Yesterday, in a larger post about the attempt of moderates within the Colorado GOP to flex their political muscle, I highlighted a caustic reaction from State Representative Mark Larson (“Colorado is not a right-wing, neo-con state,” he said). Today The Durango Herald has more on the intraparty debacle surrounding Larson’s sudden withdrawal from the state senate race, which includes a harsh email exchange with a local GOP leader.
The battle brews over Larson’s alleged refusal to make amends for his 2004 endorsement of U.S. Senator Ken Salazar. As he weighed a decision to run for the State Senate back in May, Larson sought to explain himself in a local Cortez Journal news story:
“I imagine I would get some Democratic votes and Jim would get some Republicans,” Larson said. “I think the Salazar endorsement was the only thing some (Republicans) have had heartburn with me on. I think Republicans are pretty big tent and supportive of me and my last seven years in office.”
Funny how some GOP “moderates” demand party loyalty from fellow Republicans with a more conservative point of view, but don’t expect to face any ramifications for endorsing the Democratic candidate in a major Senate race and refusing to apologize for it. You can’t have it both ways. Which is of more importance: the Republican Party or Mark Larson?
A Democrat’s favorite Republican is one who votes on his side more often than not. So the center-left Democrats portray Rep. Larson as the victim of some sort of far-right witch hunt, while the local Lefties lick their lips at the perceived prospect of winning more support for their “progressive” cause from “the other side.” Getting leading Republicans to join them in their recent crusade for a tax increase only whet their appetites, it seems.
The Dead Governors have been trying to play up divisions in the GOP with posts today here and here. It’s a cute and clever piece of rhetoric on their part to label those who disagree with Larson as the “right wing” of the party, implying that the Cortez Republican somehow represents a centrist anchor within the party, when he has such a fiscally liberal voting record (in 2004, only 9 members of the House of Representatives – all Democrats – had a lower rating from the Colorado Union of Taxpayers; his ratings were somewhat higher in previous years).
It’s one reason I put the term “moderate” in quotes (the other stems from Mike Rosen’s reasoned observation that the term is merely a qualifier and doesn’t describe where a person comes from). I doubt liberal is as fair a descriptor as pragmatist. After all, a thorough examination of his voting record could bring focus to the question of what core principles have guided his legislative service. Maybe it’s just getting re-elected:
“Too many (legislators) have a tendency to not listen to voters as much as party rhetoric,” he said.
Maybe it’s just more pragmatic to tout residential credentials than to defend an endorsement of Ken Salazar:
On Wednesday, Larson blamed the local meltdown on conservative transplants from out of state who are muscling moderates from the party.
“They say I’m dividing the party. Well, I’ve been here a hell of a lot longer,” he said. “It’s a fight we’re having for the life of the party, and I hope the moderates will stand up.”
Echoes of nativist rhetoric? An inflated sense of self-importance? An inability to coexist with people who hold more conservative ideas? You decide. It can be hard to get along in the Republican coalition at times, but we do have a few core values we share.
Here’s what Larson had to say in Karen Crummy’s Denver Post article today:
“I am a 1964 Goldwater Republican, and I don’t want government in my life, including my private life,” he said. “But the party’s changing. They’ve abandoned issues like the environment and have litmus tests. They’ve forgotten about President Reagan’s big tent.”
-A 1964 Goldwater Republican? Should he not be then pushing the party toward more government downsizing and more free market reforms?
-Yet they’ve “abandoned issues like the environment”? What does that mean?
-And “litmus tests”? Like what, endorsing Republican candidates? How restrictive are these “litmus tests”? Could they be identified more specifically? To whom is he referring? Just people with whom he disagrees, or does he have some real, substantive charges? For the health of the Colorado Republican Party, such rhetoric should not be bandied about. If there are individual cases that need to be addressed, they should be done so individually. If Rep. Larson perceives the problem to be so pervasive and systemic as all that, maybe stepping down isn’t such a bad idea for the sake of his own stress levels.
In this discussion over the direction of the Colorado GOP, I find it can be productive to let the “moderates” vent. That’s why I have let Rep. Larson speak for himself.
I hope this post helps to further the conversation that wakes up the Colorado Republican Party. It’s not a call to fold up your tent – or your principles – and head home. It’s a call to redouble our efforts around the banner of limited government and rock-solid commonsense Colorado values.