After last year's Dan Maes debacle, the Republican Party in Colorado has come together quickly and effectively. Despite predictions of multiple ballots to select a new State Party Chairman, Ryan Call thumped his rivals and won a resounding victory on the first ballot.
But the seas are not all calm and glassy within the Party everywhere. A storm has been brewing down in El Paso County between House Majority Leader Amy Stephens and activists none-too-pleased with both her sponsorship of SB200 and her behavior towards those that disagree. In the middle of this is Call, who has had the unenviable task of trying to balance his role in supporting both elected officials and grassroots activists.
In an interview with the Peak recently, Call extended an olive branch to those activists, and a warning to Rep. Stephens, saying:
"I believe it is perfectly appropriate for any Republican activist or county party officer to express contrary positions on matters of specific legislation or to engage in rigorous debate on issues and discussion within the Party on the best way to advance the Republican Party's agenda. I also believe in the right of every Republican to express his or her views and suggestions directly to their elected officials on matters of policy or legislation."
This is a direct refutation of those who have claimed that elected Party officers should not criticize elected officials. Dissent is key to a healthy Party, according to Call, as long as it's done respectfully and doesn't distract people from the larger goal, which is defeating Democrats.
Call went on to say that he believes that dissent must be not aimed at assaulting the character of those that disagree. While he doesn't say it, we take it as being directed at both sides of the divide. Notably, he says that if activists disagree mechanisms are built into the Party process to replace elected officials.
While both insiders and grassroots leaders have expressed strong approval of Call's tenure thus far to the Peak, the perennial tension between the establishment, like elected officials, and grassroots activists and leaders remains a key stumbling block to the Party.
Call has attempted to nimbly maneuver amongst the warring factions and his success at doing so will have a large impact on the overall success of his tenure atop State Party. While Wadhams had the silver tongue, which he effectively lashed Democrats with for years, he struggled to manage intra-Party scuffles last cycle. Call's olive branch is a good sign that he intends on learning from his predecessors mistakes.
You can check out the full interview after the jump.
The Peak: Tell us about the where State Party is currently. How many staff do you have? How is fundraising going? What are your plans over the next couple of months?
Ryan Call: In an effort to be a good steward of our contributor’s funds in the off-year, the Colorado Republican Party is currently operating with a pretty lean staff. Chuck Poplstein, a successful field director for the Victory campaign efforts for Missouri in 2008 and Colorado in 2010, has been recently promoted to serve as the State Party’s Executive Director. We have recently hired Sara Truppo to serve as the State Party’s Finance Director to assist with our fundraising efforts, and she is off to a very strong start. We have a terrific group of summer interns and stalwart volunteers helping with day-to-day operations in the office. Over the next couple of months, we intend to hire a new IT director to assist us in managing our voter database systems for our activists and Republican candidates, and helping us more effectively integrate our electronic communications, social networking, and implementing our other new technology initiatives.
My efforts as State Party Chairman are principally focused on fundraising, candidate recruitment and development, and with efforts to get our message out in the media and participate in speaking opportunities in communities all over the state. Our State Party Vice-Chairman Don Ytterberg is doing a terrific job at a new organizational development initiative to provide hands-on training for our local County Party leaders and activists. Our State Party Secretary Perry Buck is helping with developing and strengthening our coalitions and with outreach to women, and our newly appointed State Party Treasurer Christine Mastin is doing a great job with streamlining internal financial controls and reporting functions, and helping us with certain fundraising efforts.
We are also working aggressively to develop relationships and reach out to voters and leaders in the Hispanic community, among women, and the small business community.
The Peak: How is candidate recruitment going for the House and Senate races in 2012? Before reapportionment is complete it’s impossible to finalize any races, but how are you feeling the field of potential candidates stack up?
Ryan Call: Candidate recruitment for the upcoming legislative races and local elections for 2012 is coming along well, although the reapportionment process has delayed a number of great prospective candidates from announcing their plans until the district lines are finalized. I am incredibly impressed with the quality and experience of a number of our potential candidates, and I expect to see one of the strongest slates of candidates running for legislative, county, and district offices that we have seen in years.
The Colorado Republican Party is and will continue to play a very active role, working closely with our legislative leadership and local County Party committees, to identify, recruit, train, and provide meaningful support to our Republican candidates in the upcoming cycle. It is our goal to field a qualified, principled Republican candidate in each and every race on the November 2012 ballot in order to give every Coloradan a clear choice between our policy agenda and philosophy of limited government, personal responsibility and support for the free enterprise system, in contrast to the Democratic agenda of higher taxes, greater regulation, bigger government, and less freedom and opportunity.
The Peak: What do you think the toughest races for GOP candidates will be in 2012?
