COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., March 30, 2014 — El Paso County Republicans held their County Assembly yesterday; they settled a few races, but left others open for the primary in June. The Assembly and its results show just how much the party has been transformed in the past four years.
The biggest news was the race to replace outgoing County Sheriff Terry Makita, which was won by Bill Elder, with 64 percent of the vote. This prevents competitors Jim Reid and John Anderson from appearing on the primary ballot. There are no other candidates from any other party vying for county sheriff, which makes Elder’s election virtually certain.
According to Colorado election law, candidates must achieve at least 30 percent of the vote at the relevant assembly, county or state, to appear on the primary ballot. If they achieve at least 10 percent, they may get on the ballot by petition. However, this year the petitions are due by March 31, which effectively means that anyone wishing to petition on needed to have already collected the required signatures.
This year some candidates decided to forgo the county assembly and collect petitions in advance, effectively avoiding the 30 percent and 10 percent tests. It also means avoiding the judgment of party activists. This happened in two hotly-contested races for the Colorado state house.
In House District 15, vacated by Rep. Mark Waller, who is running for Colorado Attorney General, Air Force Academy graduate and former military chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt won 71 percent of the vote. Candidate Dave Williams, however, declined to go up for a vote in the assembly in order to petition on. He’s had the 1,000 signatures needed for some time. Thus, there will be a primary in June when all registered Republicans will be able to weigh in.
House District 20 is also headed for a primary. Like Klingenschmitt, retired Air Force colonel and lawyer Teri Carver won 71 percent of the delegate vote. Challenger Mark Braunlich ran a vigorous late-entry campaign and garnered 25 percent. Candidates Miles Dewhurst and Dan Standforth had planned to petition on all along; Dewhurst wasn’t even a delegate and didn’t bother to show at the assembly.
The district was gerrymandered by the Democrats to run from Palmer Lake in northern El Paso County all along the Front Range down to the Broadmoor area, with a cut-out for liberal Manitou Springs. It’s a very conservative district, the Democrats’ strategy being to cram as many conservative voters into as few districts as possible.
The races for clerk and recorder and treasurer were also contested. Clerk and recorder was won by deputy clerk Chuck Broerman with 87 percent of the vote. Term-limited politicians Duncan Bremer and Mark Lowderman will face off in the primary, having received 48 percent and 30.9 percent respectively. Lowderman is currently county assessor, and Bremer is a former county commissioner. Newcomer David Kelly was eliminated.
These contests show just how much the county party has changed.
Representing one of the most conservative counties in the country — and now the largest in Colorado — the El Paso County Republican Party has been dominated for years by a small group of activists and elected officials. Democrats have charged that county-wide elected jobs go to a small group of people playing musical chairs.
No longer. It hasn’t changed completely, as the Treasurer race shows, but it has changed significantly.
The Tea Party year — 2010 — saw a large influx of liberty-minded activists. Rather than help them assimilate, many long-time Republicans saw them as a threat. There were ideologically bloody and very public battles within the party. Most of that divisiveness seems to be gone. Campaigns for the most part have forgone mudslinging. Many assembly speakers emphasized the need for unity — and this time they sounded sincere.
The most remarkable feature of the assembly this year was how the language has been transformed. Every candidate had learned the words “Constitution” and “liberty.” Jim Reid’s campaign was handing out small Gadsden flags and at his acceptance speech, Bill Elder waved the pocket Constitution he always carries. Yellow ties and blue shirts were the order of the day.
The Tea Party is not dead; it has gone mainstream. Its message of constitutionally-limited government, individual liberty and economic freedom was embraced by virtually all candidates, and certainly by all who won.
Democrats will no doubt continue to flog conservatives with their hate-filled campaign themes of racism, sexism and class envy. As more people begin to see the contrasts between successful, thriving red states such as Texas and Wisconsin and debt-ridden failing blue states like California and Illinois, they will begin to abandon the party of victimhood for the party of opportunity.
Let that movement begin in Colorado. Saturday marked a good start.