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Fight for Colorado GOP begins in wake of Dick Wadhams’ exit

In the wake of Dick Wadhams’ exit from GOP leadership, a shootout is erupting over the soul of the state Republican Party.

Wadhams this week said he is done with the political sniping – particularly from Tea Party and 9-12 sectors – and is not seeking a third term as party chair.

“I was confident of winning, but this incessant criticism wouldn’t let up even then,” said Wadhams. “They want to slash and burn and criticize – but they don’t have a clue about the chairman’s responsibilities.”

Most disconcerting, he said, were the nearly two dozen legislators who endorsed state Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, when he announced his bid for party chairman late last week. Of those, nine are freshman legislators that Wadhams said he helped get elected to secure a one-seat majority in the state house.

Party insiders are grappling with the issue of who will steer the GOP through the 2012 elections – particularly the presidential campaign season – and unite party factions, raise money and perform administrative functions. Chair contenders include Harvey, attorney Ryan Call, engineer Bart Baron and possibly former 6th District congressional candidate Wil Armstrong and Larimer County GOP Chair Larry Carillo.

“I was surprised to hear the news but it’s best for Dick and best for the party. I’m getting more support since he pulled out,” said Harvey. “I already had more than half the Republican legislators endorsing me and now, I’m calling county party chairs. It’s going very well.”

“I endorse Ted Harvey for chairman of the Colorado Republican Party,” emailed Crista Huff, a Douglas County GOP activist. “I am all about helping people win who hold Republican Party values so that we can save our country from its decline into the abyss of socialism. If a leader fails to move us forward in that regard, I will seek out a new leader. Our country is in fiscal crisis.”

Some fear Harvey will force the GOP so far into the rigid right corner, they’ll be praying for an escape.

“How far to the right can we get?” asked Lynne Cottrell, an Arapahoe County GOP leader. She warned that if the party becomes too conservative, it will make it harder for candidates to win unaffiliated votes and drive some Republicans out of the party.

Cottrell was among those who were gratified to learn that Call, the state party’s legal counsel over the past five years, announced his bid for chair on Tuesday. She said that Call has the experience it takes to run the party – and not run it into the ground with debt or clashes with party factions.

It was a reference to former GOP Chair Steve Curtis, who in the late 1990s had a tough time raising money and dealing with a few Republicans – even pursuing a restraining order to ban former state Rep. and then state party Vice Chair Barbara Phillips from party headquarters.

“Ted hasn’t called me to ask for my support, but if he does, the first thing I’ll ask him is if he’s going to hire Jon Hotaling,” declared Jeff Crank, state director of Americans for Prosperity.

Hotaling was accused of dirty tricks in steering 5th District Congressman Doug Lamborn to victory in a hotly contested primary in 2006. Lamborn was aided by a mailer featuring two grooms on a wedding cake that painted his toughest primary challengers – Crank and Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera – as promoting a gay rights agenda. The insinuation took the cake in the conservative bastion of El Paso County.

The mailer was the product of the Colorado Christian Coalition whose executive director was Hotaling’s brother Mark. Today, Mark Hotaling mixes God and guns as pastor of High Plains Harvest Church in a small town northeast of Fort Collins and a SWAT (Spiritual Weapons and Tactics) instructor for Mission Mobilization International.

Jon Hotaling, who heads Liberty Service Corporation in Colorado Springs, was a co-chief of staff for former Republican 4th District Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave and manager of Harvey’s short and unsuccessful race against 6th District Congressman Mike Coffman and Wil Armstrong in 2008.

Rumors persist that Harvey, if elected chair, will hire the Hotaling brothers to run the state party office. That, his detractors fear, would also mean the party’s candidates would be screened to pass ultra-conservative principles. If so, that might doom the party to failure in more moderate races.

“If only we could be so lucky to hire Jon Hotaling – nobody has a better track record for winning campaigns than he does. Jon would have to take a pay cut to work for the party” said Harvey.

“His brother Mark is serving a higher calling and Jon is getting a higher paycheck,” said Harvey with a laugh.

According to FEC reports, one paycheck that hasn’t arrived in the mail is a $19,000 check to Jon Hotaling for having managed Harvey’s congressional campaign – a fact that the state senator did not dispute.

Some Tea Party activists are building support for the slate of candidates Baron, John Wagner and Jeremy Goodall for chair, vice chair and secretary, respectively.

“Bart Baron has the experience building the structure and organization,” said Chuck O’Reilly of Larkspur who recently co-founded The Hub, a database and communication resource for Republicans in all 64 counties.

“Unfortunately, Ted Harvey, while being a good-hearted man and a good politician, does not have the skill set to enable us to catch and surpass the Dems and neither does his staff,” said O’Reilly in an email. “To compound the problem, Ted’s staff has repeatedly indicated their desire not to build Reagan’s ‘Big Tent.’ A non-inclusive party that closes the door to those that are not totally like-minded – independents, moderates, ‘Blue Dog’ Democrats and RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) – is a prescription for failure.”

“I think Ryan Call will be perceived as a Wadhams follower,” said O’Reilly.

Call lauded the diversity of principled and independent thinking individuals in the party.

“That sometimes makes it a challenge to build consensus and agreement, but I believe we need a broad and welcoming Party in order to win elections and govern effectively – the stakes are just too high for us to be divided. Although there is room within our party for certain disagreements on specific matters of legislative policy, we share certain common values about what is right and wrong, and a commitment to those core Republican principles of limited government, personal responsibility, and freedom and opportunity that unite us as Colorado Republicans,” said Call.

