Wadhams Bows Out

Dick Wadhams has withdrawn from the race for Colorado GOP Chairman, sending the following email to members of the State Central Committee:

It has been an honor and privilege to serve as Colorado Republican Chairman but after much reflection I have decided to not seek reelection.

I am very grateful to a clear majority of the members of the Colorado Republican State Central Committee who offered their support and encouragement over the past several weeks.

I entered this race a few weeks ago looking forward to discussing what we accomplished in 2010 and to the opportunities we have in 2012 to elect a new Republican president; to increase our state House majority and win a state Senate majority; and to reelect our two new members of Congress.

However, I have tired of those who are obsessed with seeing conspiracies around every corner and who have terribly misguided notions of what the role of the state party is while saying “uniting conservatives” is all that is needed to win competitive races across the state.

I have no delusions this will recede after the state central committee meeting in March.  Meanwhile, the ability of Colorado Republicans to win and retain the votes of hundreds of thousands of unaffiliated swing voters in 2012 will be severely undermined.

For the past four years, I have devoted all of my professional time and energy to serving as state chairman and am very proud of what we accomplished in the face of unique and unprecedented challenges in both the 2008 and 2010 election cycles.

I will always remain humbled and grateful for the opportunity to travel this magnificent state where I was born and raised and to work with Republican leaders and elected officials in all 64 counties as state chairman.

This leaves the race open to a number of conservative candidates who have declared, and perhaps opens up the race to couple of new entrants.  In any event, the race is no longer simply a referendum on Dick Wadhams’s tenure, but a ballot on what sort of leadership the state Republican party wants.  So unless explicit, please don’t read anything below as a direct criticism or praise of Dick’s tenure.

As I’ve said a number of times vis-a-vis Denver, party politics is coalition politics.  The trick is to build a coalition that adheres to your core ideas, and to pick up sympathetic Democrats on specific issues where you don’t have a majority to yourself.  That is what makes politics hard, and it is largely the job of the candidates and the office-holders, more than the party leadership.

That said, there is room for the party leadership to lead on certain matters.  Personally, I would like to see a leadership that is able to persuade the Powers That Be to back off from trying to pick nominees before any votes have been cast, and to create an atmosphere where various members of our coalition can feel free to debate in a constructive fashion.  There is no doubt in my mind that the torpedoing of an appearance by Sarah Palin last year, by elements in the party who don’t care for her, was a mistake.  One doesn’t have to like her chances as a Presidential candidate, or believe in the wisdom of her running, to recognize the energy and clarity that she brings to the debate.  Trying to prevent her from speaking amounts to little more than a preemptive surrender of a large swath of the intellectual and ideological battleground.  A party chairman should be able to encourage these sorts of appearances.

Party leaders ought to be creating a situation where the party rank-and-file is able to do so, looking to their former and current officeholders for advice and counsel as it chooses to. The best result would be for a Chairman who stands above factional disputes rather than taking sides, and focuses his energy on building the party apparatus, and getting the various members of our coalition to play well together, always bearing in mind that in electoral politics, the job is to defeat Democrats, and elect Republicans.  What sort of Republicans nominate is up to the rank-and-file, and those former and current officeholders need to have at least a little faith in the party members who, after all, nominated and elected them.

Leaving aside what might be read as at least unfortunate phrasing, Dick is undoubtedly correct that winning unaffiliated voters is the key to winning a statewide majority.  As is true for both parties, winning without your base, or with only your base, isn’t possible.  I think most of the party understands this, and it’ll be interesting to see how those running for State Chair plan to respond to that challenge.


  1. #1 by carlos13 on February 9th, 2011

    Mr. Sharf,

    My name is Carlos Echevarria, born and raised in Miami and I have read your post with great interest.

    My family has been involved in GOP politics at the county, state and national level for over 60 years and my father is a retired contractor for “the company”, from the Cold War era.

    Interesting enough, though I am a native Floridian, I am in the process of trying to move to the The Centennial State!

    Hence, since I try to, now, stay current on all matters pertaining to your state I saw Mr. Wadhams last night on CNN (by serendipity as I was clicking through, O’Reilly was in a commercial break)

    Funny, we, too, had some major issues with our former state chairman, Jim Greer, and his insidious relation with ex Governor, Crist, amongst other things.

    However, I concur with your assessment below:

    “Leaving aside what might be read as at least unfortunate phrasing, Dick is undoubtedly correct that winning unaffiliated voters is the key to winning a statewide majority…”

    Lastly, as to Wadham’s statement about those engaged in “conspiracies”, and postulating themselves as center-right or right wingers (personally I consider myself a libertarian, South Park Republican on domestic matters & Realpolitik on foreign affairs), I must tell you that I have encountered many individuals like this, frankly kooks, on Facebook, Twitter, locally, etc.

    Usually they are birthers and rabid Glen Beck supporters.

    Do you have a particular candidate you are endorsing for ’12? Like Colorado, Florida went blue in ’08, as you undoubtedly know, and we need both of them back in the red column.

    I am with Senator Thune, whom I see as the anti-Obama, the GOP JFK, if you will, whom can appeal to centrists & moderates, (retaining the base) though whomever it is will be an uphill battle, as Ploufe & Axelrod will have upwards to a billion bucks at their disposal…

    Respectfully, if it is any of the re-treads from 2008, we are going to go down big time, though, either way I believe we should take the Senate and retain the House.

    Best regards and I look forward to your posts regarding Colorado, politics, etc. and if you have any advice for me, in terms of Colorado living, I would appreciate it, as well.

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