Posts Tagged Dick Wadhams

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Dick Wadhams has withdrawn from the race for Colorado GOP Chairman, sending the following email to members of the State Central Committee: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

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The Chairman, the Party, and the Candidates

After the election, Dick Wadhams sent out an email discussing the role of the party in vetting candidates for office.  Dick was roundly criticized for the mess that the Republican side of the governor’s race became, largely for his failure to properly “vet” candidates for that office.  He makes the point – rightly – that the people who are criticizing him for not vetting the candidates are the same ones who saw him as Bismarck in the last cycle, maneuvering everywhere, with any lack of maneuvering all the more evidence for his Machiavellian schemes.

The Party is not Dick Wadhams.  The party is everyone who shows up at caucus, assembly, convention, or primary.  The reason we have a caucus and a primary is exactly to vet the candidates, to see their strengths and weaknesses, to ask hard questions, to see how they’ll react to a long campaign, and to learn more about them.  The party chairman should tell a candidate for statewide office that a bankruptcy can’t be hidden and will be terminal.  Most would also look unkindly at a chairman substituting his judgment for that of the candidate or the party.

Neither should the party elders substitute their judgment for that of the party.  I largely blame them for the mess of a nomination process.  No amount of vetting could have uncovered the “plagiarism” by Scott McInnis.  That was deliberately leaked, for personal reasons by people inside the party, at a time when it could do the most damage.  And McInnis’s ham-handed handling of the charge kept him from recovering from it.

Had Josh Penry still been in the race, even for a few months, even with all his flaws, had the party elders simply sat back and waited to see how things played out, rather than trying to pick the nominee before the caucuses, it might have been a different story.  Because ultimately, the embarrassment didn’t come from McInnis not being vetted, but from Maes not being vetted.  Few who used him as a protest vote wanted him to win the nomination.  McInnis never felt threatened enough to do any digging.  But in a race between McInnis and Penry, each would have needed some of Maes’s votes, and at least one would have made sure that the party knew who this guy was.

A couple of months ago, in the wake of the election, I heard a senior party member, a former officeholder, tell a group of activists that he hoped that the presidential nomination would be settled by the South Carolina primary.  Coloradoans would have little say in the process aside from what checks they could write before, say, November of this year.  Having learned nothing from the governor’s race, this fellow was prepared to repeat his errors nationally.

In retrospect, it’s clear that the party’s nomination process for governor was broken, and that it had considerable outside help in getting that way.  Whether that was Dick’s fault or not depends on what you consider to be the proper role of the party chairman.  Dick reads his job description largely as that of a mechanic; largely non-ideological, although you want him to be on your side.

The party chairman is no longer the guy with the biggest cigar in the smoke-filled room.  Changes in campaign finance laws mean that the party machine plays little if any role in branding the party.  That comes from the candidates.  And the candidates meet directly with the party bosses, the ones who’ll fund their campaigns, rather than going through the party hierarchy to get there.

The genius of The Blueprint isn’t just that they throw a lot of money at key races.  It’s that they coordinate their limited resources as a team, so they are, by and large, not working at cross-purposes, spending money to defeat each other, or duplicating effort.  The outside groups, the Tea Parties, the affiliated groups, the business lobbies, the taxpayer watchdogs, and the groups with specific policy agendas all need to be cajoled into working together to defeat Democrats.

Leadership of that team needs to come from somewhere, and if the party chairman can’t do it – and Pat Waak has shown that he needn’t – then someone outside the party hierarchy needs to play that role.


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