BY FREDA MIKLIN
In a talk on December 7 at Maggiano’s DTC to 75 members of the Arapahoe County Republican Breakfast Club, to those who were bold enough to show up after an election that went much worse for the party’s candidates than virtually any of them expected, Dick Wadhams provided his insights to what went wrong for the GOP on November 8.
For the record, all the statewide incumbent Democrats were re-elected to the offices they first took in 2018, and the Democrats increased their numbers in both houses of the general assembly, where they already held majorities. U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D) also beat challenger Joe O’Dea (R) by almost 15 points. This happened, even though the GOP fielded a significant number of extremely qualified candidates for statewide and many local offices, by any measure.
Wadhams, a highly credible and universally respected former GOP state party chair, did not pull any punches. He told his fellow Republicans that, although he had voted for Donald J. Trump for president in 2016 and 2020, the path forward for the Colorado GOP was to move on from the former president, full stop.
As the November 8 election approached, Wadhams hoped for and expected a better result than the party had in 2018, when it lost the Colorado state offices of governor, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer. He believed that, because Trump, highly unpopular in our state, was no longer in the White House, Colorado voters would give the GOP candidates on the ballot a fair look.
That did not happen, he explained, because Trump’s conspiracy theory about the 2020 election being stolen was still in the news in Colorado. State Rep. Ron Hanks, who was Joe O’Dea’s sole opponent in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, was still claiming that Colorado’s elections were unsafe. Then there was Tina Peters, one of Pam Anderson’s opponents in the GOP primary for Colorado Secretary of State. Peters is currently under indictment for multiple felony and misdemeanor charges related to disclosing confidential data as Mesa County Clerk. Those charges were brought by the Republican district attorney for Mesa County. Although Hanks and Peters lost in the primaries, both candidates publicly subscribed to the stolen election conspiracy theory.
Wadhams also pointed out that Colorado voters were evenly divided between Republican, Democrat, and unaffiliated for decades. Now the state is 46% unaffiliated, 28% Democrat and 25% Republican. He attributes the change partly to the political leaning of the 800,000 people who have moved to our state.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis looks to Wadhams like the strongest candidate the Republicans have right now nationally, having shown his mettle by even winning Miami Dade County in his November 8 successful re-election as governor, since Miami Dade is mostly Hispanic.
The bottom line, according to the speaker, was that the top three reasons that the GOP lost in Colorado on November 8 were, first and foremost, the “hangover” of Trump’s presidency; secondly, the issue of abortion, which, although settled for now in Colorado, is a national problem; and thirdly, the impact of “dark money.” Although they say they are against it, the Democrats were able to collect more dark money, which can be raised in large amounts without specific donors being identified, than was the GOP, and they used it unsparingly in the election.