts for Dan Maes, how else do you explain Bob McConnell winning 45 percent to make the ballot in CD3 and Dean Madere finishing a respectable second in CD4? Fiscal conservatism is alive and well and ready to rear its head in Colorado.

6. Republican Party unity: I think this point may be lost on some, especially on the other side, who are wishing for the opposite to happen. But despite (or maybe because of) heated primary competition, there was less dissension and infighting evident than at any of the past three state assemblies.

7. GOP chances to win back the state legislature: Tim Leonard and Bob Rankin cleared away potential primary contenders in their state senate races, and nearly all the house and senate candidates paraded before the delegates helped to show off the tremendous strength and depth of this year’s GOP crop. (See my recent analyses of state senate and state house races for more detail.)

8. Assembly organizers and volunteers: This year’s Colorado Republican State Assembly was the most smoothly run, and provided the least controversy, of any in recent memory.

Losers
1. Negative campaign tactics:
Ali Hasan banked a lot of his success on attacks suggesting fellow treasurer candidate J.J. Ament is a “fiscal liberal.” The delegates — whom no one could describe as anything but right of center — weren’t buying. Meanwhile, non-participating gubernatorial candidate Joe Gschwendtner bombarded delegates with robo-calls before the Assembly urging them to vote against Dan Maes saying he can’t win, a strategy that appears to have backfired. (See #2)

2. Joe G: Gschwendtner’s campaign spokesman told Lynn Bartels earlier in the day: “After Dan doesn’t get his 30 percent, it will be McInnis and Gschwendtner.” Whoops. The late-entry campaign would have a steep enough hill to climb in a two-way race, but McInnis’ party establishment backing and Maes’ outstanding grassroots showing leave very little political oxygen.

3. Ali Hasan: The number of Hasan votes didn’t match the showing of red campaign signs and T-shirts. The still young and enthusiastic candidate can reserve some good will for a future run at office by bowing out gracefully very soon. [Update: When I wrote “very soon,” I had no idea how quickly. Hasan indeed bowed out gracefully. There are quite a few GOP state legislative candidates across Colorado who could benefit from his help. And I suspect he has reserved enough good will to make a future run. All the best to him.]

4. Establishment backing: Many delegates this year seemed to be looking for candidates of integrity who have fire in the belly, candidates who send signals of running on principle rather than being handpicked by the powers that be. It’s certainly a reason Scott McInnis missed top line on the ballot, and it helps to explain why SD 16 candidate Tim Leonard was able to garner 70 percent support and avoid a primary with Mark Hurlbert.

5. Lang Sias: Sias just won a spot on the primary ballot at the 7th Congressional Assembly on Thursday night in Golden, but his conspicuously absent campaign missed a crucial opportunity to build instant momentum. Republican campaigns for all of the state’s other Congressional seats, as well as Sias’ own primary rival Ryan Frazier, got precious time before the microphone to address the throngs. Did Sias get an early start to D.C. and his John McCain fundraiser?

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