A huge crisis is now confronting the Colorado Republican Party, and the outcome could well be the landslide election of a Democrat who would not have won under normal circumstances. Republicans will probably be stuck with an unpopular nominee who refuses to leave the race, and the deadline for dropping out is noon today. Many prominent Republicans have been urging gubernatorial nominee Dan Maes both publicly and privately to withdraw. If he does bow out today, the Colorado Republican Party’s vacancy committee would be able to appoint a replacement. It would almost certainly be former Lt. Governor Jane Norton who just narrowly lost the Senate primary to Ken Buck.
Earlier this year Colorado was expected to be an easy pick-up for the GOP, and retiring Gov. Bill Ritter (D) is so unpopular he did not even try to run for re-election. Dan Maes’ victory in the Republican primary was a major fluke. Republicans were well ahead in the polls but their leading candidate, former Congressman Scott McInnis (R), was involved in a plagiarism scandal shortly before the primary three weeks ago.
McInnes accepted $300,000 from a non-profit foundation for a report he did not write. He paid the money back, but media coverage during the primary focused almost entirely on McInnes, and they largely ignored Maes. It was impossible for McInnes to drop out when the scandal broke, but he was expected to withdraw after the primary. This would have allowed the Republican state committee to select another nominee. The plan fell apart because McInnis lost the primary to the little known Maes, who was the only other person on the ballot.
Maes has never held public office and has worked for a credit reporting agency for 15 years. Since his victory, Maes has been running almost 20% behind the Democratic nominee, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. He has little money, no campaign manager and has received no support from the state Republican Party. Even the Republican Governor’s Association is not backing him.
Many Republicans are already supporting a controversial third party candidate, former Congressman Tom Tancredo. Tancredo promised to withdraw from the race if Maes would do the same thing, but the GOP nominee refused the offer.
Maes torpedoed his own campaign this week when he admitted lying about his background. He now says prior claims he was an undercover agent for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation are false. They have no record of Maes ever working for them. Maes also had to pay $17,500 for campaign-finance violations.
He first raised eyebrows by claiming Denver’s popular bike-sharing program was part of a “well-disguised” U.N. plot to “take away America’s sovereignty”, and it “threatens our personal freedoms.” Maes has not been able to pay his mortgage and GOP donors have given him money which appears to be another possible campaign violation.
- Former U.S. Senator Hank Brown (R-CO) rescinded his endorsement yesterday. The Senator said “I’m concerned about the revelations. I’m withdrawing my endorsement.” Brown says he wants to support another candidate.
- Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams did not rush to Maes’ defense, and said Brown’s announcement was “very significant.” Wadhams said the Democratic nominee is the luckiest guy in the world right now. Wadhams also said if Maes: “withdraws now, he will be given a lot of credit and there will be good feelings about him. If he doesn’t, he will suffer a bad defeat in November and it will be over.” GOP National Committeeman Mark Hillman, the former State Senate Majority Leader, was also non-committal about Maes.
- Former Congressman Bob Beauprez (R-CO) also says Maes should bow out. The 1986 gubernatorial nominee beleives, “If Dan really is committed to the best for Colorado, as well as to the GOP, he ought to take serious inventory and see if this isn’t the time to do the noble thing. He can live to fight another day.”
- Former State Senate president John Andrews has withdrawn his endorsement and says Maes should get out for “the public good.” Andrews said “As a conscientious Republican who earlier voted for Dan, I cannot support a manifestly unfit nominee. He has flunked his job interview with the people of Colorado in the weeks since Scott McInnis faded. The party should cut Maes loose if he does not resign the nomination.” Andrews said he intended to write in Jane Norton’s name.
- Former GOP Senate candidate Peter Coors of the brewing family said “It would be in the Republican party’s and Colorado’s best interest if Dan would step down so that a more competitive situation with a new, unifying candidate could be put forward. I hope Dan will come to this conclusion.”
- The GOP website Red State said: “Dan Maes needs to disappear. If he is considering it, I want to publicly encourage him. I met Dan Maes. When I was in Colorado earlier this year. . . Maes was not ready for prime time. . . the Maes campaign is amateur hour. There is a lot riding on strong GOP turnout in November in Colorado. We have a chance to shift that state back toward us. . . We can win Colorado. But not with Dan Maes.”
- State Sen. Greg Brophy (R) said it was imperative for Maes to leave the race today.
- The 9.12 Project Colorado Coalition has called for an emergency meeting with Maes and they may withdraw their endorsement.
- Hear Us Now, one of the original Colorado Tea Party groups, has already rescinded its endorsement.
- U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck and Congressman Mike Coffman (R-CO) have just withdrawn their endorsements.
- Jim Pfaff, the Colorado state Director of Americans for Prosperity, says “It brings me to one conclusion. Dan Maes needs more seasoning before he is ready to take on the job of Governor. And he should pull out of this race in time to allow a credible candidate to emerge and defeat a similarly weak John Hickenlooper.”
Several newspapers have called on Maes to drop out of the race today. In an editorial yesterday, the Colorado Springs Gazette published an open letter to Maes which said:
Your chance of winning the gubernatorial race against Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a seasoned and well-liked politician, with a strong track record, is zero. At this juncture, staying in the race will send a strong message to Coloradans that your candidacy is more about vanity than a concern for your state. Your campaign is wracked with minor scandals that add up to a major credibility problem. Given your lack of a political track record, impeccable credibility was your only hope. If you stay in the race, these issues will fester and haunt you and get marketed for the next two months by special interests who want to make certain you lose. . . Dan Maes, show Colorado that you have the integrity to do the right thing. Do so by graciously bowing out of this race in time for the GOP to have at least a Hail Mary chance at winning the governor’s race in November.