I spent a grueling 12 hours Saturday April 9 attending the Republican State Assembly at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs.
It was a very educational event, sometimes frustrating, sometimes exhilarating, laced with victory and defeat. Overall, I witnessed a strong slate of candidates seeking higher public office at the primary election slated for June 28, and/or the general election Nov. 8. Upsets, surprises, and heartbreaks occurred throughout the lengthy day’s proceedings and final election results.
But, let’s start at the beginning of this adventure of arriving at Colorado Springs as a GOP delegate with voting privileges. I wore two hats, one as partisan and another as a journalist. Let me explain…
The Pew Foundation, a very reputable Washington based foundation, decades ago created what they described as “Civic Journalism,” where they urged journalists to become involved in the political process; to actually become engaged in the political process and learn and experience what it was like to be a candidate and a public servant, rather than just being a bench warmer, and many times an uninformed critic of the process.
In other words , “Get in the game,”… walk in the moccasins of public service to fully understand the process of elective office.
This contrasted with the “Glass House” theory that writers and journalists should remain above the fray and refrain from any political activities to retain their fair and impartial news coverage.
Well, as most of us realize, today, almost every media outlet has a political agenda. Most reporters have a bias that you can detect in the first paragraph of their stories. Readers are quick to pick up on slanted news, and at best, need to know the background of the writer and where they stand politically. Conservative writers and reporters are hard to find, stretching back to modern-day journalism departments and the rise of “investigating reporting” that arose in the Washington Watergate era. The “gotcha” syndrome of negative reporting developed by tearing down elected officials and communities rather than being the historic community builders. Not to say that early-day newspapers didn’t hit hard on elected officials with some very famous newspapers. Newspapers are described as the “Fourth Estate” of government with good reason to report on government activities and demand transparency, so badly needed to protect the public interest. A sad day when, and if, newspapers disappear. Who will fill this vast range of public information?
This sets the stage where I chose to be a “Civic Journalist” and become active in my communities rather than be a bench warmer.
I attempt to be fair and impartial on news reports and most of the coverage is related to so-called non-political city and school board activities and elections. These races are no longer non-political and reek with political activism. Actually, if it wasn’t for the political activism by both parties, apathy would completely dominate these elections. Most voters in major political parties want competent office holders to be elected. Good candidates promote better government, and the end result is better management for all taxpayers, regardless of political affiliation.
The Ukraine catastrophe is hard to witness, and this shows the importance of having free elections, independent media and honest elections. There should be a resurgence of American patriotism and a burning desire for Americans to stand up for freedom and support our elective process by supporting good candidates for office and registering to vote. Almost half of the voters are now “unaffiliated,” signaling “unhappiness” with both political parties.
Elected leaders can create the problems and must have the will to resolve the challenges. We are a nation described by Benjamin Franklin as a “Republic.” Whereby, we elected leaders to represent us in governmental service, versus a “Democracy” that individuals rule. It works well when we have strong leadership by either political party. The pendulum swings back and forth in political leadership at both the state and federal levels and will likely occur again this Nov. 8, 2022.
GOP assembly adventures:
Because of the seriousness of the challenges of today’s world, I decided to participate in the precinct caucus, something that I have done many times in my lifetime. There was apathy galore and only five folks at my precinct gathering. Overall, about 30 Republicans attended the multiple caucus gathering of assorted precincts where delegates were elected to the county and state assemblies. We had two candidates appear to solicit votes at the county assembly for state representative.
In our precinct we could elect eight delegates to the county and two for the state assemblies. I volunteered to be one of the delegates to the county and state. My name was put on the chalkboard unopposed. Our precinct leader also indicated that she would attend the county assembly but was unsure about the state meeting in Colorado Springs. There was a cost to attend the meetings of $120 to pay for the meeting facilities and expenses.
Fast forward now to the Arapahoe county assembly at Hinkley high school in Aurora. The event was well attended with many delegates present to nominate and select candidates for county offices, including sheriff, county commissioners, clerk, treasurer, and assessor.
At the prior caucus, there were delegate selections to attend the 6th Congressional District meeting. That meeting was held April 7 at the Wildlife Museum, recently purchased by the Douglas County school district. I overlooked being a delegate to this meeting and attended as a guest. Steve Monahan, military veteran, was selected to oppose Congressman Jason Crow in the Nov. 8 election. Molly Lamar, Cherry Creek high school graduate and CU alumnus, was nominated to be a candidate for the State School Board election.
