I was pleased to have the opportunity this week to sit down for a half-hour one-on-one lunch meeting with Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes. It was a pleasant if too brief conversation.
To sum up: The Evergreen businessman is unconventional for an unconventional candidate. What do I mean by that? Yes, he hasn’t necessarily followed the traditional path toward a major party nomination for the state of Colorado’s highest office. But he also brings a rare mixture of passion, confidence, humility, and realism to the contest. He is frank about the sacrifice his run has entailed for himself and his family, and I also believe him when he says he is deeply impelled to continue his quest for office.
Pundits have all but written off Dan Maes. Yet he is focused like a laser on reaching out to each of the delegates to next year’s Republican state convention, of making his persuasive case one voter at a time. He has really gone to work — making the rounds to events all over the state, putting many miles on his car, glad-handing, connecting with grassroots leaders, sharing his vision. If you’re going to throw yourself into a big project, there’s no doing it halfway. That seems to be Maes’ creed.
You have to hand it to Dan Maes. For all the hard work, the recent Magellan Strategies poll (PDF) has afforded him some not altogether insignificant bright spots: 43 percent name recognition among 1,649 Republican primary voters (compared to 80 for McInnis and 51 for Penry) and second-place finishes in the key counties of El Paso and Jefferson, my backyard. Overall he received the nod of support from 6 percent of those polled.
Will Maes win the nomination? Let’s be frank: At this point he’s a longshot. But the fact I can say he’s a longshot and not utterly wasting his time speaks well for what this unconventional candidate has accomplished in less than six months.
Scott McInnis may hope the outsider scrapes votes away from Josh Penry. But Dan Maes hopes for more than that, seeking to reap some benefit from an energized 2010 campaign cycle with a higher-than-usual disdain for traditional politicians.
Maes has been in the race much longer than Penry, longer than anyone. The key to watch is how long he can sustain the steady momentum in a more crowded race when he has the least margin for error. The Evergreen business already has added some interesting dynamics to this Colorado primary race. What that entails and how long it lasts remains to be seen.
I am hopeful for the opportunity to sit down with the other Republican candidates for governor in the near future.