This year’s Colorado Republican Assembly was a discouraging experience for this conservative Republican who has been attending since I was 19 years old. It wasn’t discouraging because some of my candidates didn’t do as well as I had hoped. That goes with the territory and, if you have any class or character, you learn to roll with the punches.
In my early years, I often voted for the candidates who served up the most red meat. I remember when former State Sen. Charlie Duke ran for U.S. Senate. I can’t recall if I voted for him or who his opponents may have been, but I liked his advocacy of the Tenth Amendment and its limitation on federal powers. I later discovered that Charlie was a bizarre character who really couldn’t even get along with his own colleagues and, sadly, passed away estranged from most of his own family.
In 1992, I cast my vote in the presidential primary for Pat Buchanan, who ran a brief insurgent challenge to President George H.W. Bush because he’d broken his “read my lips, no new taxes” promise. Many others who are now considered “establishment” did the same.
So, I know what it’s like to be enthralled by rhetoric and oblivious to the reality that winning in November by appealing to millions of voters requires much different tactics than winning amongst 4,000 of the reddest red-meat Republicans.
What discouraged me this year isn’t that other people of good will are going through that same learning process but that a significant faction within the GOP simply doesn’t possess good will. It’s impossible to attribute good will to people who yell profanities at those who disagree or who stand to give a middle-finger to our state chair when she rules in favor of a majority that simply wants to do our job within a reasonable time. If those people also cheer for “Christian values,” then I trust that their consciences will eventually be pricked.
The state chair is elected in the spring of odd-numbered years by members of the Republican State Central Committee. From that point, her job is to organize the party for its next general election. She doesn’t do that in a vacuum or in secrecy. Clearly state party kept the statewide campaigns in the loop as rules for this convention were made.
Those who showed up with their own pre-printed, “watermarked” paper ballots and their own counting system, which no one else had authenticated, never asked themselves, “Why would someone trust our system sight-unseen when we aren’t willing to trust a voting system which everyone has seen?”
I’ve read social media posts in which they accuse our state chair of “corruption” because they didn’t get their way. No, there were at most 1,600 of these out of 3,772 delegates, so our chair was ruling with the majority.
If you truly believe that we cannot have secure voting without paper ballots, then make that case to the State Central Committee when it meets early next year to elect a chairman.
Next, several people who nominated or seconded candidates professed disappointment with politicians who talk like conservatives but then don’t act like conservatives when elected. We all know that some politicians “grow in office,” an uncomplimentary description of those who forsake their principles to please the media or lobbyists. But that group, in my experience, is a very small one.
No elected official can please everyone all the time. Even Donald Trump split with his base over COVID vaccines. We elect people to study issues and apply their own judgment. But in this age of anti-social media, ranting and raging has replaced thoughtfulness and dialogue, so people ignore a checklist of solid votes in order to obsess on one area of disagreement.
In my opinion, that’s what happened in CD4 where Bob Lewis emerged as a last-minute candidate, his supporters lampooned Congressman Ken Buck for not voting to censure Liz Cheney, and Lewis won topline. Buck has been a solid conservative vote, and he thinks for himself rather than follow the herd. If his detractors had a solid case against him, they would have run a broad campaign over the past few months rather than stage an ambush at the convention.
The other reason some believe that those they elect are forsaking their principles is because state and federal governments are continually assaulting conservative principles.
Think for a moment: why is that happening?
The answer is simple: because Democrats are winning elections and Republicans are losing elections. That happens, in part, because our Republican delegates have a bad habit of voting with their emotions and putting people on the ballot who have little appeal to voters who aren’t activist Republicans.
Elections are fundamentally about addition. The only way to win in November is by adding unaffiliated voters and disaffected Democrats to your Republican base. Instead for a bewildering faction of delegates, the goal seems to be driving other Republicans out of the party for being insufficiently servile and telling non-Republicans that we don’t care about their votes. Maybe that makes you feel better in April, but it’s a lead-pipe losing strategy for November and helps Democrats achieve their goal of turning Colorado into California.
Finally, a bewildering number of delegates proved to be easily manipulated by hucksters. That’s not a statement I make lightly and certainly not with any pleasure.
Consider the vote for Attorney General, where our party’s nominee faces as incumbent Democrat who already has $2.3 million in the bank. Republican John Kellner, the elected district attorney for Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties, has been campaigning for months and is obviously a strong candidate.
But at literally the last moment, delegates proudly wearing colors of state Rep. Ron Hanks’ campaign nominated a complete unknown, one Stanley Charles Thorne, and smeared Kellner under false pretenses. Thorne acknowledged that he was running only because someone called him “36 hours ago” to ask him to be a candidate. He wasn’t licensed to practice law in Colorado, a legal requirement for be Attorney General, and those who nominated him didn’t bother to find out if he was even a registered Republican – which he wasn’t.
