GOP-tea party favorite Maes wants it both ways on abortion

LAKEWOOD– GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes, coming off of victory over six-term Congressman Scott McInnis in the GOP state assembly this weekend, told the Colorado Independent that he was now clear frontrunner in the race for governor. The reason for his success, he said, is that he’s the true conservative in the race and that he was chosen by the tea party organically to lead on the right. He also said there was no inconsistency with simultaneously wanting less government intrusion and opposing abortion rights and gay marriage. He said he fully embraced the proposed personhood amendment but mostly as a statement and that he didn’t think the amendment would actually outlaw abortion.

Dan Maes at the Westwood Inn in Lakewood (Kersgaard)

“It is important that Colorado understands there is a frontrunner for governor in the Republican Party. I am the Republican designee on the primary ballot. I am the frontrunner and people need to recognize that,” he said before ordering a cob salad at the Westwood Inn here Wednesday.

I am ardently pro-life, he said, but he added that “Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, and people tend to forget that. I would not try to undo that.”

Yet he said he not only favors Amendment 62, the personhood amendment, but that he voted for a similar amendment when it was on the ballot two years ago and that he signed the petition to get it on the ballot this time. Still, he says the amendment is largely rhetorical and that he believes its passage would have no effect on the availability of legal abortions in Colorado.

“People are overestimating the personhood amendment. It simply defines life as beginning at conception. That’s it. Who knows what the intent of it is? They are simply making a statement. That is all I see it as. Do they have another agenda? I don’t know.”

Personhood USA, the group behind the initiative here in Colorado and behind similar proposals across the nation, has written the proposed amendment specifically to outlaw abortion. Analysts have said the proposal is sweeping, that it would alter the state constitution in thousands of places by granting fertilized human eggs the full spectrum of legal rights. Not only abortion but many forms of contraception as well as fertilization and stem cell and other biological research would be outlawed should it pass. In some instances, legal analysts have said, it would also clearly put the rights of pregnant women in contest with the rights of the eggs in their wombs.

Maes said his fundraising efforts have taken off since his narrow victory over McInnis at the Assembly Saturday. He said he has raised almost as much in the past month as in the prior year and almost as much in the past two or three days as in the 30 days prior.

He said he has had solid grassroots support since he began campaigning more than a year ago, but that people wondered whether he could win. “I think we took care of that problem. The last piece is, ‘Can he raise the money?’ and that is happening as we speak.”

He said every poll shows him leading both fellow Republican Scott McInnis and Democratic nominee John Hickenlooper. “The only polls we are not winning are the ones we are not included in,” he said.

He said he’s the only true conservative in the race. “[McInnis’s] track record speaks for itself. I’m not going to attack anybody but look at the facts.” He said it is an open question as to where McInnis stands on abortion. He also said McInnis has not had much to say on the issue of marriage. “I am very clear in my message about life and marriage. There is no policy discussion from him about those things.”

Tea party groups in Colorado have embraced Maes. That’s no accident, he said.

“The tea parties were born in Colorado at the same time as my candidacy. They had a message and a base. I was a candidate with a message but no base. They were looking for someone who had the same message to carry their torch, and that was me. They have made it clear that they will not hold their nose for another moderate Republican.”

He said a Republican cannot win in Colorado during this election cycle without tea party support and played down the image of himself as a strict tea party candidate in the general election.

“The liberals will absolutely try to paint us as wackos. Do I look like a wacko and talk like a wacko?”

He said the root of tea party unhappiness with the state of the country is that “people just feel that Washington is taking away their personal freedoms. They just want to be left alone.”

Asked how wanting to be left alone squares with his positions on marriage and abortion, he said that Constitutionally, one could argue either position on those issues and acknowledged that one could make a conservative case for either position on both issues. “I take socially conservative positions on those issues,” he said.

To beat Hickenlooper, he said, “I have to expose the realities of a Denver Democrat. The rest of the state– once you get two miles outside the metro area—is really angry at Denver Democrats right now.”

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About the Author

Scot Kersgaard

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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