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Colorado Dems' Ad Strategy Worked: Weak Tea Party Candidate Won Primary

4 years ago
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A Democratic campaign group's $500,000 in ads targeting the perceived front runner in the Colorado governor's primary in August may have clinched the GOP nomination for a Tea Party candidate with no political experience.

Small businessman Dan Maes won the GOP nomination after Colorado Freedom Fund ran television ads in the two weeks before the Aug. 10 primary slamming former congressman Scott McInnis for plagiarizing a series of papers on water policy. McInnis ended up losing to Maes by 5,150 votes out of 390,108 cast.

Most political analysts, as well as activists from both parties, believe Democrat John Hickenlooper will win what is now a three-way race for governor in large part because of Maes' victory.

"As much as it pains me to give them credit, I think it had a tremendous impact in the primary," said Colorado GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams. "Voters saw that ad during the Republican Primary. They had no idea it was being financed by a bunch of leftist, wealthy individuals."

The most recently filed campaign records from Colorado Freedom Fund indicate that the Democratic Governors Association donated $150,000, while wealthy Colorado philanthropist Pat Stryker gave $108,000. The SEIU Small Donor Committee gave $200,000 and the Public Education Committee, an education union, gave $150,000. Two other groups gave $5,000 each to the committee.

"Democrats spent more money on Maes in two weeks than he raised in his entire campaign," said Rob Witwer, co-author of "The Blueprint," a book about the Democrats takeover of Colorado. "They wanted Dan Maes to be the Republican nominee and they got him."

Raymond Glendening, national political director for the DGA, said there are other instances where the group made independent expenditures against Republican candidates before primaries.

"We haven't done it often, but we've done it several times," he said. "You have to look for when the best opportunity is in a given year and bring out the facts about your opponent."

In the Colorado race, it made sense, he said.

"That was the right time. The very damning evidence on Scott McInnis had just broke and we decided to let everybody know."

The group also spent money campaigning against GOP candidates before primaries in Iowa, Wisconsin and Nevada. In Wisconsin, the DGA contributed to groups against both top GOP candidates. In Iowa and Nevada, respectively, former Gov. Terry Branstad and Brian Sandoval won their races despite DGA spending. That leaves Colorado as the only state where the strategy was successful.

Wadhams said the intent of the anti-McInnis ads was clear.

"They clearly wanted to impact the outcome of our primary," he said. "The left did the same thing in Nevada when they attacked Sue Lowden, which greatly helped Sharron Angle in the (U.S. Senate) primary."

Seth Masket, an associate professor of political science at the University of Denver, said the DGA's $150,000 was effective.

"If this is what helped ensure that they got Dan Maes as the nominee . . . that's a great move for them," Masket said. "This is now a race that both national parties are pulling out of at this point because it's so obvious what the outcome is going to be."

Maes and Hickenlooper face former congressman Tom Tancredo, who is running on the American Constitution Party ticket. Even before the primary, Maes had been fined more than $17,000 for campaign finance violations and said the city of Denver's bike-share program might be part of a United Nations plot to take away personal freedoms.

Since his nomination, the Denver Post revealed Maes claimed on his campaign Web site to have performed undercover work for the Kansas Bureau Investigation around the time he was fired as a police officer in Liberal, Kan., in the mid-1980s. KBI officials deny that Maes worked for them. But Maes is sticking to his story, complete with a six-minute YouTube video in which tries to address a variety of controversies surrounding his campaign.

Colorado Republicans last month tried unsuccessfully to force Maes out of the race. Neither the state party nor the Republican Governors Association is providing financial support to Maes' campaign.

Numerous current and former elected Republicans have endorsed Tancredo. Even GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck backed off his support of Maes. And a Sept. 14 Rasmussen poll shows Maes running in third place.

Tancredo's first television ad makes no mention of Hickenlooper, but instead features an 83-year-old conservative activist and former Maes supporter who accuses the candidate of asking her for $300 in cash to pay his mortgage. Hickenlooper began running ads in August, while Maes has yet to go on TV.

