Colorado Primary Shows How Trumpism Has Hijacked State’s GOP
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A few miles from Grand Junction, Colorado, paleontologists looking to become professionals can meet up with guides and workers at The Museums of Western Colorado. They offer half-day and full-day tours to Mygatt Moore Quarry. This quarry has been producing dinosaur bones along the Colorado-Utah border since the 1980s. The visits aren’t cheap, can be hellishly hot and dusty, and guests can’t keep what they find—this is protected land, after all—but it’s a great way to get up close to an extinct species like the Allosaurus.
The Colorado Republican Party is still available for those who want to see an identical past-its-heyday creature, but save a little money. It was once a powerful force but it is now almost unrecognizable. Although it’s not yet extinct, no one would accuse the state party of being a real force. In fact, in Tuesday’s primaries, not a single incumbent is seeking re-nomination to a statewide office and most of the races feature at least one supporter of former President Donald’s Trump Big Lie about the 2020 election. Democrats, perhaps overly confident that the election deniers can’t win in November, are even throwing money at Republican races to help those candidates come out on top on Tuesday.
Outsiders see the Colorado party as an example of what can happen when the Establishment abandons its role in protecting the state. Trumpism absorbed Republican identity within the state and the people who initiated the Trump era of power were tossed when Biden became president. Scott Tipton (representative of the western Colorado district) lost the 2020 primary defeat to Lauren Boebert. Lauren Boebert was a gun rights advocate, and she campaigned with her Glock attached to her hip. Tipton’s support for Trump through the Access Hollywood tape and two impeachments proved insufficient for the district, and voters tossed one of the original members of Ronald Reagan’s political operations from office in exchange for someone seemingly designed to troll indiscriminately; in other words, the latest MAGA celebrity.
It’s been the same elsewhere. As a Republican senator, Cory Gardner impressed his colleagues enough to run the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm in 2018. In 2020, he resigned when it became time for a new term. (Generally, senators don’t get to hold the checkbook as they’re fighting their own races back home.) He lost to the state’s Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, more of a sign of Colorado’s shifting demographics than any weaknesses from Gardner. By the time Election Night 2020 was over, Republicans would also lose control of the board that oversees the state’s third-largest employer, the University of Colorado system, for the first time in 41 years.
Since 2004, Coloradans have voted for the GOP only twice in high-ranking races. It has taken years for Republicans to fade from the state. A decade ago, demographers first began to talk about the formation of a more multicultural region. It was called The New West and Denver its capital. National Democrats issued a clear warning to Republicans—in Denver and D.C. alike—when they selected the Mile High City as the site for its 2008 nominating convention. In picking a city that hadn’t hosted a political convention in 100 years, Democrats were telegraphing an optimism that they could put in play a state that had last voted for a Democratic nominee in 1992.
Some saw the westward push as foolish. However, the gamble worked.
Republicans’ standing in the House fell to its lowest power level since World War II. The state senate now has 35 members and the house, 41. Only two out of nine federal delegation members are Republican. Neither is the Senate member.
While it’s embarrassing to the conservatives who previously dominated the Western Slope and the homeschooling hub of Colorado Springs, there are decidedly national implications. In 2004, George W. Bush was the last Republican presidential candidate to win Colorado. It has had one of the worst pivots to Trumpism in American history. If the NeverTrumpers’ fears are true, a number of Big Lie believers could end up as Republican nominees ForA number of posts are available at the state level. The Democrats seem to be making the greatest efforts to rescue Colorado Republicans from Trump.
Although the chaos outside might seem chaotic, it may provide plenty of entertainment. SchadenfreudeDemocrats But it’s actually a dangerous situation,
There are three Republicans running for the Secretary of State race. The only Republican who thinks Joe Biden was legitimately elected president is the one that’s in the primary. Former Colorado County Clerks Association director Pam Anderson has refused to play along with the party’s fibs and says her former colleagues ran a fair 2020 count. She’s running against Mesa County Auditor Tina Peters, a Trump loyalist who is under indictment for charges related to tampering with election machines. Peters has pleaded not-guilty, but it’s just another reminder of how much reach Trump has—and what a potential 2024 comeback from Trump could bring with it, especially if the top election chiefs are willing to do what none would in 2020. The third candidate, Mike O’Donnell, has also humored Trump’s Big Lie.
The qualifications for almost any other race boil down to whether Trump is qualified and not. Although Democrats have been playing in many of the above races, it is important to keep in mind that fires rarely go out and may have contributed to elevating candidates on the fringe into high-ranking positions.
Democrats make up about 28% of active voters, according to the Secretary of State’s office. The active state rolls include 25% from Republicans. The remaining 25% of state are unaffiliated and can vote in any primary. And while they lean Democratic in general elections, they aren’t above playing in the GOP backyard.
It’s that final note that has Democrats opening their wallets to meddle in GOP primaries. It’s become far more common than when then-Sen. Claire McCaskill and her team studied which Missouri Republican would be easiest to defeat in 2012—and then unapologetically spent $1.7 million to help him win his primary.
Now that the election is over, Democrats are pouring money into the markets to support the most vulnerable Republican in the race for the nomination. A liberal super-PAC in Colorado is heavily spending to support state Rep. Ron Hanks’ bid to become the GOP nominee to challenge Senator Michael Bennet. This was seen as the weakest Democratic candidate on this year’s ballot. To outside super PACs’ thinking, the $2 million spent now might save them $20 million down the road against a more mainstream candidate in Joe O’Dea, a businessman who doesn’t subscribe to the Big Like like Hanks.
And in the race for governor, Democrats have dumped trucks of cash into state-based dark money groups to promote former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez—and his easy-to-attack history—over University of Colorado regent Heidi Ganahl, the only statewide Republican official on the ballot.
A few Democrats have been trying to aid Boebert in Dino Dig. This is not to try to defeat her or her Trumpian compatriots, but because it’s an attempt to derail the authoritarian threats she and others are posing to them. The Utah Democrats’ actions in another area with little chance of victory mirrors that of Utah Democrats. The same phenomenon may have helped defeat Trump’s candidates in Georgia. As in many other states, Democrats want to remove Trump from the system. One day, someone will find the fossils and rebuild them.
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