Carillo said that he could bring skills to unify the party; however, he is still undecided about running for state chair. Wil Armstrong did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Wadhams exited the campaign for chair this week when more than 34 county GOP central committee meetings are scheduled to elect their party officers. The county party officers will comprise more than 60 percent of the state GOP Central Committee that will elect the chair and vice chair on March 26 at Douglas County High School in Castle Rock.

Here is Ryan Call’s announcement. It is followed by Ted Harvey’s announcement.

Sent: 2/8/2011 2:14:12 P.M. Mountain Standard Time

Subj: Colorado Republican Party State Chairman

As you have likely heard, Dick Wadhams has recently decided not to seek re-election as Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. I have great respect and admiration for Chairman Wadhams, and am grateful for all his hard work over the past few years on behalf of our Republican Party.

I have seen up close what a tough job it is to lead our Party. Colorado Republicans need someone at the helm who has a clear vision of what the Party is and what it can effectively accomplish, and someone prepared to demonstrate clear and principled leadership, build consensus, and mobilize the coalitions necessary to win elections and support principled public policy to the benefit of all of Colorado’s citizens. Perhaps most importantly, our next State Chairman will need to provide real help and support to our county party committees and work closely with our legislative leaders and Republican candidates in accomplishing the goal of winning and increasing majorities in the State Senate and the State House of Representatives, and winning seven electoral votes for the Republican candidate for President in 2012.

For the past five years, I have been honored to serve as the State Party’s legal counsel. I have assisted our state and local Party leaders, candidates, and individual activists navigate the increasingly complicated campaign finance regime and the election laws and rules that govern campaign committees and political party organizations. I have helped run numerous conference calls, webinars, and training meetings, and have fielded countless telephone calls and questions from the members of our Committee. I have traveled around the state to speak to local Republican groups, to assist with meetings and assemblies, to provide assistance in running vacancy committee proceedings, and have done my best to help our Party leaders and candidates anticipate and head potential problems off at the pass, or to help those leaders and candidates fix problems them if they ever get into any trouble. I have always worked hard to help our Party leaders accomplish their objectives in a way that is honest, open, and guided what is in the best interests of the Republican Party.

My heart is and has always been with the grassroots of our movement. My start in politics was as a campus leader of the College Republicans at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I was the State Chairman of Colorado Youth for Bush in the 2000 election, served for two years as the State Chairman of the Colorado College Republicans, and then was elected and served for two years as the National Co-Chairman of the College Republican National Committee. Providing training, support, and communicating enthusiasm for a cause bigger than oneself has been at the heart of my service to the Republican Party over the past many years.

I believe that the strength of our Party is found in our local county party organizations. I have served my own local county party in real and meaningful ways over the past number of years – as a precinct committeeperson, for four years as County Party Vice-Chairman, and for the past two years as Chairman of the Denver Republican Party. It’s no small challenge to be a principled Republican in Denver, but that experience has taught me that while we may not always agree on everything, politics is a team sport. I am most proud that for the first time in over a decade, the Denver Republican Party was able to recruit and provide meaningful support to candidates running in every single district in Denver. We worked to win votes for local and statewide candidates in every single neighborhood, made our political opponents spend time and resources on races they thought they would otherwise win in a walk, and gave every citizen of Denver a clear choice between the Republican candidate and our political opposition. The people that deserve the most credit, of course, are our Republican candidates and their families, who each made tremendous personal sacrifices to carry our Party’s banner. Each of our Republican candidates, whether they won or lost, deserves our respect, and our utmost thanks.

One of the strengths of our Party is that we are all a group of principled and independent-minded individuals. That sometimes makes it a challenge to build consensus and agreement, but I believe we need a broad and welcoming Party in order to win elections and govern effectively – the stakes are just too high for us to be divided. Although there is room within our Party for certain disagreements on specific matters of legislative policy, we share certain common values about what is right and wrong, and a commitment to those core Republican principles of limited government, personal responsibility, and freedom and opportunity that unite us as Colorado Republicans.

I bring a unique skill set, commitment, and ability to do the job, and I would be honored and grateful to earn your support and the votes of the entire delegation from your county.

I will be calling you shortly to talk personally about the direction and future of our Party, but I wanted to let you know that I am ready to serve you as your next State Chairman.

Warmest regards,

Ryan R. Call, Esq.

Harvey’s anouncement:

“I am declaring my candidacy for Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party because I know I can unite our party and implement a successful campaign strategy to return the GOP to dominance here in Colorado,” declared Harvey. “I have received encouragement from legislators, county Party leaders, and TEA Party activists who believe that I can lead the Republican Party back to victory in 2012.”

“Liberal Democrats have enjoyed four years of unchallenged success in Colorado, far beyond their party registration. The reason they have been so successful is because they have run better, more strategic and aggressive campaigns than Republicans. I am running to beat the Democrats with better talent, funding and conservative leadership than we have had in the past. I will return the Republican Party back to the majority.”

“Unfortunately, this last election saw the fracturing of our conservative political base, and whether or not it is warranted, Chairman Wadhams has lost the confidence of our grassroots and many of our Republican leaders. We did not raise the money and dedicate the resources appropriately to win the statewide and legislative battles that needed to be won. The Colorado GOP needs a bold new leader that will re-energize our entire Party.

“It’s time for new direction, new leadership and new perspective for the State Party. I am eager to work hard to unite our Republican leaders and financial supporters with our traditional party activists and TEA Party grassroots under a principled, dynamic and successful GOP banner,” stated Harvey.

“My vision for the party is simple. I intend to unite our base and return authentic conservative leadership to the Party structure. I will build an aggressive and experienced team of professionals who know how to win elections.”

“Upon winning the election as State Chair, I will step down from my current State Senate seat, roll up my sleeves and take this fight directly to the Democrats.” concluded Harvey.

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