In short, Thorne was not eligible to be elected or nominated. Yet 1,520 delegates voted for this imposter because he was “anti-establishment,” thereby demonstrating their abject gullibility.
I’ve long preferred our grassroots caucus-and-assembly process because it’s how I was first nominated 24 years ago. But when such a large share of delegates disregards their serious responsibility to put credible candidates on the ballot, I can’t help but question why a credible candidate should invest time and resources courting these delegates rather than securing their position on the ballot by circulating petitions and focusing directly on voters who can help them win in November.
12 Thoughts on “Antics at GOP convention betray sound judgment, good will.”
As always, you have so lucidly stated my feelings about the State convention experience this year. It was so disheartening to hear the disrespect and heckling going on. We commented several times on the arrogance of the special interest group that was insisting that we “trust them” to provide paper ballots — that only a few had seen — when the candidates and the leadership had clearly worked hard to have a transparent system in place. They burned a lot of the convention time in arguing rules and repeating assaults on the chair, even when clearly voted down.
Your other example of the Attorney General race, could have been expanded to the young person who sought a nomination with no qualifications whatsoever, only because she wanted access to the microphone to make inappropriate accusations of another candidate.
This type of experience is what will kill the assembly and caucus system, which is clearly not working well at this time.
Thanks again, Mark, for your clear thinking and accurate assessment.
Now, what can be done?
What action is needed to bring the ideologues into reality?
The Colorado GOP needs a Benjamin Franklin to negotiate consensus .
Could you fill that roll?
Exactly! Thank you, Mark, for stating so eloquently what we in the “establishment” see and which frustrates us. This is our election to win, but we are throwing it away.
Mark, you have perfectly summarized the attitudes and actions of the “my way or the highway” group. It is disturbing for those of us who have seen GOP majorities and have seen them slip away. Particularly upsetting is that some people just do not seem to understand that without a majority, Republicans cannot govern or even prevent bad legislation.
Great column! Give ‘me hell, Mark!
Mark, 10 years ago, even 5 years ago I would have agreed with everything hou said in this article. I too have been participating since I was 18, several decades ago. However we are now in an era where itnis not the “other” party we need to look out for, it is our own “sheep in wolf’s clothing” that are our greatest enemy! It is those republicans who, with all the evidence out there still believe that 2020 was a valid election. Sometimes the best way to clear out infestation is to tear it down and rebuild. It is messy but worth it to get our republic back! It is truley now or never and it is time for Ameicans to choose what type of country they want. Status quo is the demon!
Excellent commentary with which I 100% agree. I found the State Assembly this year particularly venomous and suicidal and, like you, I’ve attended many. No way to win hearts and minds – or office.
I agree with you. I know people are frustrated however we need to look at the big picture. Who can appeal to the most voters statewide. The last election is over and it is not going to be overturned. The Democrats breathed a sigh of relief after the convention. We need to get behind candidates who have a chance of winning and work hard and smart for them beating incumbents is tough enough without shooting ourselves in the foot at the starting line.
As usual, Mark Hillman is spot on. Our worst enemy is our own intolerant , spiteful Republicans who would rather burn down our tent rather than WIN an election.
It tumultuous for sure. In “18” Stapleton was the one appointed by the media, and those “in the know” as the one who could win. How many times was Bob B. (can’t remember how to spell his name) appointed as the one who could win. Well, history speaks pretty loud.
You’re right, those who proposed paper ballots should have have had them ready to distribute, the way they’ve done in the past. The problem is, convenience is the order of the day. People can’t be expected to take time out of their day to stand in line for a couple of hours to vote. The Broncos, or Rockies maybe, but not voting. We can’t be held up at the state assembly till dark on Saturday counting ballots, when we can do it electronically in 5 minutes. Here’s the deal, they didn’t cheat Donald Trump in 2020, they cheated me and 74,000,000 other Americans, and some of those were unaffiliated, and even Democrats. I think, if you want to downplay or disregard that fact, it’s going to cost. It appeared to me, that was reason Ken Buck was challenged, and I haven’t heard him dispute that claim.
I don’t care for the chaos that was on display, bad language, middle fingers it’s rude behavior, and hard to tolerate, but you talk about the Republican Party throwing a big tent, who do you think is going to be under that tent? A lot of christians won’t even come out to vote. Who does the unaffiliated consist of? Who do we want to appeal to? Are the unaffiliated those who don’t vote with their emotions? Personally I don’t really want elected public servants applying their own judgments,as much as I want them to start applying the Constitution, that’s what they take an oath to do. Every time truth compromises with non truth, truth loses, and now we don’t know who is telling the truth, and we don’t have much left to lose!
It is embarrassing to stay with a party of fools. How can anyone respect those kind of actions and put in an ineligible candidate. But then the options are even worse. The media had a hay day with this disgusting display of foolishness and we the GOP are hard pressed to vote with confidence.
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