Colorado Springs State Assembly:
Being a registered delegate to the State Assembly, I was among 4,738 accredited active voters. The last census report in 2015 showed Colorado population at 5,456,574, and no doubt the state has gained another million or so new residents. After three credential reports during the morning, the final tally of delegates present was 3,772, with about 20 percent “no shows.” Bottom line is this small number of Colorado Republicans were selecting prospective leadership for an estimated 6 million Colorado residents. Democrats were also meeting Saturday via zoom and will have similar numbers, so it is fair to say that two percent of the state’s residents select all of the Nov. 8 candidates. That is an awesome responsibility for delegates to create the menu for all Colorado voters in the primary election June 28, and general election on Nov. 8, 2022. Being a delegate for either party is an honor and a powerful role in future leadership for Colorado and America.
I-25 heading south to Colorado Springs is now fast with the extensive highway construction almost complete. I was advised to be there early to find parking and register at the Broadmoor World Arena. I arrived at 7:30 a.m. and there was a half-mile long line and a sea of cars in the parking lot. The Broadmoor Arena folks were searching purses at security checkpoints entering the facility creating a slow, miserable entry into the building. The early morning temperature was cold and breezy, but the eager Republicans patiently endured the long lines that delayed the opening of the assembly until after 10 a.m.
I joined the Arapahoe County delegation seated in the balcony nearest the podium and selected a front-row seat with a clear picture of the state and speakers. It was my honor to be joined by former Mayor of Littleton, Bruce Beckman and Susan Beckman. Susan was an outstanding state representative before moving to a high-level Trump administration appointment.
State GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown gaveled the session to order and went through the usual prayer and
pledge of allegiance, Krisiti’s youthful daughter did a superb job of singing the national anthem, and her son led the pledge of allegiance. Rules and credentials reports were reported, and the opening address was presented by Congresswoman Lauren Boebert (C-3) who received an enthusiastic standing ovation from the jampacked arena crowd. An effort was made by unknown sources to have the convention use paper ballots rather than the electronic voting tablets issued to delegates by their county chairpersons. Their motion to use paper ballots was defeated which would have disrupted and delayed the entire assembly. The electric tablet voting system proved to be quick and efficient. However, there is considerable GOP distain for voting machines displayed in the ongoing session with the nomination of Tina Peters for Secretary of State. The infamous Mesa County Clerk told of her experience sleeping on the floor of the Mesa County jail, having been charged with various offenses. She defended herself well, saying that she was protecting the accuracy of the election from machine discrepancies. She received 60.57 percent of the delegate votes versus candidate Michael O’Donnell who received 39.43 percent. Pam Anderson, former Jefferson County Clerk, skipped the assembly and successfully petitioned onto the June primary ballot.
The highlights of the day were the nominations for Governor and the U.S. Senate. Former Parker Mayor and Trump administration appointee Greg Lopez won top spot on the ballot with 34.3 percent surpassing former CU Regent Heidi Ganahl with 32.63 percent. Ganahl had already qualified to be on the primary ballot by petition but sought to gain support by entering the assembly delegate process.
Danielle Neusechwanger, Elbert County rancher, CU alumnus, and first-time candidate, pulled a strong 27 percent of delegate votes, but not enough, so she may be back again.
Aurora truck driver Daryll
Gibbs took off his black cowboy hat and gave an impassioned speech earning him 3.73% of the votes.
A surprise occurred in the selection of Attorney General candidates. John Kellner will face a primary against Stanley Charles Thorne, who came out of nowhere, to challenge the incumbent 18th Judicial D.A. nominee. Kellner achieved 57.42 to Thorne’s 42.58. The results came as a surprise to Kellner supporters. Former 18th District Attorney George Brauchler challenged Thorne’s credentials, questioning his legal status in Colorado. Thorne is presently not qualified by the Colorado Supreme Court. Thorne is qualified in Texas, but not in Colorado. Thorne responded that he has applied for legal status in Colorado but has not yet received accreditation at this time. He was still allowed to be nominated and received a substantial number of votes with his candidacy hinging on state court certification.