"I think that John Hickenlooper is going to be elected governor," said Glendening of the DGA. "I've been extraordinarily happy with Dan Maes as a general election candidate."
Filed Under: 2010 Elections, Tea Party

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glenn blackwell

That was a coin toss and a calculated gamble. The Tea Party is a branch of the Republican Party.

September 23 2010 at 10:06 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Wow, more dirty politics from Democrats. Are we surprised? No, I am sorry to say that with Dems, thats just business as usual. So, everyone in Colorado, please cast your vote for Tom Cancredo. We DEFINITELY know where he stands on illegal immigration......he stands with America, and now he needs your vote. Wake up America before it's too late.

September 23 2010 at 8:36 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Slimy strategy + Slimy Candidate = Slimy Govenor. This is FURTHER proof of something I have considered for over 20 years. The Democrats will do ANYTHING to keep their power. It is such a shame. I am glad I quit voting for Dems about 20 years ago as they have shown their TRUE colors. In 2006 Harry Reid and his ilk were willing to throw our brave Service Men and Women under the bus to become the Senate Majority Leader and gain control of the Congress. Remember the proclamations of "This War is Lost", yet now they are claiming a win in Iraq? It is so sad for America.

September 23 2010 at 8:34 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to cplkling's comment

So let me get this's okay when Rethuglicans do it but when it is rendered from the left it's Slimy? I don't get it. The Atwater/Bush Rethuglicans have been doing this crap for years and been proud of it. I guess we live in two different worlds. Or its only bad when Dems do it. I give up trying to make sense out of this guy's rant!

September 23 2010 at 9:09 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

You have none other than your own, right-wing-super-propaganda-machine to thank for the "slimy strategy" on the left. And if you want a prime example of just what I mean, look no further than the past presidential election when Limbaugh was urging listeners to vote for Hillary.

September 23 2010 at 9:35 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

This is a blatant disregard and disrespect for the electoral process. It is manipulation, which means it is a forcing, a secretive and cowardly way of getting your desires met no matter how it affects others. Democrats should immediatel condemn this practice unless they are only interested in power and not people. This is the political version of the athelete who manipualtes his girlfriend with lies and schemes to get what he wants. This is a disgusting power grab from Colorado and they seem proud of their evil. will tkae up this issue.

September 23 2010 at 8:29 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

People are disgusted with both parties, that is why the Tea Party is gaining strenght. The only time eithe the politicos in power or this administration pays attention is at election time. Every kids, adult and teenager due to this lack of control of congress and this administration has caused every man, woman and child to owe 30K to make this country solvent. By the time the child of today is 20 he will owe 300.000K. It is the wasteful spending, earmarks and down right hiring friends of both the administration and Congres.. Now Obama is trying the Hope and Change again. Hate to tell him we have been there, done that and got " scr=wed.> Americans will not be fooled again even the young adults dislike what is going on. THEY CAN't GET Jobs. The dems are busy sending and spending our hard earn dollars on themselves or sending it abroad where it mysteriously disappears never to be seen again. These are the reason the tea party came and why people are supporting it. They know all offices of the gvt. are self serving and lining their pockets.

September 23 2010 at 8:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

@bbarr01 My sentiments exactly! Same For DE: If they want the self proclaimed Bearded marxist: Good Luck with that! Cant wait to see how he will destroy Delaware: All the People flocking there because of No state tax and no taxes on your pension. Yea that will be short lived! All the Hype over Chritine Odonnell dabbling in withcraft! Please! Has every one forgotten that Hillery held a Seance in the White house to summon up Eleanor Roosevelt: (eyeroll)

September 23 2010 at 7:51 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Now GOP whining that "The Devil made us do it",,, Because their people lost their saying the teabagger was helped by the left .... amazing ... seems like a lot of gop (just say NO) is geting thei butts kicked by the teabaggers party, hahahahahahahaaah. Karl Rove us pissed that his ild buddies are losing,, who knows.. maye the teabagger will vote yes on somethings, better than whats in their now...THE PARTY OF NO'S.

September 23 2010 at 7:08 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

This strategy would not have worked nearly as well without the active participation of Mr. Trancredo.

September 22 2010 at 4:46 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Colorado will get the sleazy politician they elect. If this is what the people of Colorado want tnen let them have it.

September 22 2010 at 11:03 AM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply


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