Ryan Call: In addition to doing everything we can to ensure the election of a Republican candidate for President, retaining a Republican majority in the Colorado House of Representatives is a top priority. Winning back the majority in the State Senate so Republicans are able to advance a thoughtful agenda that will spur economic growth and job creation, improve the quality of education, and help streamline regulation and reign in spending and entitlement programs is also a high priority, although the best opportunities to pick up seats in the State Senate may depend on the results of the reapportionment process.
We expect strong Democratic challengers to Congressman Scott Tipton and Congressman Cory Gardner, but are confident that they will be re-elected based on their consistent voting records in the U.S. Congress and their effective advocacy for the interests and concerns of families in rural Colorado.
The Peak: The county party elections this year saw a new crop of folks, many from liberty groups, rise to take over county parties. How is that transition going? How do you feel the relationship between the Party and grassroots liberty activists is currently?
Ryan Call: The Colorado Republican Party is made up of a great coalition of individuals – small business owners, men and women of faith, veterans, seniors, and many, many others who share our love of liberty, understand the importance of personal responsibility, share a commitment to those time-tested values that strengthen families and communities, appreciate the benefits of the free market system that rewards entrepreneurship and hard work, revere the Constitution and respect the rule of law, and believe government should borrow and spend less and be more limited in its role. I believe the vast majority of liberty group activists have recognized that these are and have long been the bedrock principles of the Republican Party.
Many concerned citizens and new activists that attended rallies or events sponsored by newly-formed liberty groups out of a sincere concern about the direction of our country have found a warm welcome within our Republican Party. I don’t characterize the involvement of many of these new activists as a “take over” of county party organizations; rather I see it as a great opportunity to provide meaningful opportunities for a new group of activists and concerned citizens who have understood that the best and most effective way to ensure that the principles that they believe in advance, is to work within the Party structure to help Republicans get elected to public office. But I also understand that many liberty groups and certain of their leaders wish to remain apart and independent from the Republican Party itself, and that’s just fine –as long as we can work together to advance the cause and support those Republican candidates where we can and do agree.
The Peak: There has been quite a bit of controversy recently in El Paso over the conflict between elected officials and grassroots activists. What do you think the proper balance is between supporting elected officials while still being allowed to voice concerns on legislation that people don’t view as representative of party ideals?
Ryan Call: I think much of the controversy in El Paso County has been overstated by a liberal local press that likes to highlight apparent divisions within our Party for political purposes. Actually, and while there will almost always be some disagreements about the best way to translate our conservative ideas into specific public policy or legislation, the Republican Party is more united than I have seen it in many years. I believe the vast majority of Republicans understand that the small differences that we may have with our fellow Republicans pale in comparison to the differences we have with the agenda of the Democrats, and our side understands the stakes of the upcoming election.
Republican Party officers, volunteers and activists, and all voters all should be encouraged to actively be involved in the debate and discussion of ideas within our Party and in the discussion of how best to advance our Republican principles and ideas. Respectful dissent, thoughtful discussion, and honest debate is not stifled within our Party – it is encouraged.
I believe it is perfectly appropriate for any Republican activist or county party officer to express contrary positions on matters of specific legislation or to engage in rigorous debate on issues and discussion within the Party on the best way to advance the Republican Party’s agenda. I also believe in the right of every Republican to express his or her views and suggestions directly to their elected officials on matters of policy or legislation. But it is also important to recognize that differences of opinion regarding specific legislation should not be used to attack Republican elected officials or assault their character. You can still be a good Republican – and a good Republican elected official – even when not everyone agrees with you 100% of the time. I will take a Republican elected official with whom I agree with 80% of the time every day of the week rather than a Democrat with whom I may only agree with 20% of the time.
Ronald Reagan, shortly after his election as Governor of California, I believe said it best:
“We must keep the door open – offering our party as the only practical answer for those who, overall, are individualists. And because this is the great common denominator – this dedication to the belief in man’s aspirations as an individual – we cannot offer them a narrow sectarian party in which all must swear allegiance to prescribed commandments. Such a party can be highly disciplined, but it does not win elections. This kind of party soon disappears in a blaze of glorious defeat, and it never puts into practice its basic tenets, no matter how noble they may be. The Republican Party, both in this state and nationally, is a broad party. There is room in our tent for many views; indeed, the divergence of views is one of our strengths. Let no one, however, interpret this to mean compromise of basic philosophy or that we will be all things to all people for political expediency.”
If certain Republican activists feel strongly enough that any particular Republican elected official has so departed from the Party’s basic tenants that they want to see a change, the mechanism for that change is built into our caucus, assembly, and primary election process. But, as Reagan also observed, “We must always remain in a position that will let us effectively support the candidates chosen by the entire party in a primary. To do less is a disservice to the Party and, more importantly, to the cause in which we all believe.”
