The Rocky Mountain News follows up on yesterday’s published announcement of senior Republican State Senator Norma Anderson’s announced resignation in advance of her scheduled final legislative session. Term limits were set to end her nearly 20-year legislative career, but we also can get a little better picture why she decided to step down early.
Four GOP candidates had already filed to take her place in the heavily Republican district in southern Jefferson County, but insiders know that one is the handpicked, surefire winner. The vacancy committee meets within the week to decide on the replacement among the following:
The Rocky article highlights Sen. Anderson’s remark that she wants a woman to replace her in the office. Obviously, that rules out two candidates. While Neville has the slimmest of hopes, the odds-on favorite will be Traylor, as the retiring legislator recruited her to run, shares her political philosophy, and has worked to fill the vacancy committee with her own supporters. Conservatives hoping to make gains within the caucus by picking up Senate District 22 in 2006 now have their work cut out for them, as Traylor likely will wear the mantel of incumbency.
SD 22 is one of the more conservative and reliably Republican districts in the state, yet emboldened party moderates have laid down the gauntlet in this race. It’s a safe Republican seat, so there is no need for conservatives even to weigh the thought of supporting a moderate candidate for the sake of the party. Yet the story features this remark from the vacancy committee chairman, a known Anderson supporter:
The panel will likely look for someone with similar moderate, philosophical leanings to replace the independent-minded Anderson in an effort to hold on to the Senate seat when it comes up for re-election in November, said Bill Schroeder Jr., vacancy committee chairman.
“We’ll put up the candidates that have already filed to run for the seat, and open the field up to others,” Schroeder said. “My worry is that we must have a candidate that can stand for election in November and win the seat.”
Since it’s a safe Republican district, and none of the candidates’ views can be seen to lie outside the party’s mainstream, the committee ought not be worried about ideology. Moreover, the committee might wish to honor the fact that the district is of a more conservative bent by picking a candidate more reflective of widespread views.
Nevertheless, practical issues still might generate concerns. Everett is native to the district; has a good resume; understands the issues; is confident, articulate, and diplomatic; has political savvy; has put in his time working at the party’s grassroots level; and is gifted in the area of fundraising. Yet for some reason other than the sake of the GOP’s best interests, the vacancy committee most likely will not give this rising star due consideration as a replacement. Perhaps a wider representation of the party faithful who attend caucuses and will be elected as delegates to the County Assembly may see it otherwise.
There ought to be concern among the Colorado GOP that the “moderate” faction may coronate a candidate for purely ideological reasons in one of the party’s safer legislative districts. Moreover, this isn’t the first time Jefferson County Republicans have needed to organize a vacancy committee to replace a retiring legislator. Just within the last year, Rep. Don Lee in HD 28 and Rep. John Witwer in HD 25 both stepped down from their elected offices for different reasons (interestingly, both of these house districts overlaps significantly with SD 22). I blogged at length a year ago about the Lee vacancy and urged support of Everett then. The more moderate Jim Kerr won out in a decision that seems somehow less predetermined, yet forecasting of an unsettling trend, than the one facing the SD 22 vacancy committee.
What’s going on here? Why are conservatives in Jeffco not able to wrest more control at the grassroots? Why are Republicans in Jeffco losing close contested races with moderate candidates, and having such difficulty getting conservatives to win primaries in safe districts? Food for thought to discuss at a later time.
Sen. Anderson’s resignation is also featured inthis Rocky Mountain News story today about frustrated “moderate” Republican officials refusing to from Republican State Representative Mark Larson of Cortez:
“I care not what Jon Caldara thinks of me. I represent my district and the values of the Republican Party that I joined some 30-plus years ago. Colorado is not a right-wing, neo-con state.” [emphasis added]
I’m sorry Rep. Larson missed the Reagan Revolution – it doesn’t mean he’s a bad person, but it does mean he is out of step with a Party that overwhelmingly has come to see the failures of growing government and Keynesian economics. What is most striking about the quote, however, is his use of the term “neo-con” – a well-known slur typically used either by Pat Buchanan isolationists, vitriolic Bush-hating Lefties, or people just plain ignorant of the term’s derivation and meaning.
It is further bemusing to hear Rep. Larson use the term since it is usually spewed as a response to an aggressive interventionist foreign policy… and what that has to do with Colorado state government I can’t tell. Neo-conservatives in the intellectual sense tend towards cultural conservatism but are largely comfortable with the growth of government programs that suit their ideological aims (not typically opponents of Referenda C & D). I’m left to wonder what sort of knee-jerk angst could prompt the defensive-sounding remark that “Colorado is not a right-wing, neo-con state.”
These trends do not bode well for the Colorado Republican Party. It’s time for some soul-searching. What do we stand for? What principles do we hold? What do we hope to accomplish? Democrats have plenty of reason to be giddy about more success in 2006, unless perhaps we can get a strong leader at the top of the ticket.