Lang Sias, a former state legislator, was confirmed as the sole candidate for state treasurer. Sias has been a navy and national guard fighter pilot and Top Gun instructor with combat experience and 27 years of military service. He, and his wife Rene, reside in Arvada. He struck me as a very strong candidate who might move upward in future years and had a strong record in the legislature.
By late in the afternoon we could be thankful that we had the voting tablets and were able to vote quickly and efficiently. Earlier in the day, to learn how to use the tablets, we were given a choice of voting for past Republican presidents dating back to Lincoln and Washington. The most popular president of all-time voting on the new tablets was Donald Trump with 43.90 percent of the votes, second place going to Ronald Regan with 39.80. Ike got 2.32 percent and George Bush in last place. This vote was a pretty good indication of what was to follow in the election of the U.S. Senate candidates.
The Grande Finale:
It was becoming a long day and hearing six nominations and speeches by senatorial candidates was eagerly anticipated.
The pizza slices and hot dogs were flowing down the aisles. Deborah Flora was the first senate candidate to speak. Wearing a blue suit for a red state was not a wise fashion statement but the former Miss Colorado and radio personality did not disappoint in her appearance or oratory. She had been described by many fans, especially women, to be the best choice to defeat Senator Michael Bennet in November.
She had a VIP army of supporters, including a medal of honor recipient, and a recent endorsement by Ted Cruz. Perhaps speaking first out of six candidates was possibly a disadvantage. She failed to make the ballot to the disappointment of her many supporters with 28.93 percent of the votes cast. She was especially popular among Arapahoe County delegates.
Geno Campana, the Ft. Collins Larimer County candidate, had a strong presence and reportedly spent over $500,000 in his failing campaign to get on the ballot with 11.21 percent of the votes.
His family was present on stage. His oldest daughter gave an eloquent speech on her father’s rise from a simple Italian immigrant family history of coming to America with nothing but the willingness to work.
A front runner for many months, Eli Bremer, was endorsed by 10 Colorado Senators and former U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, along with over 70 county commissioners. But his candidacy ended for the Colorado Springs Olympian with only 15 percent of the delegate votes.
Greg Moore, a Colorado Christian University professor, did well with a small contingent, including a Canadian student who professed to Moore’s strong character and leadership. Moore led off his campaign speech with a prayer. We were all praying at this time to get this assembly over with. He was able to garner 3.19 percent of the votes ahead of Peter Yu’s 3.02 percent. Yu, a first-generation immigrant, was born in the U.S. and his six bothers and family came to America in 1969 penniless, and following the America dream of hard work to successful careers.
A caravan of Ron Hank’s supporters lined the aisles and stage to support his impressive victory over the entire Senate slate. Hanks was the only candidate with legislative experience and an ardent President Trump supporter. He carried the day with 38.98 percent of the votes being the sole candidate to achieve the required 30 percent to be placed on the primary ballot. Hanks, from Canon City, had a massive amount of floor support. He is a 32-year military veteran in military intelligence. He will face Joe O’Dea, a Greenwood Village resident and Metro construction company owner who employees over 300 Colorado families in his business. O’Day is endorsed by former United States Senator Hank Brown. He is also endorsed by the Denver Police Protective Association. O’Dea considers himself to be a conservative “outsider.” Hanks and O’Dea will face off in the June 28primary election. O’Dea ran by petition and attended the assembly but did not have to participate in the nomination process.
The security restrictions imposed by the Broadmoor World Arena were ridiculous, and standing in long lines was a poor way to begin the assembly.
The assembly mechanics worked well; good sound, food service, and restrooms were sufficient. Staff was polite and efficient.
Kristi Burton Brown was magnificent as the chairwoman and moderator of the assembly. She kept a smile on her face and a cool head when challenged with some irreverent motions. Noted that she discarded the high heels for tennis shoes early in the day. Kristi is a strong leader and talented attorney. GOP is fortunate to have her leadership. Last year’s chairman, Congressman Ken Buck (CD-4) failed to get top line in his bid for reelection in his Congressional District at a prior meeting on Friday.
Rural Colorado showed up with many western cowboy hats showing up in the crowd.
The GOP is back with plenty of enthusiasm and some very qualified candidates. The challenge is, can they capture the 45 percent of the unaffiliated voters? The mid-term elections favor the party that is out of power, odds favor Republican candidates if they don’t blow it.
Colorado Democrats convened on Saturday with a zoom session and have incumbant candidates seeking re-election in November.