The Peak: El Paso has also seen the rise of young conservatives into Party leadership positions. Where do you see the current state of youth outreach and leadership development for conservatives in Colorado?
Ryan Call: Reaching out to students and other young people is a high priority of the Colorado Republican Party, and we have already begun to see some progress based on recent efforts. We are working to help strengthen and grow a re-invigorated Young Republican state organization, new College Republican chapters are starting on campuses all over the state, and other young conservative organizations are seeing strong growth and greater involvement. Many of our County Party committees are developing plans to help form Republican clubs in local high schools and to provide opportunities for students and young people to get involved. We expect that the upcoming Presidential election will provide great opportunities for students, young professionals, and other younger people to work with the Republican Party to help ensure Barack Obama is one-term President.
Younger Republican leaders are emerging in many counties throughout our state, not just in El Paso County. It doesn’t hurt to have the second youngest Republican State Party Chairman in the country leading the Colorado Republican Party as an example of the importance that Republicans in our state are placing on the need to not only reach out to younger people, but to trust them in meaningful positions of leadership within our Party.
Democrats have long taken the youth vote for granted, but I think things will change in 2012. A recent study found that support for Obama among college graduates has dropped precipitously, as reported by The Daily Caller. Commentary Magazine explained in a recent article that much of the disappointment and dissatisfaction among younger voters against Obama stems from his inability to deliver on the promises of his campaign rhetoric, and the fact that massive increases in government spending and expanded entitlement programs will saddle younger generations of Americans with deficits and debts that will take years to pay off. But I believe the biggest reason younger voters are switching their support from the Democratic Party is the dismal state of the economy and the job market under Obama’s watch, and as a result of his failed policies.
Even an article in The Atlantic from earlier this month leads with the headline “On College Campuses, Obama’s Not Cool Anymore” and reports that support among young voters for Obama has dropped ten percent since 2008. As the Republican Party and our Republican candidates effectively engage with younger voters, and talk about how our agenda will jump-start the economy and create jobs, reform and preserve Social Security and Medicare while protecting the safety net for the poor and disadvantaged, and ensure a strong and prosperous America for future generations, I believe more young people will vote Republican in 2012 than we have seen in many years.
The Peak: Too often candidates who lose Republican primaries don’t support the victors like they inevitably promise to in their concession speech. What kind of support have you seen from your former competitors in the Chairman’s race?
Ryan Call: Each of the good men who also ran for State Party Chairman have been gracious and supportive. In particular, State Senator Ted Harvey and Leondray Gholston have been just terrific, and are each men I greatly admire. A new team of State Party leadership has allowed us to turn an important page in our Party, and look toward the future of united, strong, and organized Party organization that will make a tremendous difference in influencing elections in our state.
The Peak: What’s next for State Party? Any big events coming up?
Ryan Call: We are very pleased to welcome former U.S. Senator Wayne Allard at our next meeting of the Capitol Club on July 21st, a monthly fundraising luncheon at Maggiano’s in downtown Denver featuring top conservative thinkers, business leaders, policy makers and elected officials. Prior speakers have included former Senator Rick Santorum, conservative author Dinesh D’Souza, the former Ambassador to Belize and CU law school professor Rob Dieter, and future speakers will include members of our Republican Congressional delegation, leading national economists, and others that reflect my commitment to make sure that our Party is the Party of Ideas. Interested individuals can visit www.cologop.org to find out more or to RSVP.
On Thursday, July 28th, the Colorado Republican Party is hosting a special reception featuring former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino to recognize and honor the women of the Colorado Republican Party. Not only will we highlight the great accomplishments of our elected Republican women, we will also have the chance to recognize the many women of our Party serving in important leadership positions within our County and State Party organizations. It will be a great event that folks will not want to miss. Interested individuals can also visit www.cologop.org to find out more or contact Sara at 303.758.3333 ext. 105 to RSVP.
There are many other events and activities sponsored by the Colorado Republican Party and our local Republican Party organizations throughout the state. I encourage anyone who is interested to sign up to receive regular updates about upcoming events and find out ways that they can get involved at: http://www.cologop.org/sign-up…
I also encourage any Republican who has any ideas or suggestion, and who is also willing to work with us to implement that idea, to contact me or a member of our State Party staff directly at 303.758.3333 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise that we will do our very best to make sure that the Colorado Republican Party is responsive, transparent and accountable. Most importantly, we are working hard every day to ensure that our Party will help build and mobilize the kind of grassroots political organization that will elect a Republican candidate for President, win majorities in Congress and in the state legislature, and effectively engage in the fight for ideas and advance our shared Republican principles.