Mistakes and Attacks Real, But Not Fatal Cause for Dan Maes Campaign

You rise out of nowhere and make a name for yourself running for the state’s highest office, and some (near) certainties will follow:

  1. You will make some mistakes that set back your campaign … or maybe prove its demise; and
  2. Others will go out of their way to try to bring you down, too.

I’m writing particularly of GOP candidate Dan Maes, whose longshot run for governor of Colorado has all but crashed on the rocks a month before primary election day. Maes would disagree with me vehemently, and I admire his persistence.

But the longer his race with front-runner and fellow conservative Scott McInnis drags on, the more voters expect something beyond the “insider” vs. “outsider” paradigm to make up their minds. And we know Maes is way behind in the polls.

I’m not prepared to go as far as Rossputin in his analysis, but the case he builds around the negative impact of Dan Maes’ serious campaign finance foibles is hard to dismiss. That’s point number one.

Point number two? The video posted at Rocky Mountain Right alleging a flip-flop of Maes’ position on the Pinon Canyon expansion. It looks like a blatant attempt to distort the candidate’s words and make him look like he is pandering to different audiences. (And truly an unnecessary sort of attack that benefits no one on the Republican side.)

In our phone conversation yesterday, Maes asserted there was no contradiction. “That is a poor attempt, a staged and intentional attempt, to get me to appear like I was changing my position,” he said. “My position remains the same, and I will stand by the ranchers of Pinon Canyon and will protect them the best I can from unwanted expansion. I will not oppose a willing seller because I’m a free market person.”

Sounds like a perfectly rational explanation to me. If Maes has shown weakness or vulnerability on the campaign trail, this example isn’t it.

Representing a combination of the two points, Grand Junction Sentinel reporter Charles Ashby recently posted a follow-up to my interview with Maes, defending his initial piece that called Dan Maes into question for his views on transparency and itemizing Public Utilities Commission fees.

Ashby is correct that Maes was mistaken about the context in which his initial remarks were made, but in my mind that doesn’t undermine the larger clarification the candidate made about itemization and government transparency. And in speaking with me, Maes again asserted that the issue is one he has heard no average person on the campaign trail express interest in, that the issue is contrived.

Maybe so. And maybe there’s a case of aggressive agenda journalism going on, though I would like to see more evidence before leaping to that conclusion. While the audio Ashby has posted shows he was going hard after the issue, Maes himself also didn’t evince a top-notch performance in the interview.

As the long primary campaign rolls toward a conclusion, Dan Maes’ once slim chances are all but extinct. And not directly for any of the reasons stated above. The $25,000 fine only emphasizes the case insofar as it highlights he has yet to bring in the resources necessary to wage a successful campaign with a broader primary electorate. Many GOP primary voters are just starting to pay attention, and I suspect many in the hardcore base will find Scott McInnis plenty palatable come general election season.

The combination of attacks Maes has faced and his own minor missteps are not the campaign’s fatal cause but could prove to be refining moments, invaluable lessons. And maybe they still will… for another endeavor someday, whether in politics or not.

Ben DeGrow is a Contributing Author at People’s Press Collective, Your Source for Colorado Politics.

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